Woolfalong Pt. 1 – To the Lighthouse

#Woolfalong is a year-long project hosted by Heavenali to explore works by and about Virginia Woolf.   I’ve long had an interest in her, but have not done much about this interest since college.    I had started To the Lighthouse once before, but started over for this, but it was slow going and for that I’m blaming Alexander Hamilton.   I couldn’t really read the Hamilton bio and To the Lighthouse at the same time, so Woolf went by the wayside for a bit.   Then when the Chernow was done, I focused on Woolf, but it was still slow going because this is a dense book.   It all takes place in two days with a separation of about 10 years illustrated by a passage of the decaying of the house.   It is a vacation place of the Ramsay family and the first half of the book draws a picture of the Ramsays – apparently a picture based pretty heavily on Woolf’s own family.   This one day doesn’t seem particularly significant in any way.   The father is shown as being rather insensitive and boorish as he tells his son they won’t be able to go to the lighthouse the following day.   The mother tries to comfort the son by reading to him and doing cutouts.   It is mostly from her point of view, though it switches and we learn, over and over again that Mrs. Ramsay is beautiful and has a strong effect on other people.   Presumably because of this beauty.   I don’t know.   It’s mentioned a lot.   The day is so thoroughly drawn and yet, I’m not sure what is meant by any of it.

Warning!  Spoiler!   Okay, not really as there’s no plot, hard to spoil anything.  More three panel book reviews if you click the image.   But there are spoilers there, so go cautiously.


Ten years later – another day at the same house – the children have grown and they are actually going to the lighthouse now.   The two youngest kids and their father whom they yearn to rebel against.   Point of view is now mostly Lily the artist, guest of the family, and Cam the youngest daughter as she rides in the boat.   I wish I had something to say about this.   I put off writing hoping something would occur to me.  The only thing I can think of was being glad I live in a time where girls are taught math rather than listening to other people talk about all kinds of things they have no knowledge of.   Mrs. Ramsay seems like a nice mother, the father seems astonishingly childish.   Especially if it’s a portrait of Woolf’s father.   He was a mountaineer.    One expects better behavior of a mountaineer than flinging his dishes out the window.   It is hard to tell if his philosophical work was good for the time, but not great, or if he’s like whatshisname in Middlemarch wasting all his time on a massive project that is no more important than making a giant ball of rubberbands.   

I’m sorry not to be more insightful.  I’m going to keep Woolfing along and maybe develop a bit more sensitivity or something.  Next up is Night and Day –  Woolf’s second novel and apparently based on her sister.  I believe I at least started this in college.  The beginning seems very familiar.



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