To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Summary from Goodreads:

The novel that established Virginia Woolf as a leading writer of the twentieth century, To the Lighthouse is made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of one family living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. As time winds its way through their lives, the Ramsays face, alone and simultaneously, the greatest of human challenges and it greatest triumph--the human capacity for change. A moving portrait in miniature of family life, it also has profoundly universal implications, giving language to the silent space that separates people and the space that they transgress to reach each other.

There are very few exceptional and miraculous novels that have the power to change their readers forever. To the Lighthouse is one of them.

This won't come out as a surprise, but I have to say it still. It wasn't exactly easy reading To the Lighthouse. While I always enjoy reading character introspection, it's the going in and out of people's heads without warning that's a little bit difficult. I had quite a time identifying whose thoughts am I reading, and there were some bits where I just couldn't tell. (It sounded like some narrator was present? Maybe not. Ha.) Anyway, I soon settled into the "stream of consciousness" groove and started to feel more at ease with the text. Plus, this was our book club's book of the month and so we had an online discussion going on, side by side with the reading. Our discussion leader would ask us to write chapter summaries. And in order to write one, I had to re-read said chapters. And I was surprise at what second readings can do. Clarity,at least more of it than the first reading. And then there were some questions we had to answer, questions that brought to my attention the various allusions Woolf made in the text, ones that otherwise might have went over my head had I read this by myself. So summary + allusions = "I have had my vision"

Now, all the blabber I just did made it seem like this book was a darned chore. It was a mental exercise, yes, but quite a rewarding one. As soon as my brain started going clickety clack, I saw the virtuosity of Virginia Woolf. Capturing domestic life and depicting the passage of time in a way that feels concrete and yet somehow, ethereal. The sensory details are so vivid and rich and effortless, and that was when it was describing an empty ramshackle house at that. It touched on marriage, and womanhood, and memories, and grief, and happiness, and legacies, and parental influence. Its about life really, depicted in the most beautiful of words and with such precision and emotion. I am mighty glad I did not take a pass on this because it is a masterpiece. That and because I now have "I-read-Virginia-Woolf" bragging rights. Ha.

I am going to leave you with rules number 3 and 4 from an essay by Lewis Caroll entitled "How to Learn", included in a book called A Random Walk in Science by Robert L. Weber. 

"When you come to any passage you don’t understand, read it again: if you still don’t understand it, read it again: if you fail, even after three readings, very likely your brain is getting a little tired. In that case, put the book away, and take to other occupations, and next day, when you come to it fresh, you will very likely find that it is quite easy."

"If possible, find some genial friend, who will read the book along with you, and will talk over the difficulties with you. Talking is a wonderful smoother-over of difficulties. When I come upon anything—in Logic or in any other hard subject—that entirely puzzles me, I find it a capital plan to talk it over, aloud, even when I am all alone. One can explain things so clearly to one’s self! And then, you know, one is so patient with one’s self: one never gets irritated at one’s own stupidity!"

For the rest of the rules visit: How to Learn: Lewis Carroll's Four Rules for Digesting Information and Mastering the Art of Reading from Brain Pickings


  1. This review totally sums up what I wanted to say about this novel. Haha! Especially the first paragraph. :) And thanks for sharing Lewis Carroll's Rules.

    1. Melizaaa! Apir! Haha. Hopefully we can abide by Lewis Caroll's, very sound rules.

  2. I made you reread the book? Oh dear. XD

    To comfort you, Vladimir Nabokov once said that the Reader is a rereader. Thanks a million for your input in our online discussion. This book brought us closer, noh? And Dane DeHaan, of course. :D

    1. Hello there, slave driver Angus. LOL! There was no way I could come up with a summary without rereading. But it was ultimately to my benefit, you know. And yes, it did bring us closer! (And op course the gorgeous Dane Dehaan! Doesn't he look McAvoyish? Now that I think about it.) And I very very much appreciate you being so very indulgent of my pop culture references and hokey jokes. XD

  3. Loved reading your answers to the online discussion, so yay to stream of consciousness and Virgie Woolf! :D

    1. Lol! Thanks Monique! When you listed down the names of the people involved in the dinner party at the beginning of your summary, for extra points, I was like, that is so smart! Now, why did I not think of that?! Haha. :D


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