To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (1927)

This novel is the first on my list because I think it’s a wonderful novel, and I re-read it time and again. It is an autobiographical novel by Virginia Woolf, written in the stream of consciousness style. This book has hardly any plot, a large family of 10 with some guests spend their summer holidays on the isle of Skye. The first part of the novel is about the doings, the feelings, the thoughts, and the conversation of the holiday-makers. I find this first part enthralling. The characters and their relations are fascinating. Mrs. Ramsay, is the central character in this part of the novel. She makes the summer holiday work for the family and guests. But even in the summer house, death and decay are present, the house always needs repairs, and there are symbols of death in and around the house, like the boars’ skull in the children’s room, and the black crows, outside the bedroom-window.

The father of the children, Mr. Ramsay is a professor of philosophy, who seems to be a bit past the summit of his academic career, or that is what he fears. His wife, Mrs. Ramsay has a lot of work in and around the house. Two of the children are small, the others are older. One of the guests is a painter, she works on a painting of Mrs. Ramsay sitting by the window with her youngest son James. The painter tries to capture reality in her painting.

Mrs. Ramsey plans a boat trip to visit the lighthouse that is visible from the house, in the first few pages of the book, a trip as a pastime for the family and their guests in order to bring some goods, and warm clothes to the poor keeper of the lighthouse and his family.

Mr. Ramsay’s interests, being a philosopher lie with the abstract reality. He is successful in his work. People admire him. To his children, he is rigid and strict with an educational purpose. His youngest son James hates him for that, he could kill his father if only he had a weapon to do so. He has vivid dreams about that. His mother tries to shield him from the strictness of her husband. The father resents the strong bond between mother and son. They form an alliance against him. He feels they are plotting against him. He feels left out. The youngest children. Cam and James resist the tyranny of their father. Even when they’re 10 years older their pact against him still exists.

Mrs. Ramsay’s interests lie with everyday reality, with her family and with the village, and with what she can do to change things for the better. She keeps a firm grip on her family. The guests are impressed by her, her beauty, and her organizational qualities. She achieves to give everyone what he, or she needs. She also keeps the peace between opposing forces in the household.

In the second part, time takes its toll in the shape of lives.

In the third part, the family goes to the island once more but it is not the same, there are memories, and the promise of the trip to the lighthouse and the people that live there still has to be fulfilled, after 10 years.

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