Top positive review
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A Personal Favourite
on 26 July 2015
I have always loved this book; it is beautifully written and is clear and concise. As I write this though this book has come into the news due to the lighthouse in the story. Although the story here takes place on the Isle of Skye it is accepted that the inspiration for this is actually based on a house that Virginia’s parents rented in St Ives, Cornwall, and the lighthouse is in fact Godrevy Lighthouse. With plans being proposed to build an apartment block in the area there is a bit of an uproar over whether this will damage the view and obscure the lighthouse from view. Who would have thought that Virginia Woolf’s book would cause uproar in the following century over the placement of a building?
There are a number of editions of this on the market, and thus on this site there are numerous reviews, from five to one star, and admittedly some will not like this. Some of the lower starred reviews have some justification, whereas others are complete hogwash. Firstly this book has somehow got a bit of a reputation of being hard to read, and complex – it is not, in fact the actual plot is very simple. This story does employ stream of consciousness from more than one character, but in itself that doesn’t make this hard, however if you are like many people who only have a chance to read to and from work on your commute, this will be very challenging as it is easy to lose your place. If you have time however to read this in bigger chunks, then all you need is a bit of concentration and some peace and quiet. The other thing that people complain about here is the lack of action, but then this isn’t a thriller, or an adventure tale, it is about life, and the most exciting thing that has happened to me this week was that I cut myself shaving the other day; I’m sure a lot of people haven’t even had that much excitement lately.
The story itself is broken up into three parts, the first part being when the Ramsey family and acquaintances are holidaying in the house on Skye. The second part is about the empty house and how things change and need repairing and maintaining as it stands empty for a number of years. The reason why there is a large gap is that different members of the family have got married, died and so on, as well as the First World War taking place. The final part of this book is when the Ramsey’s and others eventually return to the house. As I have already mentioned as such there is no action here, but this draws you in on another level and that is more thoughtful and introspective. Remember there is nothing flashy about reading Woolf, she wrote for adults and she expected adults to understand what she wrote. So here she makes us think of relationships, from friendships to marriage and how these gradually or even drastically change over the years, also our perception of ourselves, and how others perceive us. There is also the thought of time and how everything starts to decay, fall apart and alter up unto death. And there is also the thought here of how certain things change for us as we grow older and more experienced.
So, in all this is an easy read provided you have some peace and quiet to sit down and read it, and is very rewarding. I have already listed some of the things that this book will make you ponder on, but there are more if you read and think about this. Unlike James Joyce who took the stream of consciousness idea to one ultimate end and thus in effect boxed himself into a corner Virginia Woolf experimented more with the form, and thus was able to use it in a different manner.