Sunday, July 11, 2010

I finished reading Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse at exactly 1 o clock yesterday. Did the end measure up ? Yes and no. While in the case of Mrs Dalloway, the ending, although abrupt, felt perfect, because I had suspected all along that the closure would never really be that, what with all of the elements sinking down in the midst of a very palpable agitation still hovering around, in To The Lighthouse, the ending felt like an ending, like someone had finally managed to bring every anxiety to rest with a supreme effort of will. I was left with that same feeling of wonder at having read something rather brilliant and even more importantly, new (for me at least), but I can't say I wasn't even a little disappointed either. For one, the section called Time Passes seemed rather drawn out, and while the effect may have been intentional, it dulled some of the pleasure that is to be had from one revelatory anecdote appearing after another without fail, much like in the dinner sequence. In between, a few silent moments of pondering and reflection help balance things, but this section went on for too long, and at times I suspected Woolf of repeating the same metaphors in slightly different ways. The last section was surprisingly delightful in its constant shifting of viewpoint from Lily to Mr. Ramsay and the children, but even here, apart from the starkly visual recollections of Mrs. Ramsay by Lily, replete and illustrated by things, colors and objects labelling these memories, making them easier to remember, I felt nothing new was said. The story, if I am allowed to call any Woolf novel that, backtracked, traced events all the way to the beginning, and came to conclusions not terribly different from what had already been achieved. That said, it could also have been an attempt at stating how even a death as sudden as Mrs. Ramsay's, after all, cannot linger on too long without allowing a greater understanding of things to replace it. Perhaps that was Mrs. Ramsay's final gift to Lily and the others.

I feel I have written almost nothing about the brilliance of the majority of the novel, but I shall leave that for another day, when, hopefully, even these minor setbacks reveal themselves to be only essential aspects that needed me to think them over a much longer period of time, before judging.