For years now the Ramsays have spent every summer in their holiday home in Scotland, and they expect these summers will go on forever; but as the First World War looms, the integrity of family and society will be fatally challenged.
I wasn’t going to review this book at all, because I was feeling like I don’t have enough to say about it. I then remembered that I wanted to review all of the classics I read for the Classics Club Challenge, so here’s my review!
I wish I didn’t have to read this for university. Even more, I wish I hadn’t had to rush my way through this book, reading to a deadline. I also wish I hadn’t read it when I’d been reading her other works non stop for weeks, because I felt so entirely over Woolf that it was a massive chore to pick this one up. I turned the last page and was thrilled that it was over… not a glowing recommendation for the book at all, really.
I found when I felt able to sit quietly and focus, slowing down to savour the words, I enjoyed it and found extracts inspiring. I really wish I’d had the time to do this for the book in it’s entirety, because I think it really needs it.
That being said… at this point, I can’t say that I enjoyed this book. I understand it, and I appreciate the writing, but it wasn’t a book I could say I liked. It is definitely a thought provoking read. There are passages that grab you by the throat and don’t let go, passages that hit you in the face and make you think “oh my god, that’s how I feel”. I just felt like there was a lot of writing there that didn’t get that feeling for me… but I think that was affected by the knowledge that I HAD to get this book read by the end of the weekend.
This was the passage that floored me. Absolutely floored me. It speaks to me as if she wrote it for me, which is a singular kind of feeling.
“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of – to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others… and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.”
I know this book was a rather cathartic book for Virginia. We see her exorcising the ghosts of her parents, who had been haunting her mind for years. She based Mr and Mrs Ramsey from them and felt a sense of freedom after the novel was written. The Ramseys are two parts of a whole- where Mr Ramsey is cold, cynical and abrupt, Mrs Ramsey is warm, sweet and gentle. They counter each other’s failings, and it was a nice relationship to watch.
The most interesting character, for me, was Lily Briscoe. She was likely Woolf’s ideal artist- androgynous and observant, attempting to capture what she feels and sees on the holiday. She’s also wracked with self doubt and continually repeats the comment Mr Tansley makes: “Women can’t paint, women can’t write…”. I understand Lily’s preoccupation with the comment, as it’s the sort of thing I do after hearing such things, even when they’re not directed at me. I agonise over such things, turning them around and around in my mind until I’ve either become angry or lost confidence.
I wish I could say I enjoyed this novel, but I didn’t this time around. I fully intend to read it again at some point, when I can give it the time and attention it truly deserves.