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review 2022-07-12 05:06
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

The Ramsays are at their summer residence with guests. Mrs. Ramsay keeps promising her youngest child they will go to the lighthouse the next day, but her husband says they won't because of bad weather. Unfortunately, tragedy happens before they can go to the lighthouse. When they do go to the lighthouse, the youngest son is now a teenager. It is a reunion of sorts from that time 10 years earlier.


This was not my cup of tea. I found the beginning boring. Quotation marks would have helped when characters were having conversations or thoughts. I often had to re-read passages to understand what was happening as well as who it was happening to. The book is in three parts. The first part is the basic story as in the above synopsis. The second part is what happens after the tragedy. The third part is 10 years later with the return of the Ramsays to the island.


The third part I find interesting. It is a stream of consciousness by different people. Some interesting thoughts occur. Some rebellious ones. Some on how to change others' responses to one. There are recriminations and anger in the thoughts. There is sorrow in remembrance.


These people are flawed. I just had a problem making a connection to any of them. Fortunately, I borrowed this from the library for book club. It is not a keeper for me.

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review 2019-10-20 01:40
To the Lighthouse
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Ramsay sat silent. She was glad, Lily thought, to rest in silence, uncommunicative; to rest in the extreme obscurity of human relationships. Who knows what we are, what we feel? Who knows even at the moment of intimacy, This is knowledge? Aren’t things spoilt then, Mrs. Ramsay may have asked (it seemed to have happened so often, this silence by her side) by saying them? Aren’t we more expressive thus? The moment at least seemed extraordinarily fertile. She rammed a little hole in the sand and covered it up, by way of burying in it the perfection of the moment. It was like a drop of silver in which one dipped and illumined the darkness of the past.

As much as I hated this book on my first read, I really enjoyed my re-read of it. That is, I enjoyed the act of reading the book this time. The re-read has only slightly improved my enjoying of the book itself.


Woolf's writing still drives me nuts. The stream of consciousness babble that jumps from one idea to the next without really developing any of them just does not work for me. 

And while I get that the jumping around is an expression of the fleeting moments of life that connect people with other people, with their surroundings, and with their own thoughts, I find it really alienating and just frustrating to read. The only impression that I got from this style is a doubt over whether the author had any idea what they wanted to say in the first place...before they added several pages of internal thought process from another character's point of view. 

It was his fate, his peculiarity, whether he wished it or not, to come out thus on a spit of land which the sea is slowly eating away, and there to stand, like a desolate sea-bird, alone. It was his power, his gift, suddenly to shed all superfluities, to shrink and diminish so that he looked barer and felt sparer, even physically, yet lost none of his intensity of mind, and so to stand on his little ledge facing the dark of human ignorance, how we know nothing and the sea eats away the ground we stand on — that was his fate, his gift. But having thrown away, when he dismounted, all gestures and fripperies, all trophies of nuts and roses, and shrunk so that not only fame but even his own name was forgotten by him, kept even in that desolation a vigilance which spared no phantom and luxuriated in no vision, and it was in this guise that he inspired in William Bankes (intermittently) and in Charles Tansley (obsequiously)and in his wife now, when she looked up and saw him standing at the edge of the lawn, profoundly, reverence, and pity, and gratitude too, as a stake driven into the bed of a channel upon which the gulls perch and the waves beat inspires in merry boat-loads a feeling of gratitude for the duty it is taking upon itself of marking the channel out there in the floods alone.

Seriously. WTF? Get on already with telling us why they yet again can't make it to the flipping lighthouse. 


Fret not, reader, they do get there in the end.

(spoiler show)


Nope the writing was as annoying as on my first read. However, this time around I was better prepared for the sheer onslaught of words that do not seem to support any discernible plot at all. 


So, when I got over being annoyed by the writing, I did manage to get something out of the book:


1. I had not realised how much WWI played a part in this story. Seriously, I had totally forgotten that the story is divided in a part before the war and one set after it. And with that realisation this time (I am not sure how I missed this on the first read ... other than really hating the book), there is a point to the different outlook of the characters, and indeed there is also some character development. My favourite of which was that of the character Carmichael. Though, of course, Lily Briscoe, the young artist, also becomes interesting. I kind of saw her as a modernised continuation of Mrs Ramsay in the third part of the story, and I rather liked this portrayal. 


2. Which brings me to Mrs. Ramsay. Wowser. What an interesting woman stuck in the customs of her time. Seriously, on this re-read I ended up constantly comparing Mrs. Ramsay to E.M. Forster's Mrs. Wilcox of Howards End

Both are women brought up and living the mores of the previous generation at a time when the next generation already seem to have moved so far ahead that the Mrs. Ramsays and Mrs. Wilcoxs of the world seem lost and out of place. The tragedy is compounded when both characters express how they are fully aware of their situation but cannot see a way to change.


3. There was quite a lot angst and anxiety in this story: whether it was Mrs. Ramsay feeling trapped in her own life or Lily wallowing in self-doubt after Charles (was it Charles?) tells her that women can't paint (...or be any other kind of true artist). 

Was there some of Woolf's own in this? I don't know. However, I really wished that Woolf had dismissed her plan of jumping from thought to thought and from character to character and spent more time with the individual characters themselves.


In summary, I did get a lot more out of the book on the re-read BUT I still dislike the writing style and lack of narrative clarity of the book immensely. 

It's not a book I would recommend to anyone. In fact, I'd sooner recommend Mrs. Dalloway, and that one was not a favourite either.

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text 2019-10-17 22:32
Reading progress update: I've read 195 out of 238 pages.
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

I will finish this tomorrow. 


What I can say about the re-read so far is that I am glad I picked this up again. I got a lot more out of the book than on my first read, even tho that is not saying a lot. I think this was a 1* book on my first read.



Oh, and can I just say how much I love the Everyman's Library editions? 


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text 2019-10-16 23:23
Reading progress update: I've read 1 out of 238 pages.
To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

Right, let's see how this one will work out: I figured that after such a long period of nigh uninterrupted reading of plot-driven stories, I need a complete change.


And what could be a more complete change than a book that, as far as I recollect, has no plot whatsoever. 


I originally read To the Lighthouse in the summer of 2002 and completely hated the book's pretentiousness and the absence of a plot.

However, Woolf has grown on me since then, and now I'm curious if this book has changed for me.

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review 2019-08-31 07:35
By Book or By Crook by Eva Gates
By Book or By Crook: A Lighthouse Library Mystery - Eva Gates

I finished this back in June, so some details are fuzzy.

Lucy previously worked at the Harvard Library and is now a new librarian at Bodie Island's public library, which is housed inside a lighthouse. There are a few folks who aren't thrilled that she got the job, but for the most part Lucy loves her new position. She's particularly excited about the Jane Austen first editions the library currently has on loan. That excitement turns to dismay and horror as one of the first editions goes missing and the chairman of the library board is found murdered.

I tend to be drawn to book and library-themed cozy mysteries, so I snatched this one up when I spotted it in a used bookstore. Unfortunately, it turned out to be terrible.

The author's bio doesn't mention any sort of library background, although she thanks a librarian in her acknowledgements, so I assume she spoke to that person as part of her research. Either her research wasn't very thorough or she didn't ask the right questions, because this book was filled with mistakes and difficult-to-believe details.

Cozy mystery authors seem to be fond of 30-year-old librarians who somehow already have 10 years of librarian experience under their belts. Library experience would be believable, but becoming a librarian by age 20 would really be pushing it, particularly a librarian at the Harvard Library. You need a bachelor's degree first (approximately 4 years), and then a Master's in Library Science (or Library and Information Science, depending on the school), which can take 1-2 years depending on what sort of course load you can handle. Lucy would have had to graduate early in both high school and college early in order to be a librarian by age 20.

But what really bothered me was the author's glaring lack of knowledge about library security. On page 129, there was this discussion between one of the library's employees and a police officer:

"'I don't suppose y'all have security on the door?'

'I do some crowd control,' Charlene said.

'Stopping little old ladies from stepping on each other's sensible shoes. I meant like a bar-code detector. Alarm. Things like that.'

'This is a library. Not a jewelry store. And we're in the Bodie Island Lighthouse, not the Bronx. No, we do not have alarms.'"

There's so much wrong with this passage that it's hard to know where to start. Yes, there are lots of small libraries out there that don't have much in the way of security - but those libraries would never be loaned a collection of Jane Austen first editions for a temporary display. And libraries that don't have any sort of security systems in place likely don't have them because they can't afford them, not because they think they don't need them - all libraries, even ones in small towns, are better off with some sort of security system in place (alarms, security gates, panic buttons, etc.), for the safety of their users and staff as well as to reduce the likelihood of theft. Charlene saying that this was "the Bodie Island Lighthouse, not the Bronx" struck me as both naive and potentially racist. Also, library security gates are not called bar-code detectors - I'll forgive that one because it was the police officer character who said it.

If I remember right, the above passage occurred after the first book went missing. That left five books and a notebook that could still be stolen. In addition to keeping the books locked up and only removing them when a staff member could be on hand to make sure it stayed safe, I'd have bought a webcam or two off Amazon and set them up. Instead, library staff felt that keeping the books locked up as much as possible (with the key easily accessible in the head librarian's unlocked office) was good enough. Considering how the story progressed (more thefts!), the continued library security issues were maddening.

Although I was able to figure out the murderer's identity a little early, I did think the murder mystery aspect was decent. It's too bad that everything was overshadowed by the glaringly awful library security details. No one in their right mind would lend a library like this anything even remotely rare and valuable. I very much agreed with the cop who said this: "I wouldn't want y'all guarding my doghouse." (226)

Sometimes terrible cozy mysteries can be at least somewhat saved by their characters. That wasn't the case here. Lucy annoyed me. Her views on books and library struck me as being old-fashioned, and she seemed to be very judgmental of everything from other people's tastes in recreational reading to the kind of music they listened to. Her two potential love interests (yes, there's already a love triangle in the works) were both bland and uninteresting. I'm assuming Connor (the guy Lucy had a crush on as a teen, and who is now the mayor) is being set up as the guy who appears to have the best chance with Lucy, while Butch (a local cop) is the guy Lucy's actually going to end up with. If she ever ends up with anyone.

I don't plan on reading more of this series.


(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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