Author Virginia Woolf grew up in a privileged literary family and status in society. That was cool until her parents died when she was young. Then things started to unravel. She had a nervous breakdown. She got married, but was actually a lesbian, so that wasn’t all that great for her. She was worried about another nervous breakdown or going insane, so she decided to be proactive. She filled her coat’s pockets with rocks and walked into a river and drowned herself in 1941.
She wrote To the Lighthouse in 1927. I read the book in 2016. Didn’t care for it. The editors at Spark Notes suggest that I found it difficult because I’m not “versed in the traditions of modernist fiction.”
I readily admit that I don’t catch most literary references or metaphors, if that’s what modernist fiction means. This novel was hailed for its experimental nature. Nothing happens. Everything is a stream-of-consciousness, jumping from character-to-character. No action, little dialogue. From what I understand, the artist in the book was based on the author herself.
I shouldn’t say nothing happens. In the first half of the book a family is vacationing at their summer home near a lighthouse. The book opens with a son asking if they can visit the lighthouse; Dad says no. That’s part one.
Part two is like one of those four-week semesters at a private liberal arts school, where rich kids go to Hawaii to “study” the history of surfing. The house is empty. Some characters died in a war or of natural causes.
In the third and final part, Dad takes a couple of his kids to the lighthouse.
People smarter than me say, “Woolf offers some of her most penetrating explorations of the workings of the human consciousness as it perceives and analyzes, feels and interacts.”
In 1998, the Modern Library ranked the top 100 books of the century and listed To the Lighthouse at 15. So while I didn’t enjoy it, you might. Supposed to be good.