Who wrote this book and when?
Virginia Woolf, 1927.
Has there been a film version?
One in 1983, starring Kenneth Branagh. (yay for Kenneth Branagh!)
Who are the important characters?
Mrs. Ramsay – a very protective and proper older married woman, she is very beautiful
Mr. Ramsay – a professor who is afraid his work will be forgotten, somewhat self-centered
Lily Briscoe – a single, young woman who is a talented painter
Paul Rayley – a young man staying with the Ramsays
Minta Doyle – a young woman who is being directed by Mrs. Ramsay
James Ramsay – the Ramsay’s son, he wants to go to the lighthouse
Charles Tansley – a very selfish man, a friend of Mr. Ramsay’s
Augustus Carmichael – a withdrawn poetic man
William Bankes – a friend of the Ramsays
What’s it about?
It is an examination of the Ramsay family and some of their friends during a vacation to the Isle of Skye in the Hebrides. Using the voice of an omniscient narrator, we gain insight into the protective mind of Mrs. Ramsay, the fatalistic thoughts of Mr. Ramsay, the independent Lily Briscoe, and even some of the Ramsay children.
Why is this book a classic?
It is one of the most famous discursive novels, ranking right up there with Proust and Joyce.
Do you recommend I read this book?
Hmmm…you have to be very committed to read this book.
Why did this book make your list?
Because Virginia Woolf is famous, basically.
Has it won any awards?
“Already ashamed of that petulance, of that gesticulation of the hands when charging at the head of his troops, Mr. Ramsay rather sheepishly prodded his son’s bare legs once more, and then, as if he had her leave for it, with a movement which oddly reminded his wife of the great sea lion at the Zoo tumbling backwards after swallowing his fish and walloping off so that the water in the tank washes from side to side, he dived into the evening air, which, already thinner, was taking the substance from leaves and hedges but, as if in return, restoring to roses and pinks a lustre which they had not had by day.” p 38
“These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight, never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters.” p 67
Virginia Woolf has such trouble with long run on sentences, my brain begins to suffocate because she never allows you to take a mental breath but instead just runs on and on and unfortunately, you can’t complain because most of those seemingly “run on” sentences, like a dry old literature professor sermonizing on the origins of the latin versions of words, are grammatically correct.
This is the sort of book that makes me feel I am uneducated. Practically any book which employs a great deal more philosophical mental dialogue than vocalized dialogue or action is tough for me to read in any large section at one time. It is what Dr C would call a “brain stretcher” for me. I do, however, think I would understand and be more interested in this novel if it were read out loud to me or by me. Especially by Garrison Keillor. He has the perfect sort of winding, slightly lackadaisical but harmonious voice which is perfect for this sort of storytelling.