Virginia Woolf had an almost unparalleled talent for writing that transcends the ordinary written word. Her novels read like a happy daydream—like walking along the corridors of someone else’s brain when they’re feeling particularly imaginative and unhurried.
To the Lighthouse is, at surface level, the story of a family that almost takes a boat ride to the Isle of Skye. And then they don’t. And then, ten years later, they do. Not exactly blockbuster material, I know, unless a shirtless Bruce Willis happened to make a cameo.
But if we put this modest plot under a microscope, and that microscope was designed to expose the complexities of existence and experience, the manifold effects of time, the weight of personal legacies, and the chasms of emotion that humans cross in order to understand each other, we might say we’ve found something special.
We might even find ourselves shouting “Eureka!”
Is It One of the Greatest Books of All Time?
If you’re a fan of poetry, yes. If not, Woolf is unlikely to suit your taste.
Was it wisdom? Was it knowledge? Was it, once more, the deceptiveness of beauty, so that all one’s perceptions, halfway to truth, were tangled in a golden mesh?
Indeed he seemed to her sometimes made differently from other people, born blind, deaf, and dumb, to the ordinary things, but to the extraordinary things, with an eye like an eagle’s.
And again she felt alone in the presence of her old antagonist, life.
It was necessary now to carry everything a step further. With her foot on the threshold she waited a moment longer in a scene which was vanishing even as she looked, and then, as she moved and took Minta’s arm and left the room, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past.