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To the Lighthouse Paperback – Unabridged, December 27, 1989
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. British actress Juliet Stevenson makes for a better reader of Woolf's words than Nicole Kidman's Oscar-winning turn as Woolf in The Hours. Stevenson carefully sorts through Woolf's famously tangled modernist masterpiece about the interior lives of a well-to-do British family, and the ways in which the First World War permanently damaged European society. She reads in an amplified hush, her exaggeratedly formal British diction adding poignancy to the sense of dislocation and disorder that marks the book's transition from pre- to postwar. Her reading is quietly, carefully precise, and that precision is a solid complement to Woolf's own measured, inward-looking prose. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.
"To The Lighthouse is one of the greatest elegies in the English language, a book which transcends time" -- Margaret Drabble "It is an elegy for lost times and family life" * The Week * "Thrillingly introspective" -- Katy Guest * The Independent * --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.
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One of the most enjoyable things about this book is the way Virginia Woolf so probingly explores the personalities of the individuals, though three stand out above all others, the aforementioned mother and father, and the unmarried amateur painter Lily Briscoe. By the end of the novel, we feel that we know all of these characters on the deepest possible level, and while the two women are sketched more lovingly, it is the father, Mr. Ramsay, who is etched in his essence. Brilliant, but with striking emotional and intellectual limitations, he is both the head of the family and its bane. It isn't that the author dislikes him, but she is acutely aware of his vices and virtues (in her own life, Virginia's father despaired over his wife's early death, creating an atmosphere of gloom over Virginia's teen-aged years). The two women are plumbed less deeply, but we come away from the novel having a sense of their worth.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE was revolutionary when it appeared as one of the first attempts to profit from many of the lessons to be taught English language fiction by the extraordinary work of Marcel Proust. Woolf had a love/hate relationship with Proust, on the one hand recognizing very early on that he was the great literary genius of the century (Joyce, on the other hand, the other titan of the century, she thought less highly of), but finding his work so brilliant as to paralyze her. She famously remarked that after reading Proust she felt incapable of writing anything. But the fact is that TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is in many ways a Proustian work. Like Proust and unlike almost no one prior in English literature (with the notable exception of Butler's THE WAY OF ALL FLESH), Woolf fictionalized her own life (she herself appears in the novel as the girl Cam) and produced a profound analysis of the nature of passed time. Also like Proust, she attempts to break down traditional narrative and present her story impressionistically rather than historically. While she may have felt that Proust kept her from writing, the fact is that she produced the first literary masterpiece following in the footsteps of Proust.
But in the end, what makes this most remarkable is the rich detailing, the marvelous nuances, the lush delineations. This is a book to be read slowly and savored, much as one would read a long poem. Indeed, this comes very close to being at times prose poetry, such as the wonderful section "Time Passes," that is sandwiched between the first section of the novel "The Window" and the final section "The Lighthouse."
After having confessed my love of this novel, I will add that I adore this book despite being less than overwhelmed by some of her other fiction. I love Woolf's nonfiction, but ORLANDO I sometimes regard as my least favorite work of fiction by a major writer. This novel, however, easily rates as one of my favorite twentieth century novels. I would urge anyone who has similarly found some of Woolf's other work unpalatable to give this one a try. I would be astounded if many will find it in any way less than brilliant.
Having danced around and with MI-5 in levels beyond most policemen's pay grades, Dalgliesh knows there's more to this scene than meet the eye.
In Dame P.D. James' thirteenth Dalgliesh book, readers can (rightfully so) expect "more of the same" from both the author and her policeman--intriguing story, excellent characterizations, and riveting plot. It's vintage P.D. James and long may she rule.
Combe is an island off the Cornish coast, with a long and rich history of isolation, peace, and even intrigue. Famed--and cranky, even impossible--novelist Nathan Oliver is found hanged at the landmark Combe lighthouse. Scotland Yard (and Dalgliesh) is taking no chances, as Combe is a haven for secrecy, especially in high diplomatic circles (and Dalgliesh knows of such circles from previous encounters).
And in traditional James style, there is much, much more than meets the eye. The dead man is far from being beloved, even by his own daughter who's on the island with him, as they ponder his next novel. Character after character, it is revealed, has more than a basic motive to kill him. The police waste no time in ascertaining that Oliver's death is not a suicide but a murder. But who's the guilty one?
Dalgliesh and his two assistants (Miskin and Benton-Smith) set out diligently--and, of course, brilliantly--and as the pace picks up noticeably, clues fall into place and, needless to say, Dalgliesh wins again. But that's a foregone conclusion to the multitude of James fans. Adam doesn't fail. Period.
That said, of course, the brilliance of James' writing always leaves one in awe; already readers are ready for the next installment of the Dalgliesh genre. No one's better than James.
Still, aside from the "whodunit" approach, James manages to keep the pace with the nuances and subtleties of the characters' personal lives. For many readers' satisfaction, James has toned down Dalgliesh's "love life" (after all, who really cares--just get on with the man we all love to watch brilliantly--and sensitively--solve the cases, one by one.). James is superb and doesn't need the inane distraction here. The inter-play between Miskin and Benton-Smith are more appropriate, as Dalgliesh's subordinates come and go anyway.
An excellent read (Don't forget your dictionary, however, as James, as ever, gives us an adventure, too, into extending our vocabulary. Just keeping up with her, even with a dictionary, is a joyous ride! Her literary allusions are also pleasures to read.). (BillyjHobbs@tyler.net)
Most recent customer reviews
The stream of consciousness was excessive making it a very disjointed read. I found it to be toI introspective and boring