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"Radiant as [To the Lighthouse] is in its beauty, there could never be a mistake about it: here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising. I think that beyond being about the very nature of reality, it is itself a vision of reality."--Eudora Welty, from the Introduction
The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.
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Mrs Ramsay (wife of a distinguished philosopher, mother of eight, and a sympathetic hostess) provides the heartbeat of a shabby-grand holiday house in the Hebrides and at the same time ceaselessly gauges the secret rhythms of its many intertwined pulses. Hers is the dominant interior monologue of this pre-first-world-war interlude. Other voices (most notably that of unmarried artist Lily Briscoe) fade in and out, and Juliet Stevenson turns this haunting story, in which nothing really happens, into a tone-poem of delicately nuanced probings into human relationships. The mood deepens when the neglected house is revisited, post-war, by surviving members of the holiday party, who must ultimately confront 'that loneliness that was the truth about things'. --Karen Robinson, The Sunday Times
Nicole Kidman in The Hours may have raised the doyenne of Bloomsbury bluestockings literary profile for a new generation of readers, but many people still consider Virginia Woolf's writing difficult and dated. It is. You either go along with descriptions such as, 'the spring, without a leaf to toss, bare and bright like a virgin fierce in her chastity, scornful in her purity, was laid out on fields, wide-eyed and watchful, and entirely careless of what was done, or thought, by the beholders...', or you don't. Somehow, though, when it is read in a voice as sensitive and intelligent as Juliet Stevenson's, you appreciate why critics have said that this, her best-known novel, contains some of the most beautiful prose ever written. Just as well, because there isn't much plot. The action, such as it is, takes place in the holiday home of the Ramsay family, on a Hebridean island before and after the great war. Mrs Ramsay is beautiful, Mr Ramsay difficult, their eight children relatively interesting, their house guests more so. It's the relationships that count, constantly shifting and elusive, dependent on a glance, a trick of light, an inflection of tone. Naxos does an abridged version, but don t be tempted. Woolf is all or nothing. --Sue Arnold, The Guardian
Thinking about my own reaction to To the Lighthouse, I enjoyed it more because of Juliet Stevenson's reading of it. She carried me along in the middle section when I was losing my way. And then I got fired up for it again. What the audiobook did was to impose some additional (and quite helpful) structure on the book. For example the last four tracks are called In the boat, Perspective, Approaching and Arriving. --Pete, Couch trip blog
With introductions by Eavan Boland and Maud Ellmann
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