Ever had your head held under water for a minute and a half?
No, me neither. But if I did, I imagine the first desperate breath of air I got to take after being released would feel very similar to the feeling I had when I read the last word of the last page of #15 on our list, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. The edition I have is 310 pages- it’s not what you could exactly call a long book. Nevertheless, it took me two weeksto read. Why the inordinate amount of time? Because reading To the Lighthouse felt akin to wading through knee-deep snow. It was beautiful, a sparkling example of delicately styled prose. Open up to any old page, and you’ll get something like,
“What then came next? Where were they going? From her hand, ice cold, held deep in the sea, there spurted up a fountain of joy at the change, at escape, at the adventure (that she should be alive, that she should be there). And the drops falling from this sudden and unthinking fountain of joy fell here and there on the dark, the slumberous shapes in her mind; shapes of a world not realized but turning in their darkness, catching here and there, a spark of light; Greece, Rome, Constantinople.”
See? It’s lovely, finely-wrought, and ornate. Ms. Woolf’s rendering of landscapes and the tensions in relationships between the sexes characteristic of the time period and society she was writing are just about as apt as can be. The fatal flaw for me with this book is not really a flaw at all. As a piece of impressionist literature, it is a paragon. I just didn't find it enjoyable to read. It's not that I am fixated on the entirely plot-driven novel, (not to fear, I'm not about to pick up a Dan Brown novel on you guys,) or that I need something fast-paced. I'm sorry to say that the meandering quality of the writing just didn't do it for me.
In case anyone is interested, the book I will be reviewing next week is #72, V.S. Naipul’s A House for Mr. Biswas. In the meantime, look for an “extracurricular” from either me for M., where we share our thoughts on our pleasure reading.