The pleasures of rereading

My year with Virginia Woolf imply rereading. Quite a lot of it. It is such a pleasure! And there is so much new to focus on, even in the texts I thought I knew fairly well. There is no doubt that my own situation in life influence my way of reading & understanding.

Today I went back to The Lighthouse. This is how it opens:

The Window

“Yes, of course, if it’s fine tomorrow,” said Mrs Ramsay. “But you’ll have to be up with the lark,” she added.

To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled, the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night’s darkness and a day’s sail, within touch. Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, …

“But,” said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, “it won’t be fine.”

Had there been an axe handy, a poker, or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it.

I love how she introduces James: Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, … Isn’t this just a great psychological observation?! And isn’t it also very interesting to se how carefully and serious she presents the personality of a child.

But what actually surprised me the most today, was how easy it is, at 45, to identify with Mrs. Ramsay. I never did that before … last time I read this book (20 years ago or so) I saw Mrs. Ramsay as a mother-figure, also to me – the reader, today it felt almost like her thoughts were mine …

… rather shocking …

9 comments on “The pleasures of rereading

  1. “last time I read this book (20 years ago or so) I saw Mrs. Ramsay as a mother-figure, also to me – the reader, today it felt almost like her thoughts were mine …”

    I had a similar experience reading Mrs. Dalloway for the second time (as a 48-year-old wife and mother as opposed to being a 19-year-old). Rereading can be so enlightening!!

  2. I haven’t read To The Lighthouse, but I’m loving the excerpt and the concept of your blog. It’s been almost ten years since I last read a novel by Woolf. Now’s a good time to start reading and rereading. 🙂

    • Hi Kristel,
      I am really into Woolf this year, and so I am actually both reading “To the Lighthouse” and listening to it as an audiobook. The audio version is very beautifully read, and gives a lot of mental images of the scenes and settings. Its a bit like watching the story as if it was a film.
      Good luck with your reading!

  3. Oh, the woman’s sentence of Virginia Woolf and yes, it makes all the sense in the world for you to see yourself now as Mrs. Ramsay, just as it made all the sense in the world to see her as a mother figure. I do not know that I have read a better expression of the power of the woman’s sentence than in your observation.

    Thank you.

    Karen

  4. I love this post, especially the “rather shocking.” Now I want to re-read Woolf. And to read the biography of her I’ve had of her for a while now–by Hermione Lee. A beautiful thick book. Have you read that one?

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