I finished To the Lighthouse last week in time for class. It was delightful! I’m feeling sort of obsessed now. I’m going to read Mrs. Dalloway next and possibly tackle Hermione Lee’s biography of Woolf. She seems like such a fascinating woman.
As for George Eliot’s Middlemarch, I had stated that I think it’s one of the best books I have ever read and someone in the comments asked me to explain. I’ll have to think about that. It definitely took me the first 100 pages to get into the book, but I think Eliot does such a wonderful job fleshing out her characters. They all seem so human. Virginia Woolf described this book as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”. It was a marked change from the writings of Jane Austen.
On a side note, you can read the entire book online here. And a note in Wikipedia said that Sam Mendes, who directed American Beauty, will be directing a version of Middlemarch. Also he’s directing a film adaptation of Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Interesting, not sure what to think about that.
For me, Middlemarch is brilliant for many, many reasons, but one that stands out is its psychological acuity. Eliot understood people and she knew how to present them so that we could understand them too. This isn’t always true. I thought Dorothea was a tad 2D (but I loved her so much I didn’t care). But it’s mostly true, and the book contains one of the best depictions of passive-aggressive-ness I’ve ever seen.
I read it while I was moving from Brooklyn to Manhattan. It got me through many long, potentially tedious, subway trips.
And, icing on the cake, Eliot is very funny, and the book is full of stand-alone one liners that still work today.
And then you can pick up The Waves! (I think it’s my favorite of hers.) Adds something new to the repertoire of the novel…does things you didn’t know could be done.
Oh, Mrs Dalloway is delightful!
Seems a lot of people have a prejudice against Virginia Woolf’s books before they read them. In our our first class on To The Lighthouse the lecturer began by saying. “I’d never read a word by Virginia Woolf before this course. I’d avoided her: I thought she was some prissy, anorexic dilettante.” (He loved the book though, and so did I).