“To the Lighthouse” is one of many classics with a really boring first few pages. They’re just dull, laying groundwork for themes that will pay off much later.
But once you get through that initial muddle, you find a book about perhaps the most important subject of all time: human relationships. How we change and morph, based on the people around us. What happens to us, then, if we are alone. How we build ourselves based on other human beings, and how easily we can then be taken apart when they are removed. And finally, what all this means in the overwhelming face of mortality.
The characters’ attitudes towards one another shift like the sea, contained as they are in a small social circle in a single house by the sea. Watching relationships old and new play out, watching emotions eddy and flow, is where this novel’s soul is found.
They are hard questions that Woolf tackled in this novel. And though the sentence structure occasionally comes dangerously close to Faulkner, it’s worth the pain of forgetting where the last punctuation mark was.