To the Lighthouse is Virginia Woolf’s arresting analysis of domestic family life, centering on the Ramseys and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland in the early 1900s. Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge, Eyes Wide Shut), who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Woolf in the film adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Hours, brings the impressionistic prose of this classic to vibrant life.
Split into three parts, the story observes Mrs. Ramsay, Mr. Ramsey, and their children at their vacation house on the Isle of Skye. While the novel follows seemingly trivial events between the family members, the plot takes a backseat to philosophical introspection, which gave the novel its fame as an icon of modernist literature. The Ramseys’ quest to recapture meaning creates a powerful allegory of man’s impermanent battle with the tangible world.
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©1927 Virginia Woolf (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
There are books of the same chemical composition as dynamite. The only difference is that a piece of dynamite explodes once, whereas a book explodes a thousand times. ― Yevgeny Zamyatin
I tried to be impartial. But maybe that wasn't exactly what I expected. Still I gave it five stars. I've read the book several times and certainly I had my own vision of the Ramsays, and this ran counter to N.Kidman's rendition. It was just different, all the more interesting.
Since the book is not about action, but introspection, the narrator can discover and impart other subtle nuances of meaning that could be lost on or interpreted differently by the reader.
N.Kidman managed to make the narration sound rhythmic and melodious. Definitely her breathiness was sexy. Her pitch range was rather restrained with no paroxysms of emotion. The whole thing was moody and melancholy at times, just the way it should be.
Nicole Kidman's intonation and reading style is superb, so much of this novel takes place in the female mind/voice and Nicole just nails it. She brings what can be a tricky style to read to life. It seemed to me, that she truly understood the novel and it showed in her reading.
I do have to warn you, she does have a nasty habit of taking sharp intakes of breath in between lines, and I feel this must have produced an editing dilemma. As someone who regularly edits audio, I'm guessing that Nicole must have read at too fast a pace to smoothly edit out these sounds (although you could lower the sound levels and raise them appropriately). It can be quite annoying at first, but you soon get used to it. Ideally these kind of noises should be removed.
Still I can't fault Nicole for inhaling.
It won't be for everyone. It's about thought, perception, transience, meaning, understanding, gender and all kinds of abstract ideas. If you want a straight narrative with clearly defined actions and goals this will be tricky, but I loved it.
The characters and their search for meaning and their approach to understanding really reflected some of the half understood/explored thoughts that I myself have struggled with. Lily Briscoe is possibly my favourite character in any novel, and occasionally Woolf's prose is just stunning.
As I say, To The Lighthouse is written in a style that is destined to alienate some, and enliven others. I found it incredibly rewarding, but it might leave you cold, be warned.
You need to have some patience to listen to this novella. The language is exquisite, the sense of place and time and mood are engrossing. If you listen to audiobooks for plot and excitement, this is not the book for you.
But as a novel that explores character, relationships, the extreme subjectivity of human perception and how time acts upon those things, then this may be one of the most eloquent examinations of those things ever written.
Although I did not give Kidman's narration a full five stars, there is nothing wrong with it. However, two things bothered me. Her pace of reading is quite fast, and this is a problem when the point of view changes from one character to another within a scene. I'm assuming there are scene breaks in the original text version which make clear whose point of view is being used, but in audio form, a slightly slower read, with more pauses between scenes would have been helpful. Secondly, I found her Aussie accent slightly jarring for this particular novel. I think it might have suited a more neutral English or American accent better - just because I have a better capacity for overlooking those accents. It's an entirely culturally subjective view, but then narrators affect us at that level.
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