I think it was in Devon I read To the Lighthouse. My memory of it, like my memory of most things, is unreliable. But unlike most books To the Lighthouse feels like memory itself. Trying to recall it, five years after reading, I see the image of the house, a reflection in a window, and the garden, a lawn sloping down to the sea.
There are the meals, the cutlery and the crockery. There is the philosopher, and the painter. There is certainty, and doubt. There is the war, and the house, through which we wander, like ghosts, in the eerie middle section, when it is abandoned. That emptiness haunts me.
And then there are the children, and the return a decade later. My thoughts skim across the sea, to holidays on Cornish beaches with my own children, the houses we once rented, that are now empty, or filled with the voices and laughter of strangers. I can smell the tobacco in To the Lighthouse and feel the steam from saucepans of vegetables, or the scent of charred meat. Like any novel, it weaves my world into the author’s world, draws me into her darkness.