Eva Figes Maureen Howard - Essay

Maureen Howard

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Light] is a likeable small book, but the spirit of [Virginia Woolf's] To The Lighthouse broods over it like a dark cloud, flattening the surfaces. Good heavens, we have the famous tyrannical pater familias, the dinner-table scene (great care taken with the food), the visitors (atheist and village priest), the unspoken passion, and so forth. But we do not have Mrs. Ramsay or anything like the tension of Virginia Woolf's prose, those paragraphs that find their own shape bravely, independently, and loop right into the whole cloth of the narrative. Nor does this story, though it takes place on the eve of the Great War, have the off-stage threat of war—that tragic slash across the canvas of comic village life—that Woolf makes a presence in Between the Acts. True, the French landscape is disturbed by a train, and Octave, the clever writer who has come to lunch, drives an amusing yellow motorcar. But this is too miniature, too softly lit. In an earlier work, Waking,… Figes has written about a woman waking up from youth to age—her Jacob's Room. She is like a copyist with her easel set up in the museum, and the work is remarkable in just that way. (pp. ix, xii)

Maureen Howard, in a review of "Light," in The Yale Review, Vol. 73, No. 2, January, 1984, pp. ix, xii.