I'LL TRY TO keep this simple. Toby Litt has written a novel, called Finding Myseelf, about Victoria About, a novelist writing a novel called Finding Myself. MS About's novel is about a group of people spending a month together in a remote country house so that she can record what they get up to; in part, it is a homage to Virginia Woolf's novel, To the Lighthouse, about a group of people in a remote country house. However, due to events in the house (Victoria's, not Virginia's), About cannot bring herself to write the novel. So her sneaky editor, Simona Princip (who is one of the pests), obtains Victoria's working notes, diaries and computer disks from that month and publishes them regardless, under the new title, From the Lighthouse. This is Toby Litt's novel: the typescript of victoria's jottings, complete with Simona's crossings-out, corrections and annotated marginaha, re-retitled Finding Myself: Oh, and there are two letters at the end, and a few pages of testimony from each of the participants in Victoria's project. And, as with the Woolf, we never get to visit the lighthouse. Confused?
Well, you won't be once you start reading the book (Litt's book, that is) - it all makes sense pretty quickly and is rather ingenious and entertaining. Novels within novels are nothing new (Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin is a recent example): nor are fictional tributes to Virginia Woolf as