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To the Lighthouse

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  82,511 Ratings  ·  3,916 Reviews
To the Lighthouse is made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of one family living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. As time winds its way through their lives, the Ramsays face, alone and simultaneously, the greatest of human challenges and it greatest triumph--the human capacity for change. A portrait in miniature of family life, it also ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 170 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published May 5th 1927)
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Paul Bryant
Jul 04, 2014 Paul Bryant rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a problem, dear Virginia
They like stuff that's much more linear,
I know your teeth you will grit
But you have to admit
You may be hot but there's not
a lot of plot that you got
Five pages about rain on a distant steeple
Is five too many for most of the British people
They moan about Mrs Dalloway
In such a very callow way
Instead of your Orlando
They prefer something more blando
They'd rather go to raves
Than have to read The Waves
And no one's read The Years
In years and years and years
Well - i know it'
Stephen M
Sep 25, 2012 Stephen M rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: s.penk!
Recommended to Stephen M by: Time to read the rest of Woolf's work
I’ve never dwelt over a set of 200 bound pages with as much joy and relish as I have with To the Lighthouse. I can say without reservation, that this is some of the most incredible writing I’ve ever come across and I’m absolutely baffled as to how Woolf pulled it off. So much of the prose was redolent of an abstract surrealist film, such were the clarity and preciseness of its images. At a certain point Woolf describes an idea entering a character’s mind as a drop of ink diffusing in a beaker of ...more
Aug 05, 2015 s.penkevich rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who haven't read it, and to those who should read it again
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Stephen M and Ifer
Shelves: favorites, death, europe, woolf
The lighthouse is out there, it's eye caressing our struggles with cold indifference. We can beat against the tides in pursuit, but will we ever reach it? Does it even matter, and is it even attainable? If we only look to that spot on the horizon we miss the love around us, miss those gasping for our love and friendship, miss the callouses born in dedicated strife rowing us towards the end. Like in all things, it is the journey that matters, not the destination. Futility can be beautiful, especi ...more
Reviewed in August 2012.

How many prejudices we carry through life, even when we think ourselves to be incapable of bias.

I avoided reading Virginia Woolf for a very long time, suspecting her and her privileged Bloomsbury set of intellectual elitism and of believing themselves to somehow enshrine the essence of civilisation (E M Forster escaped this embargo fortunately).

When I came across Charles Tansley, the visiting working class academic who can’t seem to fit in to the Ramseys’ elegantly shabby
Oh Virginia! How is it that you make your words spring to life from the barren pages and hit my senses with the force of a gale every time? How is it that you peel off the layers of the banal and reveal the terrible beauty of the core? How is it that you steer my consciousness so deep into the murky waters of uncharted territory that resurfacing takes a toll on my strength?

I wonder what spirit possessed you every time you picked up your pen, brimming over with confidence or maybe unsure of your
Jul 09, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Recommended to Miriam by: Elizabeth
Shelves: gender
You know how you secretly fear that if anyone really knew you, knew all your pettinesses and fears and insecurities and unkindnesses, they wouldn't, couldn't, like you? I'm sure Virginia Woolf was familiar with that feeling. I suspect she went back and forth on the question of whether it were true or not. At times she seems to love her characters; at other moments, to despise them. The characters display the same shifting extremes of emotion for one another, moving from an almost idolizing devot ...more
I think that in certain scenes of To the Lighthouse Woolf’s method — introspective exhaustiveness — disclosure of the vistas within our gestures, the little worlds that flare and die in the time it takes to pass the salt — approaches its own parody. Sometimes reading this was like watching a movie frame by frame. And I found the texture less evenly lyrical than that of Mrs. Dalloway. But cavils aside, it is amazing. Last year I got far enough in Hermione Lee’s biography to know that this novel i ...more
Aug 24, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: seekers
Recommended to Jenn(ifer) by: the summer of women 2012

First my left foot then my right behind the other, breadcrumbs lost under the snow…

There are novels that I read purely as a way to escape reality. They are a release from my incessant mental chatter. They help to pass the time. Other novels will not stand for merely serving as a distraction. They demand to be studied. They demand I go the extra mile and extend my reading well beyond my purview. Sixty pages into this formidable work and I realized this is not just a novel to be read. It does not
I'm finding it difficult to watch movies these days, or at least to find one that fulfills the requirements I'm looking for. Their cumbersome attempts at developing fully formed characters, believable folks that intersect with one another in realistic ways, patterns that you can readily see happening in your own life that are entertaining nonetheless for all their normality. These attempts painfully clunk out at random, grinding out a plot that you can't help cringing at, so trite and false it i ...more
Sep 15, 2012 karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: littry-fiction
i love this book, and someday i should write a thoughtful review of it, but i have just discovered, and this cracked me up:

Jul 06, 2013 Dolors rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who believe in immortality
Prickling rivulets of conscience, smoothly shifting from one to another, sailing the waters, relentlessly dragged by the current of a greater force, a guiding voice, Mrs. Ramsay’s. She alone can conduct this tuneless orchestra of wandering souls towards the open seas where they can become one single stream and fulfill their destiny. The lighthouse is waiting, the darkness in between the flashing beam lights showing the way. Isn’t it in absence where utter understanding is achieved?

Mrs. Ramsay ap
Henry Avila
Aug 27, 2015 Henry Avila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the quiet, pretty isle of Skye, in the remote Hebrides, off the coast of Scotland, before the carnage of World War One, Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay, bring their large family, eight children, and a few friends, for a summer vacation, get away from the turmoil of city living, in London. But with 15 at the dinner table ( not counting the servants), that will be a goal unattainable. Mrs.Ramsay is a beauty, she pretends to ignore that fact, still her aging, brilliant, distant, philosopher husband, does no ...more
Ian GalaDali
Slow or Flow?

I read "To the Lighthouse" quickly and impatiently, because that is what the text seemed to demand of me.

It is relatively short, but, most importantly for me, it flows with the inexorable force of nature, perhaps even Mother Nature, if that doesn’t offend (I will try to explain).

True, I broke the flow to make notes, to track the recurrence of words, the repetition and reinforcement of motifs, but immediately afterwards, I jumped back into the stream and was carried away, until event
I have started this book several times, and even though I admired the prose, heretofore I had always set it aside after about 20 pages because it required so much focus, so much time. Indeed, I wondered if I would ever find time to finish this book in the same way that young James Ramsay wondered if he would ever get to visit the lighthouse.

But I was determined to finish! Knowing that it required concentration, I settled into my reading chair this weekend and dove into the text. What lyricism! V
This is the first Virginia Woolf novel I have ever read. I found it complex, and at the same time uncomplicated. It makes me think of authors like Marcel Proust, Henry James and James Joyce. Woolf's style is deceptively simple. There are descriptions of landscapes and everyday events, and yet this author reaches much deeper into the human mind.

What is interesting is that Woolf does not use one character to provide the main point of view, but instead lets us see inside the heads of several of the
Feb 07, 2013 Mariel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: devastating energy exploding off his tesla coil
Recommended to Mariel by: wave with ten percent of fingers
Whenever she "thought of his work" she always saw clearly before her a large kitchen table. It was Andrew's doing. She asked him what his father's books were about. "Subject and object and the nature of reality," Andrew had said. And when she said Heavens, she had no notion of what he meant. "Think of a kitchen table then," he told her, "when you're not there."

I have reread To the Lighthouse, secretly, three times in the past six months. I took it inside and outside for its secret. If I could se
Feb 09, 2016 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This novel made me laugh, but not for the regular reasons. I laughed because I had to re-read whole swaths of the beginning because I swore I was going mad. Into just how many heads was I going to have to flit between without so much as a by-your-leave? Many, and many, I was soon to learn, as we left the comfortable world of limited omniscient viewpoint and right into deep internal absolute omniscient viewpoint from paragraph to paragraph.

What? How? Where's the editor? Is Ms. Woolf insane?

Not at
Rakhi Dalal
Jul 04, 2013 Rakhi Dalal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone :)
Swiftly coming in, my thoughts met me in my eyes. There was a tear welling up, slowly, trying to melt the thoughts with it, to make them escape from the unwanted enclosure, to set them free, to give them a lease of life. As the tear found its way, the thoughts strove hard, enduring the abrupt acceleration which followed. Astonishingly, they managed to linger on amidst the unfaltering descend. And then as I looked, they smiled back at me, smiled at the futility of efforts employed, smiled while s ...more
I don’t have much time, but I feel it’s important to tell you that having had my first experience with Virginia Woolf, I feel that she is the shit. She is not for everyone, but she speaks to me in a way no author has before. Reading this often felt like magic. For example, did you know that there is an infinite nature to conversation? There is, and you can feel it when you read this novel.

The world of reading Woolf is a world of psyches and abstraction; the bringing to the forefront of our uncon
What drivel is this?

There are so many supplicants at this alter (of the emperor’s new clothes) that I am obviously an illiterate idiot for besmirching it. So be it, I stand fast.

Woolf had a hit with Mrs Dalloway in 1925, and buoyed by her success, obviously decided to capitalise on it by basically…plagerising herself. I guess her thinking must have been ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, cause she, um, ‘borrows’ every literary technique and a fair number of characters as well as the narrative s
Riku Sayuj

To The Lighthouse, Always

Time Passes — attempts to preserve it through intellectual attainment leads to alienation. Attempts to preserve it through social crystallization eventually melts. Attempts to preserve it through single pointed devotion leads to bitterness and loss. Only Lily preserves her experiences (and existence). Only art could preserve precious moments, be the Lighthouse in the uncaring vast ocean (“eats away the ground we stand on”) of Time and guide us home. And thus, and then, f
Jun 04, 2013 Hadrian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, fiction
President Lincoln, in one of his famed witticisms, remarked, "He can compress the most words into the smallest ideas of any man I have ever met." For Virginia Woolf, the opposite is true. Here she writes some of the most accurate descriptions of personality, of perspective, of thought and memory, and of emotion and human consciousness in the span of barely over two hundred pages, in the span of merely two days set thirteen years apart, and the little infinities of all human interaction as seen f ...more
Parthiban Sekar
To the lighthouse, they decided that they would go on the following day. Mrs. Ramsay promised her last son James. But, He, Mr. Ramsay, said - "it won’t be fine". He said that it would be wet. However the lighthouse stood stark, tall, and gloomy. His response echoed inside her in his matter-of-fact voice. How does he know… How can he know that it won’t be fine?

It is unimaginable what a denial can do to someone as weak gentle as Mrs.Ramsay is. How did Mr. Ramsay feel about denying their visit to t
Jul 29, 2013 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Why have I reacted so differently to this novel now from the way I reacted when I first read it at the age of eighteen, more than thirty-five years ago? Then, it bored me. Now it’s moved me almost to tears and it will haunt me. I assume that my very different reactions can be put down to the passage of time and the vicissitudes of life. As a young woman of eighteen I had had some painful experiences, but I had not yet been required to make choices about my future, I had not navigated the sometim
Jul 24, 2012 brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'this stone will survive longer than all of shakespeare' speaks a character in to the lighthouse and it's a chilling thought: immortality through one's work is fool's gold; even for the most long-surviving, even for shakespeare - possibly the best put-togetherer of words the world has known - once it all goes 'pop!' (and it will), the author of macbeth and stalin and the cabbie who took me home last night are all the same: nada.

a recent article claims that philip larkin - that other great Poet
May 10, 2010 Caris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caris by: Elizabeth
Shelves: 2010
We perished, each alone.

Mr. Ramsay is on the boat with James and Cam. The two are united in their disdain for their father, and their coldness toward him almost another member of the family. Their resolve, like everything else that has ever existed, cracks and breaks, betraying their determination. A feeling of fondness for the old man permeates the scene, as if it were the very wind in the sails. Or the mutilated fish discarded, alive, into the water.

Because what does it matter, this fondness?
Jul 20, 2010 Sparrow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: My own Mrs. Ramsey
Recommended to Sparrow by: A terrible professor, Elizabeth, Ceridwen
To the Lighthouse pours over me, takes me in, cools my spirit. I come to Virginia Woolf for sympathy and plunge myself into the waves of her world, conspiring with the blunders and satisfactions of her people, but only for a moment. Just as soon as the words touch me, they steam away, leaving behind only vaporous phantoms of a house, a garden, marriage, family, waves, and a lighthouse. I don’t remember them, only their outline. But actually, the story is reality, and I am the phantom. My writing ...more
Dec 16, 2015 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Third reading in 20 years.

What is it about VW's prose that affects me so powerfully? What is it about her writing, on the micro level, that immediately shifts something in me?

I picked this up, vaguely thinking about re-reading some Woolf as a way to end the year, but, after reading the first page, was hooked. So there must be something about the first page, right? Something there if I look close enough..

In bold are, I think, the sentences indicative of genius:

"Yes, of course, if it’s fine to
Apr 05, 2010 RandomAnthony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
He read, she thought, as if he were guiding something, or wheedling a large flock of sheep, or pushing his way up and up a single narrow path; and sometimes he went fast and straight, and broke his way through a bramble, and sometimes it seemed a branch struck at him, a bramble blinded him, but he was not going to let himself be beaten by that; on he went, tossing over page after page.

(p. 193)

Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is an amazing book, evidence of raw talent, the type that causes one
Richard Derus
Oct 25, 2011 Richard Derus rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rating: 4.5* of five

As I've grown older, I've realized that Woolf is a pleasure best left for later in life, after the sheer novelty of experience has been burnished (or worn, depending on who you are and what's happened to you) into a soft, many-sided glow. Novels like Woolf's aren't the arduous, look-at-me fantod-inducing flummoxifiers that Faulkner (a favorite of mine, don't leave me messages about my philistinism!) shoved at us; they start, they don't commence; they flow with you or without
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(Adeline) Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.

During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928), and the book-length es
More about Virginia Woolf...

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“What is the meaning of life? That was all- a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years, the great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead, there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark; here was one.” 577 likes
“For now she need not think of anybody. She could be herself, by herself. And that was what now she often felt the need of - to think; well not even to think. To be silent; to be alone. All the being and the doing, expansive, glittering, vocal, evaporated; and one shrunk, with a sense of solemnity, to being oneself, a wedge-shaped core of darkness, something invisible to others... and this self having shed its attachments was free for the strangest adventures.” 417 likes
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