To the Lighthouse
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To the Lighthouse

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  61,462 ratings  ·  2,962 reviews
The novel that established Virginia Woolf as a leading writer of the twentieth century, 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...more
Paperback, 209 pages
Published December 27th 1989 by Harvest Books (first published 1927)
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Stephen M
Sep 25, 2012 Stephen M rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
sckenda
Aug 10, 2014 sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those Wanting an Accessible Start to a Stream of Consciousness Novel
Are we going to the lighthouse tomorrow? No. Yes. Perhaps. I don’t know. Maybe we should just content ourselves to go to the beach to watch the waves. The waves break. The light falls.

There is an elegiac note to the murmur of the sea. The consciousness of the characters in "To the Lighthouse" have a rhythm that mimics the sea: masculine and feminine; contentment and anxiety; light and dark; soft and hard; life and death; order and chaos.

The waves roll out and return again. We see about us the...more
Paul
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'...more
s.penkevich
Feb 19, 2014 s.penkevich rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
…for it was not knowledge but unity that she desired, not inscriptions on tablets, nothing that could be written in any language known to men, but intimacy itself, which is knowledge…

To enter within the pages of Woolf’s 1927 masterpiece, To the Lighthouse, is to dive headlong into a maelstrom of vivid perspectives and flawless prose. Few authors are able to achieve the vast scope of human emotions and frustrations as of this novel, let alone accomplish such a task in the mere 209pgs Woolf offe...more
Eric
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
Jenn(ifer)
Aug 24, 2012 Jenn(ifer) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
Miriam
Jul 09, 2010 Miriam rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Samadrita
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...more
Fionnuala
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 working class academic who can’t seem to fit in to the Ramseys’ elegantly shabby lifestyl...more
Dolors
Jul 06, 2013 Dolors rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
Aubrey
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
Diane
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...more
Ben
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...more
Richard
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...more
Mariel
Feb 07, 2013 Mariel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
brian
'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...more
karen
i love this book, and someday i should write a thoughtful review of it, but i have just discovered betterbooktitles.com, and this cracked me up:

Rakhi Dalal
Jul 04, 2013 Rakhi Dalal rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
knig
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...more
Caris
May 10, 2010 Caris rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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?...more
RandomAnthony
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...more
Ian Paganus
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...more
Sparrow
Jul 20, 2010 Sparrow rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Kim

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...more
Bram
Jun 10, 2009 Bram rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bram by: Choupette
Shelves: 2009, favorites
1
Within the first 20 pages of To the Lighthouse, I fell head over heels in love. Gorgeous, fluid writing…the kind that gives me that buzz. You know that buzz. It was pure joy. There are passages here that unlock memories and past smells; sounds; feels; the summation of which reaches a crucial liminal stage that, when crossed, offers that pinnacle of reading: the buzz, the click, whatever you want to call it. At least, that was my experience from reading ecstatic sentences like this:

She saw the...more
Hadrian
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
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
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...more
Teresa Jusino
Yesterday, on the subway to work, I finally finished Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse." It took me longer to read than such a short book probably should have, but it's such dense writing that, in a way, I'm surprised it didn't take me longer. This has been said before by people much smarter than I, but I'll say it again: Virginia Woolf was a genius. As I closed the book, I said to myself I want to write. Like. That.


Synopsis (from the Webster Encyclopedia of Literature):
"The novel is one of Wo...more
Sarah (Warning: Potentially Off-Topic)
This is going to be one of those books that I will dwell on, with my thoughts evolving as I turn it over in my mind. What follows is some of what I was thinking about as I read.

The novel shows us the Ramsay family and some of their guests at a seaside house on just two days, separated by years. There is very little backstory or physical description, or even explicit discussion about the personalities of the characters. Instead, the reader’s focus is drawn as if by a spotlight or beacon that move...more
Manny
May 07, 2009 Manny added it
Viginia Woolf fans may like the passage I just read in Jan Kjærstad's Oppdagaren. Jonas is sitting in front of the window at a hotel in Jotunheimen, one of Norway's most beautiful mountain areas, reading To the Lighthouse:

Han fortsatte å lese, om mulig enda mer oppslukt. Han ante inte at han risikerte livet. Han satt med følelsen av att han ikke så ned i en bok, men ned i en hjerne, en kropp, en landskap uhorvelig mye større, dypere og videre en det scenarioet, Jotunheimen, han hadde foran seg n...more
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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
More about Virginia Woolf...
Mrs. Dalloway A Room of One's Own Orlando The Waves The Voyage Out

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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.” 405 likes
“For now she need not think of anybody. She coud 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.” 190 likes
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