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To the Lighthouse

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  131,264 ratings  ·  7,394 reviews
The serene and maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the tragic yet absurd Mr. Ramsay, and their children and assorted guests are on holiday on the Isle of Skye. From the seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Woolf constructs a remarkable, moving examination of the complex tensions and allegiances of family life and the conflict between men and women.

As time wi
Paperback, 209 pages
Published December 27th 1989 by Harvest Books (first published 1927)
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Nancy Hedberg Hi, I read it in its entirety when I was a university student in about 1976 or 1977. It's my favourite novel in a big way. I think I have bought it th…moreHi, I read it in its entirety when I was a university student in about 1976 or 1977. It's my favourite novel in a big way. I think I have bought it three times in a paperback edition because previous versions get misplaced when I want to peek (I corrected "peak") into it again. I looked at it again tonight, so as to be able to quote the last paragraph, which I didn't end up doing because the occasion was unworthy, good as it is. I didn't think I would be understood well enough. But I then, shifting my attention, read (again) the last two pages and then the first page (again), and I'm going to reread it again now completely. On paper. I'd be fascinated to answer your questionnaire. But it says "3 years ago. 0 Answers". What's happened with the questionnaire? Where are you at with it now? (less)
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Average rating 3.78  · 
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 ·  131,264 ratings  ·  7,394 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
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
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jim Fonseca
Nov 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I think this book is Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece, not The Waves as some critics say. What is it about? It’s about life. The first half is about two days of life; the second half, set ten years later, is largely about death. In the Intro by Eudora Welty she says that in the novel “reality looms” but “Love indeed pervades the whole novel.”

The lighthouse of the book is Godrevy near St. Ives in Cornwall (where the author actually summered). The main character is a beautiful woman “in full,” her ei
Aug 17, 2012 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: woolf, death, favorites, europe
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
When I first read this novel, I was like young James Ramsay, eagerly hoping to get To The Lighthouse.

Grown-ups, literary experts that is, had sent just as mixed messages as Mr and Mrs Ramsay to me, and I hoped so much for the adventure of an iconic reading experience that it didn't happen. I could acknowledge all the rational reasons for calling it a masterpiece, but it did not cause me to even raise an eyebrow. I was a modern young woman, what did I have to do with the subtext of a patriarcha
Charlotte May
May 17, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I’m sorry...I just don’t get it?
This book has numerous five star reviews, and while I understand it isn’t plot driven, the characters are so vague? They all kind of blur together so I never really knew who was speaking/thinking and when. So many thoughts flying around and I just didn’t see the point in them.
I guess I just don’t have the mind required to appreciate whatever it is I am supposed to appreciate in this book.
If someone would like to tell me what it is I missed that would be helpful,
Oct 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“He smiled the most exquisite smile, veiled by memory, tinged by dreams.”
Virginia Woolf, To The Lighthouse


To The Lighthouse was my first exposure to Virginia Woolf. I was working on a production of Edward Albee's Whose Afraid Of Virginia Woolf and I thought I should read something by Woolf. For no particular reason I chose To The Lighthouse. I remember enjoying it, being fascinated by it, but not really understanding what I'd read.

How could I have missed the brilliance and artistry of To The L
Vit Babenco
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are two bright autumnal days… And thousands of dark nights in between… Two days in life…
The insincerity slipping in among the truths roused her, annoyed her. She returned to her knitting again. How could any Lord have made this world? she asked. With her mind she had always seized the fact that there is no reason, order, justice: but suffering, death, the poor. There was no treachery too base for the world to commit; she knew that. No happiness lasted; she knew that.

To the Lighthouse is a
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 friends 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 lifestyle in the e
Sean Barrs
Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse is an innovative piece of writing that left me feeling empty, neither happy nor sad, just blank and detached from the book itself.

Let me explain: for me the writing just didn’t covey anything of much importance. Sure, you could talk about Woolf’s innovative style and how important this book is in the formation of English literature as we know it today; it clearly has impacted the novel as an art form. And it adheres to Woolf’s arguments in her essay titled Mod
Henry Avila
Aug 14, 2015 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 not, is pro ...more
Violet wells
Feb 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves, classics
Virginia Woolf here gives us possibly the best ever description of her own writing method, especially fitting for this novel and The Waves – “Beautiful and bright it should be on the surface, feathery and evanescent, one colour melting into another like the colours on a butterfly's wing; but beneath the fabric must be clamped together with bolts of iron. It was to be a thing you could ruffle with your breath; and a thing you could not dislodge with a team of horses.”

Perhaps the first thing to sa
Jun 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars

“She could see it all so clearly, so commandingly, when she looked: it was when she took her brush in hand that the whole thing changed. It was in that moment’s flight between the picture and her canvas that the demons set on her who often brought her to the verge of tears and made this passage from conception to work as dreadful as any down a dark passage for a child.”

The quote above is in reference to Lily Briscoe, one of several guests of the Ramsays during their summer holidays to t
Apr 09, 2007 rated it really liked it
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:

come to my blog!
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recs
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

At its core a story about the attempt to respond to time's passing, To the Lighthouse brings into tension two days a decade apart from each other. Both days take place on the Isle of Skye in the early decades of the twentieth century, and focus on the social life of the Ramsay family and the small circle of friends that they bring with them to their summer home. The novel's second main part ceaselessly echoes and re
1 to 1.5 stars

I had to go look at some other reviews before I wrote this. I can honestly say that I am shocked to see so many 4 and 5 star reviews. That does not mean I think those reviews are incorrect, I am just surprised at how many people connected with this book in a very positive way. I will hang out in the cellar of the 1 and 2 star reviews, because in this case, those are my people!

I always want to try new and interesting books from a variety of genres. Sometimes I find some big, positiv
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
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers
Recommended to Mir 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
Steven Godin
Slightly bewildered, mostly satisfied, totally transfixed, I painstakingly studied each beautifully crafted sentence with patience, one after the other, like an obsessed detective looking for hidden clues as to just what Virginia Woolf had put in front of me, for the most part, I hadn't the foggiest. Reading almost half of it again, I slowly started to see through the heavy mist as to what a finely detailed work this turned out to be. This book requires complete and utter attention, if only life ...more
To be immersed within the lives of Virginia Woolf’s characters of To the Lighthouse was a splendid joy. As I turned the pages I felt almost like one of them. Through a prose that seamlessly and easily interplays thoughts, emotions and witty remarks Woolf present us an amazing group of family and friends. There they were, each with its own personalities, set of issues, challenges and desires, requiring only a glimpse to reveal them utterly unique to the reader. And on they move through time and p ...more
Jun 04, 2012 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 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
Mar 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Elyse  Walters
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow....I finished this thinking....
......”it’s true, it’s true, it’s really true”....
“What’s true?”
The best things in life - COST PENNIES.
So much to appreciate - treasure - passionately love - cost pennies.

The heartbeat of life is widely available to us all - rich or poor - sick or healthy- black or white - scholar or hobo -
republican or democrat.....
Our relationships - connections - intimacy with one another - love - fears - anger - sadness -
books - books - and more books.
At an age where th
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
Lewis Weinstein
Sep 29, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction-general
This was a book I thought I should read. It is described as the novel that established Virginia Woolf as a leading writer of the 20th century.

So I started, and on page 6, I came to this sentence …

She was now formidable to behold, and it was only in silence, looking up from their plates, after she had spoken so severely about Charles Tansley, that her daughters, Prue, Nancy, Rose - could sport with infidel ideas which they had brewed for themselves of a life different from hers; in Paris, perhap
To the Lighthouse was my first exposure to Virginia Woolf. Unfortunately, after reading about forty pages I gave up. I wasn't comfortable with her stream of consciousness and kept her out of my reading list. Since that time, however, I have read a few of her major works and have come to adore her. I've grown comfortable with her writing now.

To the Lighthouse is Virginia's most autobiographical work. The main characters - Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay were modeled on her real-life parents. The charact
Oct 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To the Lighthouse is simply the most incredible book I've ever read.

What prose! What soaring, penetrating, eloquent, unique, wonderful writing, that deserves to be read slowly and attentively, the inner voice attuned to the gentle canter of the meter, the rhythmic rise and fall in pitch, undulating like rolling waves, like the beating heart, like poetry. Such a visionary and unforgiving style, with dense, meandering sentences, ever shifting perspectives, the fusion of the real and the imagined,
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
If we could but paint with the hand what we see with the eye.
-Honore de Balzac

Evidently, Woolf could write with the hand what we see with the eye and perceive and articulate emotions whose depths remain fathomless.
Woolf retains an imagery with dexterous strokes revolving around a family household with each character asserting its presence in the scene so strong it is asphyxiating the reader. Each of these broad strokes enunciates an image, a perspective, a belief upheld by each of the charac
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
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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 e

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