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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse (original 1927; edition 1989)

by Virginia Woolf, Eudora Welty (Introduction)

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12,671176188 (3.87)675
Title:To the Lighthouse
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Other authors:Eudora Welty (Introduction)
Info:Harvest Books (1989), Edition: 1, Paperback, 209 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2013, 1920s, female author, British literature, favorites, 1001 books, fiction, owned, rereads

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To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (Author) (1927)

1920s (12)
Romans (30)

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English (167)  Dutch (2)  Catalan (2)  Danish (1)  Swedish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Italian (1)  Norwegian (1)  All (176)
Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)
This was my second Woolf book and I'm no closer to being a fan of this author than at any other time of my life. Lighthouse was much more enjoyable than Waves, but I won't be rereading either of them any time soon. ( )
  jphamilton | Mar 6, 2017 |
What a treat to read a masterpiece. I love the way Virginia Woolf writes weaving the story through the thoughts of each character. The silence of her characters held by unspoken rules and expectations they live their lives on the edge of what’s expected of them and what they want to question. ( )
  caanderson | Dec 23, 2016 |
Sad to say I gave up on this. The prose, poetic though it was, was difficult to read and the story was slow, slow, slow, with perspective drifting from character to character. Meandering is the word I think. I'm sure others will love it but it wasn't for me. ( )
  David.Manns | Nov 28, 2016 |
To the Lighthouse is a slow read with a focus on what is in the characters' thoughts rather than the plot. There is little dialogue, so what we read is mostly observations about the world around these people and what they think of each other. These observations build a picture of Virginia Woolf's world. Here's a quote from one of those characters, Lily Briscoe, which seems to state what I am saying:

And, what was even more exciting, she felt, too, as she saw Mr. Ramsay bearing down and retreating, and Mrs. Ramsay sitting with James in the window and the cloud moving and the tree bending, how life, from being made up of little separate incidents which one lived one by one, became curled and whole like a wave which bore one up with it and threw one down with it, there, with a dash on the beach.

Lily Briscoe was my favorite character. She's a friend rather than a part of the Ramsay family and also an artist, who observes life as part of the process of working on her painting. The novel was written in 1927. I cringed at a description of Lily as having “Chinese eyes,” but believe that bit of racism was part of the time. The feelings concerning the limitations of women were also part of that era, something which Woolf seemed to point out in selections such as the next example.:

Lily Briscoe knew all that. Sitting opposite him, could she not see, as in an X-ray photograph, the ribs and thigh bones of the young man's desire to impress himself, lying dark in the mist of his flesh – that thin mist which convention had laid over his burning desire to break into the conversation? But, she thought, screwing up her Chinese eyes, and remembering how he sneered at women, “can't paint, can't write,” why should I help him to relieve himself?

The stream-of-consciousness style requires readers to concentrate on individual words and phrases the way reading poetry does. Many of the basic rules of writing are broken. Here's an example where Woolf moves the point of view from Mr. Ramsay to Cam Ramsay by having him think about what she would think then progressing into her actual thoughts, all within one paragraph.

Well, if Cam would not answer him, he would not bother her, Mr. Ramsay decided, feeling in his pocket for a book. But she would answer him; she wished, passionately, to move some obstacle that lay upon her tongue and to say, Oh, yes, Frisk. She wanted even to say, Was that the dog that found its way over the moor alone?

I have to say that I doubt I would have finished this book if I hadn't known its status. It's not a novel that carries a reader forward, but so many of its phrases and thoughts present important perspectives. For that reason it's a very quotable book. I wouldn't suggest taking it to the beach or reading it in a sailboat the way Mr. Ramsay does with the book he's reading, but it is a valuable book to read at a time and place where it is possible to concentrate on the words.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
2 vote SteveLindahl | May 3, 2016 |
This was an unrelenting richness that I could enjoy only in small segments before feeling overwhelmed.
I should very much like to see Lily Briscoe's painting. ( )
2 vote TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 167 (next | show all)
How was it that, this time, everything in the book fell so completely into place? How could I have missed it - above all, the patterns, the artistry - the first time through? How could I have missed the resonance of Mr Ramsay's Tennyson quotation, coming as it does like a prophecy of the first world war? How could I not have grasped that the person painting and the one writing were in effect the same? ("Women can't write, women can't paint..." ) And the way time passes over everything like a cloud, and solid objects flicker and dissolve? And the way Lily's picture of Mrs Ramsay - incomplete, insufficient, doomed to be stuck in an attic - becomes, as she adds the one line that ties it all together at the end, the book we've just read?
"To the Lighthouse" has not the formal perfection, the cohesiveness, the intense vividness of characterization that belong to "Mrs. Dalloway." It has particles of failure in it. It is inferior to "Mrs. Dalloway" in the degree to which its aims are achieved; it is superior in the magnitude of the aims themselves. For in its portrayal of life that is less orderly, more complex and so much doomed to frustration, it strikes a more important note, and it gives us an interlude of vision that must stand at the head of all Virginia Woolf's work.

» Add other authors (171 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Woolf, VirginiaAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fiedeldij Dop, JoTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Alfsen, MereteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bertolucci, AttilioForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Briggs, JuliaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Celenza, GiuliaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dunmore, HelenIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fastrová, JarmilaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fischer, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foa, MaryclareIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hoffman, AliceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holliday, TerenceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, HermioneIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mathias, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McNichol, StellaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munck, IngalisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phelps, GilbertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richards, CeriCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Welty, EudoraIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Yes, of course, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs. Ramsay. "But you'll have to be up with the lark," she added.
She was thinking how all those paths and the lawn, tick and knotted with the lives they had lived there, were gone: were rubbed out; were past; were unreal, and now this was real
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156907399, Paperback)

“Radiant as [To the Lighthouse] is in its beauty, there could never be a mistake about it: here is a novel to the last degree severe and uncompromising. I think that beyond being about the very nature of reality, it is itself a vision of reality.”—Eudora Welty, from the Introduction


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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:28 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

At their holiday home in Cornwall, a distant lighthouse holds a haunting attraction for the members of an Edwardian family as disillusionment, turmoil, and a world on the brink of war plague the family's relationships.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 23 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141183411, 0141194812, 0141198516

Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909175676, 190917548X

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