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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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11,567163233 (3.88)598
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 (1927)

1920s (21)
Romans (30)

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English (155)  Dutch (2)  Swedish (1)  Danish (1)  Norwegian (1)  Italian (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (163)
Showing 1-5 of 155 (next | show all)
I am definitely not a Virginia Woolf enthusiast, but my pursuit of the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die keeps forcing me to sample different novels. "To The Lighthouse" was my fifth by Woolf and definitely one of the more enjoyable ones (second to "The Years" which is probably her most traditional narrative structure.)

Told in stream of consciousness style, "To The Lighthouse" explores relationships and legacy by focusing on the The Ramsey family as they stay in their vacation home in Scotland, along with a group of friends.

The story definitely wasn't as challenging as others by Woolf -- so much centers on simple disagreement about the weather -- and the psychological insights into the family dynamics were interesting. This is surely one of Woolf's more accessible novels (at least of the ones I've read anyway.) ( )
  amerynth | Jul 23, 2015 |
Virginia Woolf takes a seemingly insignificant disagreement about tomorrow's weather and turns it into an analysis of human character and relationships. Woolf shifts perspective often, revealing each character's thoughts and feelings through a stream of consciousness technique. The Ramseys and a few guests are at a summer home near the sea, and Woolf uses the sea's movement as a metaphor to describe the thoughts, emotions, and interpersonal relations of the characters. The book is divided into three sections. By the end of the first section, Woolf has given the reader a pretty good idea of how some of the characters influence the others. The middle section provides a bridge to the latter section, where Woolf explores the effects of the absence of characters from the first section on the remaining characters.

Although I've read only a handful of stream of consciousness novels, I'm fascinated by the technique. Done well, it really does mirror the activity in my own head. I'm an introvert, so I tend to spend a lot of time there. I'm not sure that this technique will appeal so much to extroverts. I think stream of consciousness novels may be books by introverts for introverts. ( )
1 vote cbl_tn | Jul 13, 2015 |
I didn't really start loving it until the dinner scene. But after that, wow! ( )
  padlrdie | Jun 29, 2015 |
Woolf can be a bit of a culture shock to the uninitiated. She was to me. In ‘To The Lighthouse’, she uses a stream-of-consciousness, floating, intimate third-person narration. It’s an attempt to represent the reality of how people think, and how our thoughts are interrupted and influenced by other thoughts or mundane distractions and develop a variously complex course. It’s staggeringly beautiful prose — she’s regarded as a giant of literature for a reason — but the effect of being carried along this stream of consciousness is to make all the characters seem quite bonkers.

The grumpy Mr Ramsey, an academic genius, spends all his time pacing the garden poking hedges while internally angsting about not being a ‘Z’. The rest of the time, he’s a pitiful attention-seeker. His grand wife is in awe of him, yet consumed by her own vanity (when she’s not staring at mundane things and thinking how they are like other things). Lily, a young family friend, takes ten years to decide where to paint a line on her canvas and so is doomed to a single life. Everybody else is equally nuts. For the first half of the book we float from the daydreams of one oddball to another while a book is read to a child, the father wanders about annoying people, people look out to sea, a girl loses a ring, then they all have dinner.

Reading Woolf is a particular experience. You have to go with the flow. Once you get used to it, it’s an immersive, dreamlike ride. Addictive. It’s one of those books you want to keep on your shelf because you *know* you will revisit it. Her skill is such that it ought to be compulsory reading for writers. I hope I’m able to somehow learn from it. To use Mr Ramsey’s alphabet metaphor of accomplishment, Woolf is probably an ‘X’ or ‘Y’.

There were times, however, when I wished the thought patterns, voice and vocabulary were more distinctive between the characters. The six year old boy’s thoughts were as eloquent and sophisticated as his parents. It also took me a while to realize it was Mrs Ramsey who had gone upstairs to check on the children after dinner, and not Lily.

The short chapters of the central second part of the book are so exquisite they read like a series of sublime poems.

The writing of Virginia Woolf is not to everyone’s taste, but everyone ought to have a taste of it, and give it time to develop on the palate.
1 vote MatthewJamesHunt | Jun 20, 2015 |
I was fairly enraptured with the first part (The Window) - her prose detailing the myriad emotions of the household throughout the day is rather spellbinding. But the vast-jump-forward-in-time interlude and at long last the trip to the lighthouse, while full of insights, was devoid of the earlier magic.

"She heard him. He said the most melancholy things, but she noticed that directly he had said them he always seemed more cheerful than usual. All this phrase-making was a game, she thought, for if she had said half what he said, she would have blown her brains out by now." ( )
  dandelionroots | May 25, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 155 (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 (359 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Woolf, Virginiaprimary 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
Hoffman, AliceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holliday, TerenceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kaila, KaiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mathias, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Munck, IngalisaTranslatorsecondary 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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5 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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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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