To the Lighthouse

To the Lighthouse

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Overview

“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156907392
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 12/27/1989
Series: Centenary Editions Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 24,902
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author



VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882–1941) was one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. An admired literary critic, she authored many essays, letters, journals, and short stories in addition to her groundbreaking novels.

Date of Birth:

January 25, 1882

Date of Death:

March 28, 1941

Place of Birth:

London

Place of Death:

Sussex, England

Education:

Home schooling

Read an Excerpt


"YES, OF COURSE, if it's fine tomorrow," said Mrs. Ramsay. "But you'll have to be up with the lark," she added.

To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled, the expedition were bound to take place, and the wonder to which he had looked forward, for years and years it seemed, was, after a night's darkness and a day's sail, within touch. Since he belonged, even at the age of six, to that great clan which cannot keep this feeling separate from that, but must let future prospects, with their joys and sorrows, cloud what is actually at hand, since to such people even in earliest childhood any turn in the wheel of sensation has the power to crystallise and transfix the moment upon which its gloom or radiance rests, James Ramsay, sitting on the floor cutting out pictures from the illustrated catalogue of the Army and Navy Stores, endowed the picture of a refrigerator, as his mother spoke, with heavenly bliss. It was fringed with joy. The wheelbarrow, the lawnmower, the sound of poplar trees, leaves whitening before rain, rooks cawing, brooms knocking, dresses rustling- all these were so coloured and distinguished in his mind that he had already his private code, his secret language, though he appeared the image of stark and uncompromising severity, with his high forehead and his fierce blue eyes, impeccably candid and pure, frowning slightly at the sight of human frailty, so that his mother, watching him guide his scissors neatly round the refrigerator, imagined him all red and ermine on the Bench or directing a stern and momentous enterprise in some crisis of public affairs.

"But," said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, "it won't be fine."

Had there been an axe handy, or a poker, any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father's breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it. Such were the extremes of emotion that Mr. Ramsay excited in his children's breasts by his mere presence; standing, as now, lean as a knife, narrow as the blade of one, grinning sarcastically, not only with the pleasure of disillusioning his son and casting ridicule upon his wife, who was ten thousand times better in every way than he was (James thought), but also with some secret conceit at his own accuracy of judgement. What he said was true. It was always true. He was incapable of untruth; never tampered with a fact; never altered a disagreeable word to suit the pleasure or convenience of any mortal being, least of all of his own children, who, sprung from his loins, should be aware from childhood that life is difficult; facts uncompromising; and the passage to that fabled land where our brightest hopes are extinguished, our frail barks founder in darkness (here Mr. Ramsay would straighten his back and narrow his little blue eyes upon the horizon), one that needs, above all, courage, truth, and the power to endure.

"But it may be fine-I expect it will be fine," said Mrs. Ramsay, making some little twist of the reddish-brown stocking she was knitting, impatiently. If she finished it tonight, if they did go to the Lighthouse after all, it was to be given to the Lighthouse keeper for his little boy, who was threatened with a tuberculous hip; together with a pile of old magazines, and some tobacco, indeed, whatever she could find lying about, not really wanted, but only littering the room, to give those poor fellows, who must be bored to death sitting all day with nothing to do but polish the lamp and trim the wick and rake about on their scrap of garden, something to amuse them. For how would you like to be shut up for a whole month at a time, and possibly more in stormy weather, upon a rock the size of a tennis lawn? she would ask; and to have no letters or newspapers, and to see nobody; if you were married, not to see your wife, not to know how your children were,-if they were ill, if they had fallen down and broken their legs or arms; to see the same dreary waves breaking week after week, and then a dreadful storm coming, and the windows covered with spray, and birds dashed against the lamp, and the whole place rocking, and not be able to put your nose out of doors for fear of being swept into the sea? How would you like that? she asked, addressing herself particularly to her daughters. So she added, rather differently, one must take them whatever comforts one can.

"It's due west," said the atheist Tansley, holding his bony fingers spread so that the wind blew through them, for he was sharing Mr. Ramsay's evening walk up and down, up and down the terrace. That is to say, the wind blew from the worst possible direction for landing at the Lighthouse. Yes, he did say disagreeable things, Mrs. Ramsay admitted; it was odious of him to rub this in, and make James still more disappointed; but at the same time, she would not let them laugh at him. "The atheist," they called him; "the little atheist." Rose mocked him; Prue mocked him; Andrew, Jasper, Roger mocked him; even old Badger without a tooth in his head had bit him, for being (as Nancy put it) the hundred and tenth young man to chase them all the way up to the Hebrides when it was ever so much nicer to be alone.

"Nonsense," said Mrs. Ramsay, with great severity. Apart from the habit of exaggeration which they had from her, and from the implication (which was true) that she asked too many people to stay, and had to lodge some in the town, she could not bear incivility to her guests, to young men in particular, who were poor as church mice, "exceptionally able," her husband said, his great admirers, and come there for a holiday. Indeed, she had the whole of the other sex under her protection; for reasons she could not explain, for their chivalry and valour, for the fact that they negotiated treaties, ruled India, controlled finance; finally for an attitude towards herself which no woman could fail to feel or to find agreeable, something trustful, childlike, reverential; which an old woman could take from a young man without loss of dignity, and woe betide the girl-pray Heaven it was none of her daughters!-who did not feel the worth of it, and all that it implied, to the marrow of her bones!

She turned with severity upon Nancy. He had not chased them, she said. He had been asked.

They must find a way out of it all. There might be some simpler way, some less laborious way, she sighed. When she looked in the glass and saw her hair grey, her cheek sunk, at fifty, she thought, possibly she might have managed things better-her husband; money; his books. But for her own part she would never for a single second regret her decision, evade difficulties, or slur over duties. 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, perhaps; a wilder life; not always taking care of some man or other; for there was in all their minds a mute questioning of deference and chivalry, of the Bank of England and the Indian Empire, of ringed fingers and lace, though to them all there was something in this of the essence of beauty, which called out the manliness in their girlish hearts, and made them, as they sat at table beneath their mother's eyes, honour her strange severity, her extreme courtesy, like a Queen's raising from the mud to wash a beggar's dirty foot, when she thus admonished them so very severely about that wretched atheist who had chased them-or, speaking accurately, been invited to stay with them-in the Isles of Skye.

"There'll be no landing at the Lighthouse tomorrow," said Charles Tansley, clapping his hands together as he stood at the window with her husband. Surely, he had said enough. She wished they would both leave her and James alone and go on talking. She looked at him. He was such a miserable specimen, the children said, all humps and hollows. He couldn't play cricket; he poked; he shuffled. He was a sarcastic brute, Andrew said. They knew what he liked best-to be for ever walking up and down, up and down, with Mr. Ramsay, and saying who had won this, who had won that, who was a "first-rate man" at Latin verses, who was "brilliant but I think fundamentally unsound," who was undoubtedly the "ablest fellow in Balliol," who had buried his light temporarily at Bristol or Bedford, but was bound to be heard of later when his Prolegomena, of which Mr. Tansley had the first pages in proof with him if Mr. Ramsay would like to see them, to some branch of mathematics or philosophy saw the light of day. That was what they talked about.

She could not help laughing herself sometimes. She said, the other day, something about "waves mountains high." Yes, said Charles Tansley, it was a little rough. "Aren't you drenched to the skin?" she had said. "Damp, not wet through," said Mr. Tansley, pinching his sleeve, feeling his socks.


Copyright 1927 by Harcourt, Inc.
Copyright renewed 1955 by Leonard Woolf
Annotated Edition copyright © 2005 by Harcourt, Inc.
Introduction copyright © 2005 by Mark Hussey

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy,
recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents


CONTENTS
Preface: Virginia Woolf ix

Chronology xix

Introduction xxxv

To the Lighthouse 1

Notes to To the Lighthouse 213

Suggestions for Further Reading: Virginia Woolf 235

Suggestions for Further Reading: To the Lighthouse 239

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To the Lighthouse 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 97 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Though it was somewhat difficult to get through, it was amazingly written. I read the book 6 months ago, and I can still vividly remember scenes from the book. I especially liked the one and only scene in the book with Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey alone. I still remember it after all these months.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ms. Woolf has crafted some of the most wondeful, idiosyncratic and mystifying sentences in the English language, and, in the process, has created a portrait of a family that is unerring in its truth. Yes, the book is difficult, but the rewards are great, as the changes wrought by war, death, marriage, age and life itself are slowly revealed. This is my favorite book because it exemplifies all that literature can be and more, and I'm only 17. If I can reap the benefits of such a literary wonder, you can too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was my first encounter with Virginia Woolf's work and it will certainly not be the last. From the moment I opened the book, I was engrossed with Virginia's ability to create an ebb and flow of human emotion mirror the actual presence of the ocean. As you read the innermost thought of the characters you connect with them, seeing small clips of characteristics that describe yourself. This book is a minor taste of the stream-of-consciousness movement that Woolf was a part of, but is not as difficult to follow as the works of Joyce and others.
EdnaMole More than 1 year ago
I read about two books per month, usually choosing a variety of historical fiction and modern classics. I admit that I could not finish reading To the Lighthouse. Although pieces of the novel were very poetic, I found the style very frustrating to read. The narrative is mainly the mixed up thoughts of the characters and their thoughts jump wildly so that you don't know if the character is speaking aloud or not. There are pages of confusing thoughts involving a single few seconds of action. I would not recommend this book to the average modern reader.
LibrarianJP More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the most beautiful stories that I have ever read. Through a series of events that take place basically in two days, Virginia Woolf shows us that the human condition is a complex, yet wonderful state. By illustrating not only what people do, but also illustrating the thoughts and intentions behind the actions, Woolf humanizes her characters in a profound way. While reading this book, I found myself feeling with the characters; laughing when they laughed, mourning when they mourned, a truly remarkable experience. I believe that anyone that reads this book will be able to commiserate with the people in it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i read this for ap english 3 class...it's a pretty good book with lots of symbols and thoughts on life in general, however this book is fairly confusing and involves a lot of thinking on the reader's part...i'm doing a research paper on this book right now and learnign more than i did from the book...i would recommend thsi book if you're into 'discovering' the meaning of life or something boring like that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Unfortunately+Woolf+work+is+hidden+behind+her+reputation.++I+can%27t+believe+that+I+have+come+so+late+to+this+novel%2C+as+it+were+though+the+recommendation+of+a+physicist+writing+about+the+creative+process+in+scientific+method.+++Thomas+McClain+reference+the+portrayal+an+artist%2C+Lily+Briscoe+painting+a+seascape.++This+does%2C+in+itself%2C+make+this+book+worth+reading.++But+for+what+ever+reason+one+might+read+this+book%2C+you+will+very+likely+reread+to+fathom+the+literary+mastery+of+Woolf+writing.++She+desires+to+rank+among+the+best+of+the+20th+Century%2C+with+no+need+to+shelve+her+among+%22women+authors.%22++This+should+be+required+reading.%5D%21++Michael+Tan+Creti++++%0A%0A
rayski on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A slow start, but once you're in then you're locked in. My book club chose this book because it was to be a review of the difference of the sexes. I read it to be more about the significance of importance we put on our lives or how we get so wound up in the moment and missing everything that really is important.Woolf shows the time wasted on such thoughts and missed opportunities to breath in the moment, really enjoying what you have and where you are. She does an amazing job of getting this point across in the second part where she moves 10 years across the pages, where the people are gone but the objects, possessions and mother nature remain. Then again in the 3rd passage where Cam looks from the boat and sees the cottage and its isle off the horizon getting smaller and smaller while the sea seems to engulf the little island and making it all look so insignificant to the overall horizon. Woolf does gives us some significance as she describes scenes of people past still being forever part of a place or moment that lives on in the rest of us. Upon finishing it, I immediately went back to re-read the first passage because initially I struggled to get through it. To the Lighthouse is a book that is better each time you read it.
SFM13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mrs.Ramsey could see the thoughts of her husband, children, and others throughout her life, and by the end of the book I found myself looking closer at the intangible characteristics of my own family members and acquaintances. Virginia Woolf tells stories of the Ramseys, Charmichael, Tansley, and the Rayleys. Set in the years of WWI at a vacation home on the coast, life seemed so tranquil, but hidden in the secret lives of the characters a turmoil of emotions brewed. I especially tuned into the scene with Minta as she matter-of-factly handed tools to Paul on the side of the road while he repaired the car. It was a mundane job, an inconvenience, but there wasn¿t much else she could do but be his friend in spite of their spoiled marriage. They were stuck there together, as they realized it was necessary to make the best of things in order to go on. Dialogue was seldom used to convey the character¿s actions, motives, or feelings ¿ most of the insight came from being able to transition oneself inside of each character¿s mind, and then look out by aid of Woolf¿s lyrical descriptions. The lighthouse, I thought, was a metaphorical replacement for seeing clearly. From the beginning, the trip to the lighthouse seemed unobtainable; hindered by the weather. And although Mrs. Ramsey had the ¿best sight¿ of them all, in the end Lily Briscoe and even Mr. Ramsey I believe had begun to see. As James and Cam, years later, finally reached the lighthouse with their father, the memory of their mother, straight and steadfast was there. ¿We perished, each alone..¿
the_awesome_opossum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To the Lighthouse is a modernist classic, loosely about a family's vacation house but really about relationships and life. Woolf's storytelling is unique: so much of it is misunderstandings and awkwardness and unrelated strains of thought, not the polished and scripted story and characters of traditional novels. One of the protagonists is an artist who struggles with the impossibility of creating and re-creating the world in her paintings, and there certainly is that tension of how art can convey life, or whether it should even attempt to. As she paints, she considers how she wants to equally grasp "a level with ordinary experience, to feel simply that's a chair, that's a table, and yet at the same time, It's a miracle, it's an ecstasy." That's what To the Lighthouse does, taking completely mundane events and people and studying where art and elegance may still be found in the commonplace.
rizeandshine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The style of writing in To the Lighthouse was intelligent, modern, very descriptive and quite long-winded at times. I believe Virginia Woolf may have used more commas in a few of her sentences than Jane Austen in Mansfield Park. I enjoyed getting to know some of the characters in-depth, being privy to their thoughts. The middle section of the book where time passes really bothered me. I don't much like change in my own life and I was surprised to read so quickly through the extremely drastic changes which come to the family after having spent so much time in their thoughts over one particular day. Looking back on it, it was an interesting segue into the second significant day described in the part three but I did not appreciate the time warp while reading it. It was an interesting character study and I think presented a glimpse into Virginia's own life, as the setting and characters were based somewhat on her family.
fig82 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was my first Virginia Woolf novel. I found it initially to be somewhat of a "difficult" read, though not as much as say Faulkner or Joyce. Yet as the novel progressed I seemed to become more comfortable with the author's writing style. I ended up enjoying the book very much.
kvanuska on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book should always be permitted a good soak in one¿s intellectual juices before being reviewed. That¿s one of my personal ¿Review Rules.¿ Too often I feel overwhelmed upon finishing a book or swept away by an ending or the prospect of parting from a close friend, and that leaves me gushing about a book rather than looking at it critically and really assessing its value as an addition to the world¿s literature library. I¿m breaking all the rules with Virginia Woolf¿s To the Lighthouse. A cold eye and heart would strip this book of its power. And if you want that kind of assessment, there¿s an excellent one by Julia Briggs in the introduction to the Everyman¿s Edition of this novel. To the Lighthouse is a book that¿s meant to be felt, not simply read. The rhythm of its narrative needs to wash over and pull you down into it. Once submerged, what might have begun as a ¿difficult read¿ becomes second nature. I became so lost in each character. One moment I despised them and found dinner interminable, the next I was loving Charles for feeling so angry at their small talk, and so lonely all at the same time. I¿ve soooo been there are dinner parties ¿ not getting the drifts, but wanting to be there in the middle anyway. There were pieces of myself that I was finding in Lily and Mrs. Ramsey and Charles and James and Mr. Ramsey, in all of the characters, and I knew them all as much, or as little, as I know myself. The ¿Time Passes¿ section is so brilliant in structure and how it carries us through the difficult times, like the boat that in the end brings us to the lighthouse. I can¿t wait to re-read this book ¿ because I must. I know that I will find something completely different to love about it next time.
andreablythe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On its most simplest level, To the Lighthouse deals with the kind of meandering hours spent at a summer house on an island and the desire to make an excursion to the lightouse. The story meanders in an out of the concerns and dreams and hopes of the people there, pivoting aroung the central focus of Mrs. Ramsay, who holds everything together. One of my favorite moments is the dinner scene, in which Woolf graceful shifts from one character's point of view to the next, revieling the tapestry of human emotion (in one instance, three character simultaneously think themselves unique in how alone they feel). It's a beautiful book and I can see why it's on the Modern Library's list of 100 Best Books.
lauralkeet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This classic Virginia Woolf novel is such a "mood piece." Comprised of three major sections, To the Lighthouse is predominantly a portrait of the Ramsey family and its influential, beautiful matriarch. Most of the "action" (and I use that term loosely) takes place at a summer home off the coast of Scotland. Part 1 is a "day in the life" of Mrs. Ramsey, whose house is chock-a-block with visitors. She is a constant presence, caring for the youngest of her eight children, keeping a watchful eye on her moody husband, meddling a bit in young romance, and ensuring both timely, well-prepared meals and the general happiness of her guests. The tempo is slow, the imagery evocative, the overall feeling ethereal.Part 2 is a short section called "Time Passes," in which the next ten years unfold in factual narrative. And yet this section, which unveiled a number of significant Ramsey family events, had a surprisingly emotional impact. This was followed by Part 3, with the Ramsey family once again at their holiday home, picking up the pieces of a life gone somewhat awry. The youngest children, now teenagers, accompany their father on a visit to a lighthouse near the island. They are filled with teenage resentment, pent up over years of somewhat tyrannical paternal rule. Their emotions ebb and flow like the waves lapping at the side of their boat.And what happens, exactly? Not much. And yet, somehow, I was entranced by this family's 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 (p. 47) This is a book best read, and re-read, and savored to glean new details and insights each time.
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like Woolf's other works, "To the Lighthouse" is told mostly through interior dialog and introspection by its characters. This story is set at a married couple's summer home in Herbrides; they have eight children, one of whom is a six year old who wants to sail out to the lighthouse. They are surrounded by various friends and acquaintances, including an atheist, an opium addict, a childless widower, and a couple of artists. In the first part the trip is put off because of the weather and ends instead with a large dinner party. The second part of the book, "Time Passes", is masterful. Ten years pass and from the perspective of the empty summer home, the fate of some of characters and world events (notably WWI) are revealed. In the final part, the family returns and at last set off to the lighthouse.There isn't much to the actual plot, but that isn't the point; the "plot" is the interior struggle we all have grappling with life and those around us. Woolf is masterful at flushing out her major themes, which are the transience of life and the complexities of the relationship between men and women. Her stream of consciousness technique, as in Joyce and Faulkner, is sometimes hard to follow, but this book is well worth reading. Quotes:On meaninglessness:"What is the meaning of life? That was all - a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with the 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...."On memory:"...this scene on the beach for example, this moment of friendship and liking - which survived, after all these years complete, so that she dipped into it to re-fashion her memory of him, and there it stayed in the mind affecting one almost like a work of art."On motherhood and children:"They came to her, naturally, since she was a woman, all day long with this and that; one wanting this, another that; the children were growing up; she often felt she was nothing but a sponge sopped full of human emotions.""Oh, but she never wanted James to grow a day older! or Cam either. These two she would have liked to keep for ever just as they were, demons of wickedness, angels of delight, never to see them grow up into long-legged monsters. Nothing made up for the loss. When she read just now to James, 'and there were numbers of soldiers with kettledrums and trumpets,' and his eyes darkened, she thought, why should they grow up, and lose all that? ..... Why should they go to school? She would have liked always to have had a baby. She was happiest carrying one in her arms. Then people might say she was tyrannical, domineering, masterful, if they chose; she did not mind. And, touching his hair with her lips, she thought, he will never be so happy again....""...children never forget. For this reason, it was so important what one said, and what one did, and it was a relief when they went to bed."On nature:"...so that the monotonous fall of the waves on the beach, which for the most part beat a measured and soothing tattoo to her thoughts and seemed consolingly to repeat over and over again as she sat with the children the words of some old cradle song, murmured by nature, 'I am guarding you - I am your support,' but at other times suddenly and unexpectedly, especially when her mind raised itself slightly from the task actually in hand, had no such kindly meaning, but like a ghostly roll of drums remorselessly beat the measure of life, made one think of the destruction of the island and its engulfment in the sea, and warned her whose day had slipped past in one quick doing after another that it was all ephemeral as a rainbow..."On relationships:"Indeed he seemed to her sometimes made differently from other people, born blind, deaf, and dumb, to the ordinary things, but to the extraordinary things, with an eye like an eagle's. His understand
jackichan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To the Lighthouse was horribly vague and detached. It becomes especially irritating when Woolf makes it clear that she's doing this on purpose. There is no plot, there is only rambling. There are some great points throughout the book but they are few and far between and could be put into a few pages. Perhaps this a great insight into the female mind? You will enjoy this book if you love reading about another's challenge with being indecisive and having a low self esteem. Also, you will most likely feel like ending your life half way through.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
By page 20 I really felt like this was going to be a long, dull read that made Little Women seem effervescent. But all that expressive mucky-muck transformed quickly into a work I now see as some odd mix of Faulkner and Fitzgerald. The focus jumps from one person and place to another but it's discernible. Woolfs ability to express emotions and events with minimal verbiage is impressive. The writing itself is eloquent, moods and nuances are conveyed easily and there is an underlying meaning that I will not do the disservice of risking belligerent over-analysis. Somewhere in there, she conveys that human relationships are complex in character, that things change and still stay the same as time passes, and that each of us is somewhat alone not matter how much we are not.
eas311 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book for a class on Intellectual History in the 20th Century. It was easily my favorite book in the course. And it was stunning.
hilllady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fifteen years since I've read this book. For that long I've diligently moved it from household to household, unpacking it with all my other books on its proper shelf and packing it up again, and I've thought of it fondly, a book of my youth, worthy of respect. But, as the years passed, that regard came to contain a measure of trepidation: to take it up again would be such a commitment, such a weight, because it's Woolf, and not only do her sentences twist and take unexpected turns that force the reader's concentration merely to establish subject, object, verb, but the weight of them, collectively as sharp and true as any surgeon's scalpel, cutting to the reader's heart¿well, it's hard to volunteer for that every day, when so many more comforting books are calling. But yesterday I picked it up, who knows why? I've been on a diet of Alice Munro and Sherman Alexie, lately, and some echo there maybe made me think of Mrs. Ramsay. And now I'm in. How amazing, the surge of emotion this story provokes across such a span of time, from its very first sentence, or, more specifically, from the brutal transition from that second paragraph¿"To her son these words conveyed an extraordinary joy, as if it were settled..."¿to the third: "But," said his father, stopping in front of the drawing-room window, "it won't be fine." And what other writer can use the phrase "odious little man" with such wicked compassion?
Qarik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It was a chore to get through. I truly do not understand why she is considered such a great author. My theory is the phenomonon of "If I don't get it, it must be good". Kinda Like Felini or David Lynch. I have never enjoyed writing styles that did not make sense. Woolf does not make sense. Nor do I like subject matter the dwells on human neurosis which this book mainly consists of. It's like an intellectualized "Ally McBeal" or "Grey's Anatomy". Some might say I am a caveman and afraid of complexity. Not true. I appreciate complexity. I doubly appreciate complexity when it can related in simpler terms.
Othemts on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book in college and while I don't remember the details now, I do remember the feeling of beauty and insight in what may be Woolf's best novel.
araridan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't just throw 5-star ratings around like nothing...this book was great..extremely satisfying. When describing the book, it sounds like it would be horrible- wealthy family with a vacation home on an island, plus wealthy house guests and dinner parties (usually) equals boring pretentious tripe. To The Lighthouse, however, tells its story through the thoughts of the various characters...however neurotic that may be sometimes. The men are all intelligent, but emotionally reserved. The women ar...more I don't just throw 5-star ratings around like nothing...this book was great..extremely satisfying. When describing the book, it sounds like it would be horrible- wealthy family with a vacation home on an island, plus wealthy house guests and dinner parties (usually) equals boring pretentious tripe. To The Lighthouse, however, tells its story through the thoughts of the various characters...however neurotic that may be sometimes. The men are all intelligent, but emotionally reserved. The women are charming and witty if sometimes frivolous. And while they are bourgeoisis, you end up liking them anyway...their struggles with finding success in life; the need for praise from one generation to another; and worrying about the fates of those around them. Just read it. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in quite a while.
jddunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Rife with uncertainty, complexity in relationships, actions, and gestures; futility, entropy, battles to stake out identity and meaning amidst it, indefinable hope, and so on. Me likey.
tinkettleinn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Is art an expression of human life, or is it a decoration imposed upon it? It depends on whether or not someone relies on art to bring him fame and greatness. Mr. Ramsay is concerned that no one will read his books, that he won¿t be remembered by future generations. He is very insecure about his writing because he feels that no one needs him to write; no one¿s life depends on whether or not he expresses himself through the ideas in his books. He worries that his writing is merely decoration and not necessary to the whole of human culture and existence. He does not write to express himself or to find some meaning in human life, but rather, he writes to ease his insecurities, to establish some feeling of self-worth. He only writes so that others will believe he is important. Lily Briscoe, however, does not paint in hopes of being remembered or deemed important. She is compelled to paint by the voice of Charles Tansley that continuously chants, ¿Women can¿t paint. Women can¿t write.¿ But she is compelled by something even greater than Tansley¿s need to assert himself. Lily Briscoe¿s paintings are physical renderings of her desire for unity, her desire to fill emptiness with shape, ¿the empty places. Such were some of the parts, but how to bring them together?¿ (151). She believes that connecting seemingly unrelated things and isolated people, reveals some whole truth and meaning behind life. Lily tries to connect masses within her paintings. The painting she begins of Mrs. Ramsay and James remains unfinished for ten years, until she returns to the house at Isle of Skye after Mrs. Ramsay¿s death. She doesn¿t know how the masses in her painting connect. She doesn¿t know the best way to lay out shape, light, and shadow. She doesn¿t know how to relate or fill empty spaces, but she paints to uncover these relationships. The empty places Lily refers to are the ones left by Mrs. Ramsay. She is the mass that light shines on, and everything and everyone else in her life are the shadows cast by the light hitting her form. Lily is angry at Mrs. Ramsay because she left behind empty spaces¿the step she sat on, the kitchen table with the leaf pattern, and the old ramshackle house itself¿with no clear way to unite them. Without Mrs. Ramsay, the house was ¿full of unrelated passions¿ (152). Her family came untied¿there was no knot tying Cam and James to Mr. Ramsay anymore. To the Lighthouse, like Lily¿s painting, is made up of three parts that connect to form a greater whole. The first two sections¿The Window and Time Passes¿contain empty spaces; these spaces rely on Lily, in the final section, to step back and view everything from a distance so that all forms can be seen at once. It is only when different viewpoints and different relationships are observed that the true meaning of life can be discovered. Love, culture, art, and poetry are created from human relationships.