Customer Reviews


120 Reviews
5 star:
 (65)
4 star:
 (20)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (11)
1 star:
 (13)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Imagined Life of the Mind
"Lighthouse" is a unique novel which established Virginia Woolf's reputation as a great writer. The story focuses on 2 days in the life of a large middle class family, with a middle interlude where the family's house is the major character. The setting is the family's summer home, filled with house guests. The action, however, is all internal, the chronology hazy and the...
Published on April 4 2004 by J. Marren

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars "Stream of consciousness" style
Virginia Woolf writes using a stream of consciousness, which provides for an interesting read as she explores the psychological effects of same events on different characters and permits the reader to study the characters in the novel to a greater extent. She doesn't speak from the first-person point of view of each character, but uses the third-person instead, so that...
Published on Jan. 19 2004 by lovely7980


‹ Previous | 1 212 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Richly Imagined Life of the Mind, April 4 2004
By 
J. Marren "jtm497" (Glen Ridge, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
"Lighthouse" is a unique novel which established Virginia Woolf's reputation as a great writer. The story focuses on 2 days in the life of a large middle class family, with a middle interlude where the family's house is the major character. The setting is the family's summer home, filled with house guests. The action, however, is all internal, the chronology hazy and the events--to the extent anything really "happens" at all--rather mundane.
This all made for tough going until it "clicked" around p. 50. What Woolf does is create in real time not "real" events but what is going on within--that constant stream of thoughts and emotions that remains hidden from the world. Woolf spends a long time on a simple scene of Mrs. Ramsay reading a story to her 6 year old son. In the space of a few short minutes as she reads aloud Mrs. Ramsay considers whether an engagement she has been encouraging between two of her guests will occur, feels trapped between her son's desire to go to the lighthouse and her husband's cruel squelching of the idea, worries about the bill to repair the greenhouse, and underlying all senses impending doom just beyond the horizon. Another example is Woolf's description of the interior struggle of Lily as she paints in a style that happens not to be in fashion at the time. But Woolf shows us what Lily sees in her mind--a line here, a shadow there, a form.
Virginia Woolf has a reputation of being "hard to read" and I was unsuccessful in trying to persuade my book club to try "Lighthouse." But I'm glad I plowed ahead on my own--it's a rich and complex work, and totally unlike anything I've ever read. Try it!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My Boeuf with Virginia, Jan. 19 2004
By 
Buce (Palookaville) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
Here is a small point with a larger purpose: Virginia Woolf does not know Boeuf en Daube. Or at any rate, Mrs. Ramsay, the heroine of "To the Lighthouse," does not, and there is no suggestion of any irony in her thought on the topic:
"Everything depended upon things being served up to the precise moment they were ready. ... To keep it waiting was out of the question. Yet of course tonight, of all nights, out they went, and they came in late, and things had to be sent out, things had to be kept hot; the Boeuf en Daube would be entirely spoilt."
Well, if you know anything about the kitchen, you know that this is nonsense. Boeuf en Daube is probably the last thing that needs to be "served up to the precise moment ..." As Elizabeth David says in her "French Provincial Cooking:" "there must be scores of different recipes for daubes in Provence alone... essentially a country housewife's dish." And more to the point, per Ms. David:
"The daube is a useful dish for those who have to get a dinner party when they get home from the office. It can be cooked for 1  hours the previous evening and finished on the night itself. Provided they have not been overcooked to start with, these beef and wine stews are all the better for a second or even third heating up."
I wonder how many English majors from the 1950s sold their souls for a good Boeuf en Daube (did Sylvia Plath have the recipe?) - and how much better off they would have been if they'd seen through it: understood that Mrs. Ramsay did not get the point, because Ms. Woolf did not get the point. Indeed, strictly speaking, the creation is not Mrs. Ramsay's at all, but you'd have to be a sharp-eyed reader to catch on: it is the servant who does the work and delivers the finished product and she, I suspect, knows better than her mistress how flexible and compliant it may be. There is an irony here and it is lost, I suspect, on the mistress and on the mistress' creator.
All of which leads to a larger point: Virginia Woolf does not know servants. Instance in particular her observation of Mrs. McNab, the old char who comes to reopen the summer house after long disuse. We get an elaborate set-piece description of Mrs. McNab, and it is not pretty: indeed, it is mean-spirited and dismissive in almost every way. Mrs. McNab "lurches" and "leers" She "was witless and she knew it;" she sings "like the voice of witlessness." Now, if this is true, it is inexcusably rude: one may want, for some artistic purpose, to show her lurching and leering for, but here it serves no purpose, unless you count its actual function in throwing light on the author. Anyway, the chances are it is not true. My guess is that Mrs. McNab has operated under far more constraint in life than either Ms. Woolf or Mrs. Ramsay ever dreamed of. Witless people do not survive under the iron whim of a Mrs. Ramsay; poor chars who do learn to survive will find that it takes all the skill one can muster.
I could go on, but I need to stay within Amazon's 1,000 word limit. The point is not that "To the Lighthouse" is a bad book. It's actually quite a good book; or at least it is a book full of good paragraphs, and Virginia Woolf seemingly cannot write a bad paragraph. It is as bad novel, because Virginia Woolf has little of the capacity for imaginative empathy that makes a really good novelist. They say that Shakespeare stands as a void at the center of his plays because he has poured every part of his being into his characters. Virginia Woolf takes almost all of her characters into herself. It is well done, but often we get to know more than we really want to know.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Woolf's "Lighthouse:" Persistence Pays, April 16 2004
By 
Martin Asiner (jersey city, nj United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
Those who come to Virginia Woolf for the first time do not know quite what to make of her style. Most authors structure their novels in the traditional rising action, climax, falling action manner. A linear line of plot is most often the key to their works. In Woolf's novels, she eschews such straight line plotting in favor of a weirdly blended kaleidoscopic view that makes relentless use of both a stream of consciousness narrator and interior monologues. In TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, Woolf tells the tale of a married couple, the Ramsays, who lived in England just before the First World War. The Ramsays are the prototypical Victorian family replete with servants, a summer beach house, eight children, and a keen awareness of the fragility of life. What happens to them is neither earth shaking nor memorable. What happens within them is of far greater consequence. As Woolf focuses on each character, she presents a highly subjective view of the internal thought processes of that character. Each thought is like a ripple caused by a stone thrown into a still pool. Woolf allows her character to meander not only spatially (from point to point) but also chronologically. Events are described as if they were occurring within the literal present, but most often the events are from the past merging into the future. Thus, the plot ripple pool is constantly crosscutting each other with events removed from each other both in space and in time. It is no wonder, then, that readers unfamiliar with such an expanding and contracting temporal flux are confused. Woolf challenges her readers to involve themselves in a manner that requires a dedication to reading not often found in more traditionally structured novels.

As one reads from section to section (there are three: The Window, Time Passes, and The Lighthouse), one becomes aware that the novel's primary symbols--the lighthouse, Lily's painting, the sea, and the internalized thought processes of Mrs. Ramsay--function in a manner that does not become clear until after one has read considerably into this admittedly puzzling work. The initial clue lies within the title of the book: "To the Lighthouse." Thus, the lighthouse is seen both as a starting point in a journey (its radiating beacon of light lies close to the Ramsay's summer home) and a destination in that the youngest of the Ramsays, James, wants to go there, but it takes him ten years to do so. Lily is Lily Briscoe, a close friend of the Ramsays who seems to have difficulty painting a portrait of Mrs. Ramsay, no great surprise there since that portrait points not so much to Mrs. Ramsay as it does to an abiding life-long interest of Virginia Woolf herself: the desire to impose order and form on a universe that is inherently chaotic. It is crucial to note that Lily succeeds only at the very end of the novel when Mrs. Ramsay has long been dead, thus emphasizing the ephemeral nature of her task. Mrs. Ramsay's personality also is a barometer of Woolf's belief that the post Great War society of England would forevermore be seen as formless as Mrs. Ramsay's meandering thoughts. The first section "The Window" forms the bulk of the book. It is here that Woolf depicts a rather ordinary family who collectively symbolizes the inability of individuals to leave an abiding footprint on the shifting sands of time. In the second part "Time Passes," time does indeed pass, ten years worth. The home of the Ramsays falls into decay that requires the re-entry of the surviving family members to invigorate it and themselves in the final section "The Lighthouse." Lily's painting of the now deceased Mrs. Ramsay allows Virginia Woolf to claim even a minor victory in the ultimately losing battle against cultural entropy.
I suspect that the major reason that most readers have with this book lies in their immediate recognition that they have to pay a great deal of attention to psychological free associating. As the characters' thoughts bounce off each other both temporarily and spatially, so must those of the readers, a most imposing task. But for those with persistence and an eye for the nontraditional in plotting, the effort is usually worth it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars An Elegy to the Moment, Jan. 27 2004
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
I just reread what I think of as Virginia Woolf's finest book and my personal favorite. Even if one isn't too fond of Woolf, I don't know how any serious reader or lover of great literature could fail to be impressed with the sheer beauty and timelessness of this radiant novel.
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is a portrait of the Ramsay family; a portrait "taken" as they are vacationing at their summer house on the rugged coast of Scotland. This is a very interior portrait, though, the most interior I've ever encountered in any book to date. For me, at least, this book transcends the barriers of time, culture and all else and speaks straight to the soul, from the soul, something few authors have ever been able to do.
This is also the most profoundly human novel I've ever had the pleasure of reading. The Ramsays face tremendous challenges in TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, but the book's focus isn't on the challenges per se, but on how the Ramsays react to those challenges and how they are affected by them.
There are probably as many interpretations of this novel as there are readers, and I think that's a great tribute to Woolf. One of the novelist's main jobs is to touch the heart of her readers and TO THE LIGHTHOUSE certainly does that. What makes this book a masterpiece, however, at least in my opinion, is the fact that the Ramsay family act as a microcosm of all humanity; in the Ramsay's we can find something of all families. In the Ramsay's we can find something of ourselves.
Some people have told me they found the inclusion of Lily Briscoe extraneous. I don't think there's one extraneous thing in this book and certainly not Lily. She loves the Ramsay family yet she isn't a member. She's the one character who's able to step back a little and see the family as a whole, with love, yet without becoming overwhelmed. I think Lily is as essential to this book as is the Boeuf en Daube or even the lighthouse, itself.
And why the focus on the lighthouse? Will the journey to it really change anything? Will it really add to or subtract from the life of the Ramsays, especially when so many other factors threaten to disrupt and tear them apart? For me, the lighthouse represents constancy in a world of change. A point of reference to which the Ramsays can cling. The journey out to the lighthouse, for me, at least, represents the promise that one can go home again, even if that home has greatly changed. If the journey to the lighthouse is made, and the promise is fulfilled, then life can go on, even if it is as storm-tossed as the rocky Scottish coast.
I remember feeling awed the first time I read this book and subsequent readings have only increased that feeling a hundredfold. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE is Virginia Woolf ar her very finest. This book is one of the greatest masterpieces of 20th century fiction. It's radiant; it's miraculous; it's triumphant. It's a book no serious reader, or lover of life, can afford to miss.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars "Stream of consciousness" style, Jan. 19 2004
By 
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
Virginia Woolf writes using a stream of consciousness, which provides for an interesting read as she explores the psychological effects of same events on different characters and permits the reader to study the characters in the novel to a greater extent. She doesn't speak from the first-person point of view of each character, but uses the third-person instead, so that all characters, no matter what age, have similar intellectual capacity as it appears. You'll need to devote a great deal of attention to the novel; it is hardly a light book, and you would probably only enjoy it to the full extent if you like this type of writing. Personally, Woolf's style is not one that I prefer, and I had a hard time getting into the novel. I also think that I would enjoy it far better the second time around: I often re-read books and find many things that I had failed to notice the first time. If you've never read any of her works previously, it is a pretty good novel to begin with to determine whether this style is to your liking.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3.0 out of 5 stars To the Lighthouse, Dec 2 2003
By 
Robyn S (Pittsburgh, PA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
To the Lighthouse is a novel about a boy named James Ramsay who is growing up during World War I. "The Window" opens up by telling us how James longs to go to the lighthouse that is just across the sea. He hates his father because he takes joy in being rude to his eight children and his wife, Mrs. Ramsay who would not say a mean word about anyone. The Ramsays' house a number of guests at their home in Hebrides. Mr. Tansley is a present day "understudy" of Mr. Ramsay who is a metaphysical philosopher who doesn't think his profession is impacting anyone. Mr. Tansley worships Mr. Ramsay because anything he says, Mr. Tansley is always backing him up no matter whose business he's intruding upon.
Lily Briscoe is also a guest at the home. She is a painter who like Mr. Ramsay feels her artistic abilities are getting her nowhere in life. She admires Mrs. Ramsay and starts a portrait of her, however never finishes it. Mrs. Ramsay introduced her to William Bankes who was a friend of the family. Her plan was to get them to marry one another but it did not work out that way. She did manage to arrange one wedding which was between Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle.
During the next chapter, "Time Passes", World War I spreads over Europe. The Ramsay's eldest son is killed in battle. Also one of their daughters, Prue died from a birth defect. During this chapter, Mrs. Ramsay passes away suddenly. James is left in a tough situation. He has to cope with the loss of his mother, but also come to the fact that his abusive father is the only one left. Through all of this misfortune, the summer house in the Hebrides is no longer visited.
Ten years pass and Mr. Ramsay decides to take James and James' sister, Cam to the lighthouse. James has turned into the kind of man that his father is, he is very moody and stubborn. When they get close to the shoreline to the lighthouse, bonding between son and father occurs. Mr. Ramsay is proud of his son because of person he came to be. Just as they arrive at the shore, Lily, the aspiring painter finishes one of her paintings.
I enjoyed this book overall. It was slow in the beginning but after the first few pages, I really came to enjoy reading it. It made me realize my life's worth even though my life has yet to start. No matter where it takes me, I now know to never give up and be persistent with what I like to do. If I continue on that path even with the bumps along the way, by the end my life with be put in perspective for me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


4.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, if You're in the Mood for It, Dec 2 2003
By 
brewster22 "brewster22" (Evanston, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
Take my word for it--if you've not read Virginia Woolf before--you need to be in the mood to read her. I think her books can be unbearable otherwise. However, I was in the mood for "To the Lighthouse," and I thought it was terrific.
I've been much more intrigued by Virginia Woolf after Michael Cunningham's "The Hours," (and the subsequent film) brought her back into the limelight. She was fascinated with the degree to which everyday, seemingly trivial details of life can seem to be matters upon which the state of the world hinge in the lives of those experiencing them. Therefore, in Virginia Woolf's world, the decision as to whether or not a vacationing family will visit a lighthouse on the following day becomes the focus of everyone's thoughts--to a little boy, it seems as if his world will end if he doesn't get to go; to the father, his ability to determine whether or not they will go gives him a sense of power and authority over his wife and children.
And at the center of all this non-drama is Mrs. Ramsay, wife and mother, who is the foundation upon which the family is built. Woolf is expert in communicating the influence Mrs. Ramsay has on those around her. Everyone is struck by her beauty, her bearing, her very existence. It's this quality in her that makes so many wives and mothers the center of their respective families, which gives "To the Lighthouse" a sort of universality that resonated very strongly with me.
There has been a lot of literary study on the psychology of the novel (especially Freudian), which has become somewhat less interesting as Freud has become commonplace. I would instead appreciate it for the utter mastery of language exhibited by Woolf, and the insights she has into male/female relationships.
"To the Lighthouse" is one of those books that left me feeling incredibly sad in a very satisfied way, and I can't even tell you why. I don't always enjoy such ethereal writing (I don't even enjoy other books by Woolf) but in this case I enjoyed every word.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars To the Lighthouse, Nov. 18 2003
By 
Stacey M Jones (Conway, Ark.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I just finished Virginia Woolf's TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, and I am not sure what to write about it, except that it's a brilliant, fulfilling read, very rich and layered and nuanced and wonderful. It's a singular work that facilitates new understanding and insight, and makes the point effectively that the drama-rama of the human mind can supercede or at least equal the drama of the world around us.
The Ramsay family is the center of the story, and it is at their home in the Hebrides that the first section takes place, "The Window." In fact, this section, which covers only part of a day in time, comprises 125 pages of the 209-page book. In a way similar to that of MRS. DALLOWAY, Woolf switches the perspective among the Ramsay family and some of their guests, Lily, an indepedent single woman, the Ramsay children, and Charles Tansley, a student of Mr. Ramsay, a philosopher.
There are threads of the issue of femininity in the book. What do the differing ways in which Mrs. Ramsay, mother of eight and supportive wife, and Lily, single woman, painter, enact their feminity mean? How do they deal with and understand and love each other? What forces do they unleash on each other?
The book deals skillfully with the perception of the passage of time, as "The Window" deals with that short bit, focusing, I found, the book's most amazing and engaging section on the dinner party that night. The second section, "Time Passes," is merely 20 pages, but covers ten years, and the final section, "The Lighthouse" is one morning. There are all kinds of
reminders of the fluidity of time in the text, a skull of an animal on the wall in the children's nursery that causes them to be unable to sleep, as well as Mrs. Ramsay's glance back into the dining room at the end of the party and her realization that the success of the evening, which was somewhat hard won, is ephemeral and over, already in the past.
The second section has a different view of time, almost looking at the house from nature's point of view as time ravages the house through the war when the family isn't using it. It's very meditative. Major events in the lives of the people who attended the dinner are enclosed in brackets, as side notes, for the passage of time and the entropy that ensues is the major drama here. We see the lives and deaths of the characters as small things, part of a greater cycle that winds on and on in a more eternal, less fleeting, way.
What Woolf begins in the first section, she deals with more strongly in the third, I think, and that is that the validity of each person's differing perception of the others is equal. Two of the Ramsay children, James and Cam, go with their father and a fisherman and his boy to the lighthouse in the sailboat. James despises his father, while Cam sees his weaknesses and loves him for his vulnerabilities. She knows how James feels and feels drawn to protect James, too, but she knows a different father than James does.
I think that was what struck me the most about the book, the way the characters' combined perceptions assemble a greater truth and understanding than each of them singly has.
Woolf has a great insight and beautifully descriptive and engaging way of writing about thought as dramatic and intimate. Woolf writes about such things, the pleasure of picking up a pleasant and soothing thought so elegantly, that it doesn't seem to be writing on a page, but access to another's mind, and the part of the truth he or she holds.
And overall the writing is simply stunning.
In the first section, one of the characters loses a brooch on the beach, and they discuss going back to look for it the next day. By the time the book ends, the lost brooch seems so far away, in some deep and distant memory. I think this one detail is a mark of the beauty and success of the book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars What a Beautiful Book!, Oct. 23 2003
By 
Allie Webb (Bakersfield, CA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
I'm a senior in high school, and when I picked up To the Lighthouse for my summer reading this summer, I had no idea how much it would inspire me and change my perspective on life and writing. The book is not concerned with plot, but more with symbolism and human emotions and truths about life and the role of women in 20th century English society.
For someone who had never encountered Modernist writing style, I found Woolf's stream of consciousness wrting style extremely refreshing. It switches between characters' thoughts and the story so fluently that although it is occasionally confusing, overall, it makes the book more of a cohesive whole.
Of course, I can't deny that I used Sparknotes to fully understand the book. But that was because I had to comment on symbolism in my reading log, and some of Woolf's symbolism is hard to understand. However, you don't need to use Sparknotes to understand this book. I understood everything without them but still used them because I love this book so much that I wanted to know everything about it! (And I have never felt that way about summer reading before.)
This book was really fascinating and was an interesting insight into the social heirarchy of the 20th century and the roles of women in that society. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Lily Briscoe and Mrs. Ramsay, and I think that their struggles are those that any woman can relate to. Overall, I would say that To the Lighthouse is a masterpiece and is a must-read for any woman, especially women writers. I know that it has changed my perspective on being a woman writer and has inspired me to consider pursuing writing as a career.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars Possibly Virginia Woolf's Best, Aug. 19 2003
By 
Mike Kilianski (William Paterson University, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: To the Lighthouse (Paperback)
The Freudian take regarding To the Lighthouse has been almost beaten to death. I think that anyone who focuses too much on the phallic symbolism of the Lighthouse itself in this work does so to their own detriment. Why? Because To the Lighthouse could perhaps be Virginia Woolf's most finely crafted work.
If one were to look too deeply into the symbolism they may miss the beautifully painted character portrait of Mrs. Ramsey as the stolid maternal who really holds the family, household, and social interactions of her husband together while he goes about dreaming and philosophizing, only to have to pick the pieces up later when she dies and he is left alone.
To the Lighthouse is filled with wonderful and memorable characters. Not just Mr. and Mrs. Ramsey, but also Lila Briscoe the aritst, and Minta Doyle the carefree young almost self absorbed girl in a woman's body. Then there is Mr. Carmichael who appears kind of an old wizened sage who remains somewhat aloof but finally finds success as a poet at the end of the novel. There's Tansley the anti-social atheist intellectual who may still have a softer side somewhere beneath his cold exterior...the list goes on and on...and by now I'm probably rambling, but anyway, To the Lighthouse is Virgina's Woolf best and everyone who reads it should be able to find something they can appreciate about it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 212 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

To the Lighthouse
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (Paperback - Feb. 1 2001)
CDN$ 18.95 CDN$ 13.68
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews