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3.9 out of 5 stars124
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on January 19, 2004
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.
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on December 2, 2003
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.
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on March 6, 2002
First of all, this was my first experience in reading a stream of consciousness book. When I first began reading it, I thought I would enjoy it more than I did. Since I only read it in my spare time, which would sometimes only be fifteen minutes, I did not pay as much attention to the small details as I should have. It became difficult for me to follow each character because my own mind wondered off as the pages turned. Generally, I enjoy books that are suspenseful or have a fast-paced storyline, so this was simply not the style of book for me. Do not read this book if you are looking for an exciting plot or simply do not have the time to put into reading this short novel.

There were many reasons why I did not enjoy reading this classic. First of all, I disliked the author's complex, third person omniscient shifting of perspectives through the various characters in the tale. The book focuses more on the summer home in the Hebrides than on the actual characters themselves. Only the character's inner thoughts are written about and there are very few physical descriptions of them. The story is more about the inner workings and complexities of the small group of people than the lighthouse (or going there). Narrative voice is shared between characters as narration becomes thought and smoothly passes from character to character, anticipating the stream of consciousness style. The themes are also very abstract and its plot structure becomes undefined at times.

To the Lighthouse is a quiet and meditative novel that deals with post World War I issues. Often, I felt as if Woolf could not hold a single thought or development long enough to
make me care about anything. Virginia Woolf did give glances to a few good story possibilities, but then she would move on to something else; thus, losing my interest and never truly
developing any character or situation. As soon as something intriguing was about to occur, the book would jump back to events that happened in the past chapters.

I have read books that I enjoyed less than To the Lighthouse, so I do not consider it to be a horrible piece of literature. If you like to read stories that jump and skip from place to place, then maybe this novel is for you. I felt this novel could have adequately been told as a short story with its only lost being its monotone and dull nature. I had to struggle to complete this book, so maybe the meaning was just lost on me. I kept reading to see if there was some literary genius buried within, but unfortunately I never found it.
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on July 10, 2000
Perhaps it's my male mind, or maybe my relative youth (junior in college), but I really can't say I enjoyed the book much. I do agree on one account with the people who gave it five stars: it would take Virginia Woolf's own words to possibly describe how beautifully written the novel is, and how enchanting her prose is.
However, that is the only reason I gave it as many as three stars; it is just boring. The back of the book reads "The subject of this brilliant novel is the daily life of an English family in the Hebrides". And, well, that really is all it's about, and let me tell you, my daily life of lectures and math homework is about as exciting as what happens in this book, people talk, people grow old, time passes. Hmmm....I can get enough of that in my daily life, thank you very much. Lastly, her insights into true human nature (presented in all its actual boringness) goes well beyond any author I've ever read (and I've read quite a lot), but it really didn't tell me anything I didn't know.
To sum, if you want to read a good book to learn or appreciate HOW to write, pick To The Lighthouse up first; if you want to read a good book to learn or appreciate WHAT to write about, go elsewhere, anywhere else.
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on February 19, 2000
After completing the incredible Woolf novel "Mrs. Dalloway" I eagerly dived into "To The Lighthouse" expecting similar (if not greater) satisfaction. Unfortunately, from the very beginning I felt that the stream of consciousness narration betrayed itself with the excessive unrealistic "deep" thoughts and ponderings of the lesser characters. Sure, we all know Mr. Ramsay is a ponderous metaphysician and we expect such soul-searching from him - but from all the others as well, and at all times? Every character seems to be CONSTANTLY measuring their self worth and working out a personal philosophy while they go about their otherwise mundane daily existence. To be sure, we all have these "moments of reflection", but Woolf overdoes it here. I suppose the critical eminence of the book and its assured position in the canon still make it a must-read, but I would advise first time readers to reduce any high expectations concerning the novel's psychological realism.
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on October 17, 2003
Virginia Woolf is a genius at creating and evoking intense moods in reference to seemingly banal attributes of our existence. Such as eating dinner with your family and guests, the trivial conversations that occur during the dinner, and, most importantly, the drifting inner thoughts of her characters and their unspoken conversations underneath the surface. All that is fine and good and worth a read, but I found myself struggling a bit to finish To The Lighthouse due to the lack of any major plot conflicts or action. Virginia Woolf takes up a huge portion of the book describing a character's inner thoughts and feelings as she tries to finish a painting. I know, that's the point of the book, and I see its value, but if I'm in a mood to explore the literary subconscious, I prefer Faulkner, who weaves in compelling plots in addition to the inner lives of his characters.
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on March 2, 2000
I thought this book was pretty good as I kept on reading. At the beginning the author went on and on with that stream of consciousness stuff. I thought that toward the end of the first of the three parts it was getting interesting. It is about a middle class British family that goes through life in a typical way except that people stay at their house. Considering there are eight children and a husband and wife, that is a lot of people in one home. Overall the book was pretty good and i like how lily briscoe finished her painting. This book revolves around Mrs. Ramsay the main character who is portrayed similiarly to the lighthouse. She is the central lady who does all the work and solves all the family problems. She is like a lighthouse where everything is around her. She wanted to go to the lighthouse so I think that is why Woolf named it this.
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on August 10, 2003
I know I shouldn't judge an author based on only one of her novels, no matter how boring it may be. If I were to recommend reading this novel, it would be only to someone like myself who is just trying to get a feel for why a "classic" is called a "classic" and then try another book by the same author. I am not too sure that this novel gives the author justice. And so, if you were to read this novel, and you are like me, and were not really sure what to make of it, I would recommend reading another of the author's novels in addition to this one. I will be reading Mrs. Dalloway to see if there really is something about Virginia Woolf worth noting. This book, however, was sorta interesting, but nothing to get excited about.. why is it a classic? I have really no idea.
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on November 22, 1997
This book is boring to the maximum! All the characters seem so distant and practically the only thing we are possibly able to connect with is the damn landscape ! Although , this sort of writing is typical to our conscience: a stream that is never stagnant, it is not comprehensive when put on paper ( unless of course we note our own thoughts) I guess it shows that it is never easy to truly decipher the thoughts and reasonings of one another.
Woolf is successful in portraying a character if we seperate each section of each part. when she tries to congregate 14 characters (of which 6 are the most important) she really messes up.
My advice is if you have a choice-don't go for it!
It just gives you headaches!! Well , for me it did!
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on August 8, 1999
Shouldn't a great novel be enjoyable to the reader? This is the most boring novel I have ever wasted time on. Admittedly the prose was beautiful. But if you merely want to read a bautiful flow of words read a Burns poem.
Maybe the aristocracy of Britain in the 1920's loved this book but it is not woth reading today.
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