To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

1. First lines. 2. Published 2008 Oxford University Press (First published 1927). 3. Photo of window overlooking the water [Public domain] via pxhere
No plot to speak of – this is more of a character study, with images and moments in time portrayed minutely.

The setting is the Ramsay family’s holiday house on the Isle of Skye around the time of World War I. Written in a way that depicts the characters’ perspectives and voices, showing how different people think in different ways, the book is partly biographical. The author’s mother, and one of her brothers died young, as did Mrs Ramsay and her son Andrew. The overbearing Mr Ramsay is styled on the author’s father. Also, Virginia Woolf’s family went for holidays every summer to their beach house, as the Ramsays did. The author likened the writing of the book as a way of expressing her deep-felt emotions about her family.

“Turning, she looked across the bay, and there, sure enough, coming regularly across the waves first two quick strokes and then one long steady stroke, was the light of the Lighthouse. It had been lit.”

“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.”

~Quotes from “To the Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf.
  • The Guardian: Sometimes, I feel, Virginia Woolf is thought of as one of those unreachable, lofty kind of authors that can only be read by someone with an English Literature degree. I felt like that, picking the book of the shelf almost apologetically. How could I believe that I could appreciate a writer like Virginia Woolf? I asked myself; what made me think I would be able to understand it? But I think that I did understand and I know that I enjoyed it, and if I could do so, then it’s possible for anyone who likes to read.” “I really loved this book, and I think that many other people, if they put aside their apprehension or doubt, would be surprised at how much they enjoyed it too.”

A selection of other editions.

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