To the Lighthouse is a 1927 novel by Virginia Woolf. The novel centres on the Ramsay family and their visits to the Isle of Skye in Scotland between 1910 and 1920.
Following and extending the tradition of modernist novelists like Marcel Proust and James Joyce, the plot of To the Lighthouse is secondary to its philosophical introspection. Cited as a key example of the literary technique of multiple focalization, the novel includes little dialogue and almost no direct action; most of it is written as thoughts and observations. To the Lighthouse is made up of three powerfully charged visions into the life of the Ramsay family, living in a summer house off the rocky coast of Scotland. There's maternal Mrs. Ramsay, the highbrow Mr. Ramsay, their eight children, and assorted holiday guests. From Mr. Ramsay's seemingly trivial postponement of a visit to a nearby lighthouse, Virginia Woolf examines tensions and allegiances and shows that the small joys and quiet tragedies of everyday life could go on forever. The novel recalls childhood emotions and highlights adult relationships. Among the book's many tropes and themes are those of loss, subjectivity, the nature of art and the problem of perception.
In 1998, the Modern Library named To the Lighthouse No. 15 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2005, the novel was chosen by TIME magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels since 1923.
The novel maintains an unusual form of omniscient narrator; the plot unfolding through shifting perspectives of each character's consciousness. Shifts can occur even mid-sentence, and in some sense they resemble the rotating beam of the lighthouse itself. Unlike James Joyce's stream of consciousness technique, however, Woolf does not tend to use abrupt fragments to represent characters' thought processes; her method is more one of lyrical paraphrase. The unique presentation of omniscient narration means that, throughout the novel, readers are challenged to formulate their own understanding, and views, from the subtle shifts in character development, as much of the story is presented in ambiguous, or even contradictory, descriptions.
Whereas in Part I, the novel is concerned with illustrating the relationship between the character experiencing and the actual experience and surroundings, part II, 'Time Passes', having no characters to relate to, presents events differently. Instead, Woolf wrote the section from the perspective of a displaced narrator, unrelated to any people, intending that events be seen in relation to time. For that reason the narrating voice is unfocused and distorted, providing an example of what Woolf called 'life as it is when we have no part in it.' Major events like deaths of Mrs Ramsay, Prue, Andrew are related parenthetically, which makes the narration a kind of journal-entry. It is also possible that the house itself is the inanimate narrator of these events. (wikipedia.org)