The novel is one of Woolf's most successful and accessible experiments in the stream-of-consciousness style. The three sections of the book take place between 1910 and 1920 and revolve around various members of the Ramsay family during visits to their summer residence on the Isle of Skye in Scotland. A central motif of the novel is the conflict between the feminine and masculine principles at work in the universe.
With her emotional, poetic frame of mind, Mrs. Ramsay represents the female principle, while Mr. Ramsay, a self-centered philosopher, expresses the male principle in his rational point of view. Both are flawed by their limited perspectives. A painter and friend of the family, Lily Briscoe, is Woolf's vision of the androgynous artist who personifies the ideal blending of male and female qualities. Her successful completion of a painting that she has been working on since the beginning of the novel is symbolic of this unification. -- Merriam Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
Virginia Woolf stands as the chief figure of modernism in England and must be included with Joyce and Proust in the realization of experiments that have completely broken with tradition.