The story watches the changes in the family through many years. James, the son, asks if they can visit the lighthouse the next day.
The novel favours more thoughts and observations rather than dialogue and action, and explores themes of loss, subjectivity and perception. The years pass, and the family comes together after the great war, and the changes in them are apparent. Once again they question whether they can journey to the lighthouse, and the answers they find there are not the kind they once expected.