Review: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

PAPERBACK; 194 P.
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN HARCOURT, 2002/1925
SOURCE: PURCHASED

On a June morning in 1923, Clarissa Dalloway, the glittering wife of a Member of Parliament, is preparing for a grand party that evening.

As she walks through London, buying flowers, observing life, her thoughts are in the past, and she remembers the time when she was as young as her own daughter Elizabeth; her romance with Peter Walsh, now recently returned from India; and the friends of her youth. elsewhere in London, Septimus Smith is being driven mad by shell shock. As the day draws to its end, his world and Clarissa’s collide in unexpected ways.

In Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf perfected the interior monologue, and its lyricism and accessibility have made it one of her most popular novels.

Usually I begin my book reviews briefly describing what the book was about. However, this time I decided to do something slightly different. The main plot of the book is really in that blurb, so I will jump straight into my thoughts on the book. And as Mrs. Dalloway is said to be the book where “Woolf perfected the interior monologue”, I decided to describe the internal monologue that I had while reading this book. I won’t even try to imitate the amazing style with which Virginia Woolf writes, so don’t expect lyricism and semicolons. Here goes:

Beginning: Hmm… interesting. I kind of like this style. Needs some time to get into, but once you start going with the flow it gets easier. And the jumping perspectives, oh my. Is this really set in the Twenties? I keep picturing the characters dressed in Victorian fashion.

Halfway: I wonder where all these people fit into. Is she going to do like Dickens and tie all the strings together in the end. It is an awfully short book for that. And what will happen? The blurb in the back didn’t specify. Is he going to …?

End: OK, it is about time for something to happen – I’m living in suspense here! And the book is almost at an end. … Wait, what?! Just like that? Oh, okay. But what about the other one? … Why are you there? Where are you? Where is SHE? WHAT IS HAPPENING? CAN SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN?!!

As you can probably tell, I was royally confused after reading the last paragraph. I felt like an elephant had gone by and I hadn’t seen a thing. It’s that nagging sense of not understanding something. So as I had no one to really talk to about it, I turned to the infinite source for all information: the Internet. I read a few discussion forums, blog posts, and notes on the book, and slowly started to understand the small details in this book. However, I still don’t get what happened in the end (maybe it’s just me). The fact that the ending confused me so much, dropped my rating slightly. In comparison to other books that I’ve read recently, this just didn’t live up to it.

I believe Mrs. Dalloway is required reading for most high-school students, and perhaps that is why it has a reputation of being difficult. I’ve heard several people say that her other works are better and easier to read. The overall style is something that people might struggle with, but in the end, you learn so much about writing through reading this. I definitely recommend you to at least give it a try (it’s only 190 pages).

3.5/5

He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.

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4 thoughts on “Review: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

  1. I liked the book.The stream of consciousness was really well-done.For instance,Elizabeth was well into thinking something,but all of a sudden she starts thinking of shillings and roads! Why? Because the ticket controller has appeared before her.

    There’s also the main theme which I believe is the conflict between appearance and reality.Woolf introduces the theme with the airplanes,with people trying to guess what has been written in the sky.Their guesses have gone from Glaxo to Toffee!Sally is now enjoying a life which few believed she would reached.There’s also Septimus and his wife.Peter Walsh looked at them and almost wishes to be in their place,believing that everything is perfect in their couple,which is far from the truth.There are also numerous other instances in the book,but these will take too much space if written here.

    It was a good read.I think Woolf didn’t have much ambition when writing that book.She had already enjoyed much success and only wanted to do something experimental,especially because at that very time,James Joyce was introducing a new technique.To that end only,the book is a success.

    • I agree with you. The stream of consciousness in the book felt real. Our mind truly does sometimes jump from one thought to another without any apparent connection. The point about appearance and reality is also probably true, because, as the book highlighted, everyone has their own secret problems.

  2. Pingback: Review: The Hours by Michael Cunningham | Dawn of books

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