Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway

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Overview

Direct and vivid in her account of Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party, Virginia Woolf explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life.

In Mrs. Dalloway, the novel on which the movie The Hours was based, Virginia Woolf details Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life. The novel "contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century" (Michael Cunningham).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156628709
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/24/1990
Series: Centenary Editions Series
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 19,307
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Lexile: 950L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882–1941) was one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. An admired literary critic, she authored many essays, letters, journals, and short stories in addition to her groundbreaking novels.

Date of Birth:

January 25, 1882

Date of Death:

March 28, 1941

Place of Birth:

London

Place of Death:

Sussex, England

Education:

Home schooling

Read an Excerpt


MRS. DALLOWAY said she would buy the flowers herself.

For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer's men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning-fresh as if issued to children on a beach.

What a lark! What a plunge! For so it had always seemed to her, when, with a little squeak of the hinges, which she could hear now, she had burst open the French windows and plunged at Bourton into the open air. How fresh, how calm, stiller than this of course, the air was in the early morning; like the flap of a wave; the kiss of a wave; chill and sharp and yet (for a girl of eighteen as she then was) solemn, feeling as she did, standing there at the open window, that something awful was about to happen; looking at the flowers, at the trees with the smoke winding off them and the rooks rising, falling; standing and looking until Peter Walsh said, "Musing among the vegetables?"-was that it?-"I prefer men to cauliflowers"-was that it? He must have said it at breakfast one morning when she had gone out on to the terrace-Peter Walsh. He would be back from India one o£ these days, June or July, she forgot which, for his letters were awfully dull; it was his sayings one remembered; his eyes, his pocket-knife, his smile, his grumpiness and, when millions of things had utterly vanished-how strange it was!-a few sayings like this about cabbages.

She stiffened a little on the kerb, waiting for Durtnall's van to pass. A charming woman, Scrope Purvis thought her (knowing her as one does know people who live next door to one in Westminster); a touch of the bird about her, of the jay, blue-green, light, vivacious, though she was over fifty, and grown very white since her illness. There she perched, never seeing him, waiting to cross, very upright.

For having lived in Westminster-how many years now? over twenty,-one feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a par-ticular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense (but that might be her heart, affected, they said, by influenza) before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, ir-revocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can't be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people's eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the up-roar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sand-wich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.

For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed and now the old Manor House must go to a cousin; or Lady Bexborough who opened a bazaar, they said, with the telegram in her hand, John, her favourite, killed; but it was over; thank Heaven-over. It was June. The King and Queen were at the Palace. And everywhere, though it was still so early, there was a beating, a stirring of galloping ponies, tapping of cricket bats; Lords, Ascot, Ranelagh and all the rest of it; wrapped in the soft mesh of the grey-blue morning air, which, as the day wore on, would unwind them, and set down on their lawns and pitches the bouncing po-nies whose forefeet just struck the ground and up they sprung, the whirling young men, and laughing girls in their transparent muslins who, even now, after dancing all night, were taking their absurd woolly dogs for a run; and even now, at this hour, discreet old dowagers were shooting out in their motor cars on errands of mystery; and the shopkeepers were fidgeting in their windows with their paste and diamonds, their lovely old sea-green brooches in eighteenth-century settings to tempt Americans (but one must economise, not buy things rashly for Elizabeth), and she, too, loving it as she did with an absurd and faithful passion, being part of it, since her people were courtiers once in the time of the Georges, she, too, was going that very night to kindle and illuminate; to give her party. But how strange, on entering the Park, the silence; the mist; the hum; the slow-swimming happy ducks; the pouched birds waddling; and who should be coming along with his back against the Government buildings, most ap-propriately, carrying a despatch box stamped with the Royal Arms, who but Hugh Whitbread; her old friend Hugh-the admirable Hugh!

"Good-morning to you, Clarissa!" said Hugh, rather extravagantly, for they had known each other as children. "Where are you off to?"

"I love walking in London," said Mrs. Dalloway. "Really it's better than walking in the country."

They had just come up-unfortunately-to see doc-tors. Other people came to see pictures; go to the opera; take their daughters out; the Whitbreads came "to see doctors." Times without number Clarissa had visited Evelyn Whitbread in a nursing home. Was Evelyn ill again? Evelyn was a good deal out of sorts, said Hugh, intimating by a kind of pout or swell of his very well-covered, manly, extremely handsome, perfectly uphol-stered body (he was almost too well dressed always, but presumably had to be, with his little job at Court) that his wife had some internal ailment, nothing serious, which, as an old friend, Clarissa Dalloway would quite understand without requiring him to specify. Ah yes, she did of course; what a nuisance; and felt very sisterly and oddly conscious at the same time of her hat. Not the right hat for the early morning, was that it? For Hugh always made her feel, as he bustled on, raising his hat rather extravagantly and assuring her that she might be a girl of eighteen, and of course he was coming to her party to-night, Evelyn absolutely insisted, only a little late he might be after the party at the Palace to which he had to take one of Jim's boys,-she always felt a little skimpy beside Hugh; schoolgirlish; but attached to him, partly from having known him always, but she did think him a good sort in his own way, though Richard was nearly driven mad by him, and as for Peter Walsh, he had never to this day forgiven her for liking him.

She could remember scene after scene at Bourton- Peter furious; Hugh not, of course, his match in any way, but still not a positive imbecile as Peter made out; not a mere barber's block. When his old mother wanted him to give up shooting or to take her to Bath he did it, without a word; he was really unselfish, and as for say-ing, as Peter did, that he had no heart, no brain, noth-ing but the manners and breeding of an English gentle-man, that was only her dear Peter at his worst; and he could be intolerable; he could be impossible; but ador-able to walk with on a morning like this.

(June had drawn out every leaf on the trees. The mothers of Pimlico gave suck to their young. Messages were passing from the Fleet to the Admiralty. Arlington Street and Piccadilly seemed to chafe the very air in the Park and lift its leaves hotly, brilliantly, on waves of that divine vitality which Clarissa loved. To dance, to ride, she had adored all that.)

For they might be parted for hundreds of years, she and Peter; she never wrote a letter and his were dry sticks; but suddenly it would come over her, If he were with me now what would he say?-some days, some sights bringing him back to her calmly, without the old bitterness; which perhaps was the reward of having cared for people; they came back in the middle of St. James's Park on a fine morning-indeed they did. But Peter-however beautiful the day might be, and the trees and the grass, and the little girl in pink-Peter never saw a thing of all that. He would put on his spec-tacles, if she told him to; he would look. It was the state of the world that interested him; Wagner, Pope's po-etry, people's characters eternally, and the defects of her own soul. How he scolded her! How they argued! She would marry a Prime Minister and stand at the top of a staircase; the perfect hostess he called her (she had cried over it in her bedroom), she had the makings of the perfect hostess, he said.

So she would still find herself arguing in St. James's Park, still making out that she had been right-and she had too-not to marry him. For in marriage a little licence, a little independence there must be between people living together day in day out in the same house; which Richard gave her, and she him. (Where was he this morning for instance? Some committee, she never asked what.) But with Peter everything had to be shared; everything gone into. And it was intolerable, and when it came to that scene in the little garden by the fountain, she had to break with him or they would have been destroyed, both o£ them ruined, she was con-vinced; though she had borne about with her for years like an arrow sticking in her heart the grief, the an-guish; and then the horror of the moment when some one told her at a concert that he had married a woman met on the boat going to India! Never should she forget all that! Cold, heartless, a prude, he called her. Never could she understand how he cared. But those Indian women did presumably-silly, pretty, flimsy nincom-poops. And she wasted her pity. For he was quite happy, he assured her-perfectly happy, though he had never done a thing that they talked of; his whole life had been a failure. It made her angry still.

She had reached the Park gates. She stood for a mo-ment, looking at the omnibuses in Piccadilly.

She would not say of any one in the world now that they were this or were that. She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, look-ing on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dan-gerous to live even one day. Not that she thought her-self clever, or much out of the ordinary. How she had got through life on the few twigs of knowledge Fraulein Daniels gave them she could not think. She knew noth-ing; no language, no history; she scarcely read a book now, except memoirs in bed; and yet to her it was ab-solutely absorbing; all this; the cabs passing; and she would not say of Peter, she would not say of herself, I am this, I am that.

Her only gift was knowing people almost by in-stinct, she thought, walking on. If you put her in a room with some one, up went her back like a cat's; or she purred. Devonshire House, Bath House, the house with the china cockatoo, she had seen them all lit up once; and remembered Sylvia, Fred, Sally Seton-such hosts of people; and dancing all night; and the waggons plodding past to market; and driving home across the Park. She remembered once throwing a shilling into the Serpentine. But every one remembered; what she loved was this, here, now, in front of her; the fat lady in the cab. Did it matter then, she asked herself, walk-ing towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must in-evitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, her-self. But what was she dreaming as she looked into Hatchards' shop window? What was she trying to re-cover? What image of white dawn in the country, as she read in the book spread open:

Fear no more the heat o' the sun Nor the furious winter's rages.

This late age of the world's experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing. Think, for example, of the woman she admired most, Lady Bexborough, opening the bazaar.

There were Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities; there were Soapy Sponge and Mrs. Asquith's Memoirs and Big Game Shooting in Nigeria, all spread open. Ever so many books there were; but none that seemed exactly right to take to Evelyn Whitbread in her nursing home. Nothing that would serve to amuse her and make that indescribably dried-up little woman look, as Clarissa came in, just for a moment cordial; before they settled down for the usual interminable talk of women's ail-ments. How much she wanted it-that people should look pleased as she came in, Clarissa thought and turned and walked back towards Bond Street, annoyed, be-cause it was silly to have other reasons for doing things. Much rather would she have been one of those people like Richard who did things for themselves, whereas, she thought, waiting to cross, half the time she did things not simply, not for themselves; but to make peo-ple think this or that; perfect idiocy she knew (and now the policeman held up his hand) for no one was ever for a second taken in. Oh if she could have had her life over again! she thought, stepping on to the pavement, could have looked even differently!

She would have been, in the first place, dark like Lady Bexborough, with a skin of crumpled leather and beautiful eyes. She would have been, like Lady Bexborough, slow and stately; rather large; interested in politics like a man; with a country house; very digni-fied, very sincere. Instead of which she had a narrow pea-stick figure; a ridiculous little face, beaked like a bird's. That she held herself well was true; and had nice hands and feet; and dressed well, considering that she spent little. But often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at a Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing-nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street, this being Mrs. Dalloway; not eve Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.

Copyright 1925 by Harcourt, Inc.
Copyright renewed 1953 by Leonard Woolf

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address:
Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Table of Contents


CONTENTS
Preface: Virginia Woolf ix

Chronology xix

Introduction xxxv

Mrs. Dalloway 1

Notes to Mrs. Dalloway 191

Suggestions for Further Reading: Virginia Woolf 219


Suggestions for Further Reading: Mrs. Dalloway 223

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Mrs. Dalloway was the first novel to split the atom. If the novel before Mrs. Dalloway aspired to immensities of scope and scale, to heroic journeys across vast landscapes, with Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf insisted that it could also locate the enormous within the everyday; that a life of errands and party-giving was every bit as viable a subject as any life lived anywhere; and that should any human act in any novel seem unimportant, it has merely been inadequately observed. The novel as an art form has not been the same since. Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century."
—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

Susan Sontag

Most of my reading is rereading. Last night I opened Mrs. Dalloway to look up something (I thought I remembered a reference to Wagner, whom I've been thinking a lot about lately) and started to read and couldn't stop. I read until two in the morning and woke at eight to read until eleven . . . something I had no intention of doing. I first read Mrs. Dalloway when I was sixteen; and each time — this was the fourth — it has seemed like a different book. This time I thought it more extraordinary, more original, even stronger than I remembered.

Reading Group Guide

1. In Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf combines interior with omni-scient descriptions of character and scene. How does the author handle the transition between the interior and the exterior? Which characters' points of view are primary to the novel; which minor characters are given their own points of view? Why, and how does Woolf handle the transitions from one point of view to another? How do the shifting points of view, together with that of the author, combine to create a portrait of Clarissa and her milieu? Does this kind of novelistic portraiture resonate with other artistic movement's of Woolf s time?

2. Woolf saw Septimus Warren Smith as an essential counterpoint to Clarissa Dalloway. What specific comparisons and contrasts are drawn between the two? What primary images are associated, respectively, with Clarissa and with Septimus? What is the significance of Septimus making his first appearance as Clarissa, from her florist's window, watches the mysterious motor car in Bond Street?

3. What was Clarissa's relationship with Sally Seton? What is the significance of Sally's reentry into Clarissa's life after so much time? What role does Sally play in Clarissa's past and in her present?

4. What is Woolf s purpose in creating a range of female charac-ters of various ages and social classes-from Clarissa herself and Lady Millicent Burton to Sally Seton, Doris Kilman, Lucrezia Smith, and Maisie Johnson? Does she present a comparable range of male characters?

5. Clarissa's movements through London, along with the comings and goings of other characters, are given in some geographic detail. Do the patterns of movement and the characters' intersecting routes establish a pattern? If so, how do those physical patterns reflect important internal patterns of thought, memory, feelings, and attitudes? What is the view of London that we come away with?

6. As the day and the novel proceed, the hours and half hours are sounded by a variety of clocks (for instance, Big Ben strikes noon at the novel's exact midpoint). What is the effect of the time being constantly announced on the novel's structure and on our sense of the pace of the characters' lives? What hours in association with which events are explicitly sounded? Why? Is there significance in Big Ben being the chief announcer of time?

7. Woolf shifts scenes between past and present, primarily through Clarissa's, Septimus's, and others' memories. Does this device successfully establish the importance of the past as a shap-ing influence on and an informing component of the present? Which characters promote this idea? Does Woolf seem to believe this holds true for individuals as it does for society as a whole?

8. Threats of disorder and death recur throughout the novel, cul-minating in Septimus's suicide and repeating later in Sir William Bradshaw's report of that suicide at Clarissa's party. When do thoughts or images of disorder and death appear in the novel, and in connection with which characters? What are those characters' attitudes concerning death?

9. Clarissa and others have a heightened sense of the "splendid achievement" and continuity of English history, culture, and tradition. How do Clarissa and others respond to that history and culture? What specific elements of English history and culture are viewed as primary?
How does Clarissa's attitude, specifically, compare with Septimus's attitude on these points?

10. As he leaves Regent's Park, Peter sees and hears "a tall quiver-ing shape,... a battered woman" singing of love and death: "the voice of an ancient spring spouting from the earth. . ." singing "the ancient song." What is Peter's reaction and what significance does the battered woman and her ancient song have for the novel as a whole?

11. Clarissa reads lines from Shakespeare's Cymbeline (IV, ii) from an open book in a shop window: "Fear no more the heat o' the sun / Nor the furious winter's rages. / Thou thy worldly task hast done, / Home art gone and ta'en thy wages: / Golden lads and girls all must, / As chimney-sweepers, come to dust." These lines are alluded to many times. What importance do they have for Clarissa, Septimus, and the novel's principal themes? What fears do Clarissa and other characters experience?

12. Why does Woolf end the novel with Clarissa as seen through Peter's eyes? Why does he experience feelings of "terror," "ecstasy," and "extraordinary excitement" in her presence? What is the significance of those feelings, and do we as readers share them?

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Mrs. Dalloway (Annotated) 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 166 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mrs. Dalloway is a difficult book to read, especially if you do not enjoy reading or you are not a very apt reader. I've read several reviews on Virginia Woolf's books, and I have to say that the main reason behind the bad reviews is ignorance. It is a day, and in this single day in a person's life Woolf makes the closest representation of love in writing I have ever read. Simply genius, however difficult the book is for you, I assure you that the ending makes it worth it. However, if by the time you finish it you feel like Woolf failed and did not 'make sure something happened', go watch an action film that's not too clever for you. :)
Broket_Samling More than 1 year ago
I will admit, when I first attempted to read this novel, I was intimidated by Woolf's complicated, dense prose and lack of plot substance. I now can say that it is one of my favorite novels not for its plot (which is admittedly nothing more than one day in the life of a simple woman setting up for an evening with friends) or escapism in setting or fantastic characters but for the symbolism throughout. The characters are shattered, fragmented (because of WWI, in my opinion) and seem to represent facets of society. I found, in them, bits and pieces of my own self; I was forced to look upon the unpleasant and questioned the supposed "good" qualities. The style of writing is quite virtuosic and needs a steady mind from the reader for interpreting the stream of thought and exit and entrance of each character. It is for this reason that I would feel apprehensive in choosing this book for a readers group or class discussion. Woolf's prose is very filling and consuming: not something many casual readers would like when indulging in a book (which is also the reason I hesitate suggesting Mrs. Dalloway for literature classes unless they are advanced students who are taught the significant aspects of literature analysis). On the whole, Mrs. Dalloway is quite a wonderful read, delving into the psychological and social aspects of what could be any given day in anyone's life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am not sure what I think about this book. The writing is an interconnected stream of conscienceness among all the characters in the book. You almost feel like you are floating from one characters mind to the next. I don't think anyone could say that the author is not extremely talented but I did not find the book that enjoyable. There is really not much plot more of portraits of each character. Glad I read it though, I love to be exposed to different writing styles and ideas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My 3rd reading. Finally, I got it and thoroughly enjoyed the interior voice of it. I was too young in college, too distracted and still not old enough in my 30s . (It should not be assigned in high school) A great read especially for 50 and older readers. I will read again for it has multiple facets.
The_Book_Wheel_Blog More than 1 year ago
Not My Style of Writing Reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf reminded me of why many of these books I have pledged to read are considered challenges. I was really looking forward to reading this book because I was under the impression that other people liked it. As I found out later, this is not necessarily the case and I can understand why. It’s not that Mrs. Dalloway is a bad book and, in fact, it gets better as it goes along and even has some profound quotes, such as, “Nothing exists outside us except a state of mind.” The book is incredibly detailed and vivid in its descriptions, and Woolf does a great job of really getting inside of the heads of various characters. The problem is the stream of consciousness writing made it difficult to recognize transitions from one person to the next. No matter what page I was on, I felt like I was having aha moments about two pages before. I was always reading a few pages of my comprehension. The result is that I can look back on the book with some fondness, but I remember the difficulties I encountered. My favorite parts were those pertaining to Septimus and Rezia (even more so than Mrs. Dalloway herself). Theirs was a palpable and tragic story that I could have read an entire book about. To be fair to the book, I skipped the Introduction. It was more or less a play-by-play of the entire book and I thought that reading it would ruin the story for me. Instead, I read it after I finished the book and it put things into better context for me. If I were to do it over again, though, I still don’t think I would have read the Introduction first. I don’t like knowing everything that’s going to happen in a book, even if it makes it “easier” to get through. The book has a great quote that says, “It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels,” and so, I will be honest….. I could have just read the Introduction and skipped reading the book altogether and come away with the same amount of comprehension. But that’s neither here nor there and I am left feeling ambiguous about the book. I enjoyed it after the fact, but not as much while reading it.
Lisa_RR_H More than 1 year ago
I was assigned this book several times in high school and college and turned to Monarch notes rather than finishing, because words can not express how tedious and boring I found this book. Hated it. Recently, I wanted to read Cunningham's "The Hours" because I was intrigued by the film. I knew that Mrs Dalloway was one source for the novel, so wanting to get more out of my reading I returned to this novel, thinking, well, maybe being more of a sophisticated reader I'll enjoy it now. I can't say I did. The novel is written with the stream of consciousness technique and has no chapters and few section breaks. Woolf's sentences are famously long and complex. Sometimes this makes for lyrical, sinuous prose; I especially remembered one passage about the flowers looking like starched laundry striking me as beautiful. It was easier to take in such sentences early in the book, but the prose became more and more numbing because of the its unrelieved density. There are many paragraphs and sentences I reread more than once trying to make sense of them. The narrative often comes across as rambling and incoherent. Given one of the characters is mentally ill, I think some of the narrative is deliberately mad. Different point of views mix throughout the novel without clear cut edges. This is also one of those novels that's feels abstruse, dated, because of many contemporary references are hard to get as a 21st century American without constantly turning to the notes. There's little discernable plot. We follow various characters--mostly related to Mrs Dalloway--through one mid-June day in London, but the events feel disjointed. Besides there being no plot to absorb me, there was not one character I found likable--I found Mrs Dalloway herself and almost all the characters vapid and shallow. This isn't an accessible story like those of a Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte or EM Forester--its very interior and page after page is filled with character's thoughts. There is a structure and technique of historic importance, but not a read I'd call enjoyable and filled with the melancholies of middle age. A formative classic for good reason, so I'd give it a shot if you haven't read it--but I finished it more frustrated than moved.
Guest More than 1 year ago
"Mrs. Dalloway" is a wonderful, touching novel. It's a bit difficult to understand, but it's worth getting through. Woolf wrote it in such a way that one can see and think through these characters. We can be with them throughout their day and the events that occur. We're drawn in as a reader. There aren't chapters in the book, and that may throw some off, but it's genuinely worth it for this piece of art.
Anonymous 8 months ago
dull%21
lit_chick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
2010, Naxos Audiobooks, Read by Juliet StevensonI read Night and Day several months ago, quite enjoyed it, and wanted to follow it with another of Woolf¿s novels. I chose Mrs. Dalloway because it is the best known and most widely acclaimed. Juliet Stevenson, narrator of this Naxos Audiobook edition, is fabulous ¿ an exquisite reader.Mrs. Dalloway is the story of a day in June 1923, as lived by Clarissa Dalloway and several other London citizens. The eponymous protagonist is a wealthy, middle-aged socialite who is planning an evening party. Running parallel to Clarissa¿s story is the story of Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked veteran of WWI; he is withdrawn, delusional, possibly on the brink of madness. The two stories intersect at the conclusion of the novel. Themes in Mrs. Dalloway include existentialism, madness, loneliness, and fear of death.The entirely of the novel is written in stream of consciousness, which for me is both its strength and its atrophy. Woolf¿s prose is beautiful, and I can appreciate her genius in fusing third person omniscient point of view with first person interior monologue; but I do not enjoy this style of writing. Fleeting transitions between characters make the prose difficult to follow, and there are no breaks in the writing, chapter or otherwise. The audiobook consisted of one track of over seven hours. In addition, the novel has no discernible plot; it explores its various themes through the musings and meanderings of characters¿ thoughts. And, truthfully, I did not find any of the characters particularly likeable. Septimus Warren Smith promises to be at least relatable, but even he is somehow blank.I much preferred Night and Day to this later novel; the characters were decidedly more likeable and relatable, and the plot of the novel had some structure. I can appreciate Mrs. Dalloway but will not reread. I also do not widely recommend the novel, but I do recommend it to those who read strictly to observe literary form and genre.
BLBera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A favorite. I love this book.
MarysGirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A tour de force! Although the stories and lives are ordinary, the telling was revolutionary at the time. Woolf weaves the storyline through a number of people as they meet, interact and move on. She's inside the head of one character and passes effortlessly into the next as they shake hands or inhabit the same park. Her insight into the human condition from the wasted life of a society matron to the blasted one of a WWI vet is stunning. Highly recommend this one.
Mromano on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
One of the basic problems of modernism in its form, is that it has no coherent plot and therefore, if you ask someone years later what Ulysses is about, they are probably going to shrug and say something like "Dublin?". The same is true of Mrs. Dalloway, a work that I read in college and really dont' remember. I didn't find it altogether a very good novel about anything particularly interesting. Like Ulysses I think novels like this are one of the reasons people don't read a whole lot anymore and won't until writers rediscover plot the way musicians need to rediscover melody and harmony. Like Joyce, Woolf is dealing here with the theme of immortality as one person's life passes through the collective unconsciousness of society. I therefore can't disagree more with Time that calls this one of the great novels. Great works are memorable, that was the basic theme of Joyce and Woolf, therefore if one can't remember one of their works, it must be counted a failure.
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write reports on whether or not I think they deserve the labelBook #15: Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf (1925)The story in a nutshell:For those who don't know, most artistic mediums first go through a period of history when they're seen as only fit for delivering entertainment, before a generation of mature creatives finally argue and prove that legitimate works of art can be created from them as well; to cite one famous example, think of the challenging, cutting-edge film directors of the 1960s and '70s, the first to argue that a movie can be just as much an artistic project as any painting or sculpture. In the world of novels, then, this period came roughly between the death of Queen Victoria (in 1900) and the outbreak of World War II (1930s), a period along with the '40s, '50s and '60s that we now call "Modernism" because of so many of those artists embracing the new back then so intensely. And indeed, just like her contemporaries James Joyce and Henry James, early-Modernist Virginia Woolf was a big believer in the idea of words (and especially sets of words) having a kind of life and heft of their own; that they weren't just good for relating a narrative story in codified form but that random words themselves hold an intrinsic power, that random sentences plucked from the head can hold a beauty and truth to them on their own, even if they make no traditional "sense" when read or spoken in the order they're in.As a result, Woolf's 1925 Mrs Dalloway is not really "about" something in particular, or at least in the way we traditionally think of novels; again, like Joyce's Ulysses (written only three years previous), it is instead a simple look at one day in the life of a middle-aged cultured woman in London, as she first prepares for a party she is throwing at her house and then actually throws it. What Mrs Dalloway really is, then, is a full transcript of what exactly goes through that woman's head during this day, literally jumping from subject to subject and from the past to the future and back without the novel itself giving us clues that it's doing so, a challenging style of writing that Woolf and other Modernist authors coined "stream of consciousness." The idea is that you are literally inside the head of Mrs Dalloway with her, as she makes her way through a random day and evening of her life; and that by having such an intimate, primal relationship with her, you end up understanding her life in a more intuitive way than a traditional novel can convey, and understanding her loves and attitudes and past heartbreaks in a deep and profound way that traditional literature usually fails at. The entire point of the book, like with many early-Modernist experiments from this time period, is not necessarily to discover what "happens," but rather to understand the people involved and their hopes and fears in as thorough a way as possible; according to the Modernists, such experimental writing styles tap straight into the reader's subconscious more then the codified filters of a traditional story, thus making it a better way to actually convey such deep character-based tales.The argument for it being a classic:As you can guess, the main argument for this book being a classic seems to be two-fold: because of its immense historical significance (being as it is one of the first truly successful Modernist novels, both in critical and financial terms); not to mention that so many people over the decades really have had such an intense and passionate reaction to it, and really do find it a much better way to impart significant character information than traditional novels. Now, that said, I think even Woolf'
pennwriter on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Woolf goes deep-sea diving into the depths of human character. What is REALLY going on in people's minds? She brings back treasure unlike any I have ever seen.But this book is difficult. The floating points of view, the sentences that must be read VERY carefully, the absence of chapter breaks -- all added up to a serious amount of work for the reader. At times I did not feel up to it, especially at the end of the day.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I didn't care for Mrs. Dalloway (character OR book). In a nutshell the plot is one day in the life of a middle-aged Londoner as she goes about planning for a party. Nothing more than that. The style of writing is tedious as it is a stream of every character's inner monologue and one must be careful of character switches for not everything is from the rambling point of view of Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway. The chronology of the story is also a maze of creativity as it bounces back and forth in time. A Wednesday in June post World War I is present day.
TerrapinJetta on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable read, I love this book.
exlibrismcp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A story about one day in the ordinary life of an ordinary woman planning a party in 1920s London. Yet the novel is anything but plain and ordinary. For the most part, the reader is carried along on a stream of consciousness that meanders from the title character¿s mind and into and out of others that she either directly or indirectly comes into contact with during the day. This makes for a challenging read because the tributaries of differing thought processes are not always clearly defined, and thus I often found myself attributing a particular musing to the wrong character and having to backtrack when it seemed too out of place. Altough the events themselves occur on a single day in June, the narrative is not hindered by time or space. Past events are recalled and ruminated upon as they relate to the particular individual¿s situation at the time. Woolf¿s intent at the time was to create a piece of work that was different and that did not fit into the traditional model, which incidentally speaks to the type of person Woolf was in her own right in that she did not see herself as a traditional type of woman in her society. In this aspect, she can claim success. This book is best appreciated and understood when the time period of the events are kept in mind. Coming on the heels of World War I, it speaks to the upheaval and uncertainty that many people felt at the time. At heart, Mrs. Dalloway and all those around her are grappling with the questions of self-discovery as they reflect on who they were in the past and who they are now in the present and how the answers to that will affect the future. I cannot confidently at this time assess my overall opinion to this book. I confess I struggled through it at times and probably would have abandoned it early on had I not had other factors spurring me on to do so. One, is that I wanted to read it before re-reading The Hours by Michael Cunningham which was inspired by Mrs. Dalloway. Second, is that I have compiled several different lists of books to be read in the future and this was on one of these lists. So, despite my struggles, tempations to abandon, and the self-inflicted pressure of feeling I had to read the book, by the time I neared the final third of the book I was actually looking forward to picking it up as opposed to dreading it as if it were a chore. The book is deserving of a better effort from me as reader and the English major in me recognizes it as a treasure of gems wating to be mined more in depth than what I did at this point in time. My second reading of The Hours did in fact ratchet up my own understanding and appreciation for the work. I hope at some point to return to it again and venture out with Clarissa Dalloway as she steps out to buy flowers for her party on a June day in London.
Cariola on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It must be about 35-40 years since I first read Mrs. Dalloway. I reread it last week for a class that I'm teaching (classic novels paired with more contemporary ones inspired by the originals; we will start Michael Cunningham's The Hours next week). While I loved it the first time, it had an even more powerful effect on me now. It is, after all, a book about the passage of time--a single day, yes, but one that lapses into memories of years gone by and raises questions about the choices we make and the regrets that follow us down the years. Additionally, it demonstrates the dehumanizing effects of war on both the individual and a nation--a message we might do well to heed today.My students, like some of the LT reviewers, were initially put off by the stream-of-consciousness narration that moves among characters major and minor. Obviously, this isn't a novel with a standard plot line or a lot of action. But Woolf's brilliance is in developing her characters through their internal monologues. Instead of being told how they think and feel, we experience it along with them following the same erratic process in which our own minds work. Added to this, she structures the plot not so much around events (after all, not much happens besides Clarissa preparing for and giving a party, and poor Septimus being driven to suicide) as around a series of carefully selected images, sounds, symbols, and motifs. The genius of Mrs. Dalloway is that it was a literary experiemnt in its day, one that exercises a student of literature's analytic skills; yet that takes nothing away from the experience of reading the novel, if one just gives in and gives up the usual expectations and flows along with Woolf. To me, it is a beautiful, timeless work. Its themes and its deep understanding of the human condition still resonate today.
apartmentcarpet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mrs. Dalloway is not the easiest book to read. It is written in stream of consciousness, and therefore meanders all over the place, from subject to subject, and backward and forward in time. But effort is well rewarded by the complete character and culture study that is presented of London just after WWI. The character Septimus, especially, is a beautifully presented study of depression and mental illness.
creativepseudonym on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book gives me mixed feelings. I can appreciate the stream of conscious style, the setting.. but when it comes down to it, the only character I really cared about was Septimus. Clarissa Dalloway, Peter Walsh and all the rest of them were all unsympathetic and dull compared to him, atleast for me.
gwendolyndawson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In my opinion, this is a perfect book. Woolf captures the characters flawlessly and depicts their relationships with pitch-perfect accuracy. The plot centers around a day in the life of Mrs. Dalloway, who is preparing for a party. However, the overall scope of the novel is much broader.
tloeffler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. This is an interesting, stream-of-consciousness novel that reminded me a lot of James Joyce's "Ulysses" (only shorter). Clarissa is having a party that evening, and it begins in the morning with her going to buy the flowers. The story moves from place to place with her, and as she intersects with other characters, the point of view changes to the other characters. I did like the book, although I think I would have liked it better if I had the leisure to read it in one sitting. There are no chapter breaks, so every time I stopped reading, it was in the middle of something, and I had difficulty getting back to where I was. I am also of the opinion that Woolf used WAY too many semi-colons, and it became distracting to me. Still, it was interesting to see the characters' connections with each other flow as smoothly as they did.
pzmiller on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I only read this book when I got partway through Michael Cunningham's "The Hours" and realized I had to first read "Mrs. Dalloway" to appreciate "The Hours." I'm so glad I stopped to read this book because it is wonderful in its own right.
coolpinkone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A literary feast that boggles the mind and treats all of your senses. Captivating, Enthralling, and very intelligent. A masterpiece of masterpieces... and definitely time for a re-read!!! I can't wait.
jasmyn9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just couldn't finish this book. I made it up to just after page 100 and had to put it down. The only person I was able to enjoy was the crazy guy. I'll set it aside for now and perhaps take it up again later for another shot.1/5