Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
FRIDAY FAVOURITE~MRS DALLOWAY
What can be said about the literary titan, Virginia Woolf & the masterpiece that is her fourth novel that hasn’t been uttered before? Routinely included in
myriad best novels of all time lists & described as the greatest English language novel ever published, Mrs Dalloway is a revolutionary book that changed the literary landscape. Compared to Ulysses by James Joyce, we similarly have duelling story structures and a narrative that winds through time and character.
Full disclosure – I think when I first read this as a teen I didn’t enjoy it or finish (please don’t petition #instagram to delete this account). Woolf is recognised as a pioneer of a stream of consciousness style of writing & the prose is seriously dense, commanding and requiring your full attention which I didn’t give.
Reading this is as if you have somehow gained the ability to not only read the mind of anyone you pass on the street but immediately on sight understand their personality and history. Woolf moves with speed through a colourful cast, sending the reader headfirst back in time.
The novel depicts a single day in June from the perspective of a number of characters. The year is 1923. The war is over, but the memory of its unprecedented destruction still hangs over London. Clarissa Dalloway is planning a party for her politician husband & as her day unfolds, in and around Mayfair, we discover that not only is she being treated in Harley Street for severe depression, (a familiar subject to Woolf), but she also conceals a troubled past.
For me, she represents nothing less than humanity in her words. The fragility of the mind, how many different paths we can pursue in life, the luck of being born in the right place or family.
Virginia Woolf wrote of Charlotte Brontë that true works of art are timeless, shape-shifting with each read. The plot might become comfortingly familiar, but the emotional revelations within it change for the reader, adding a new layer of understanding. That for me describes the experience I have re-reading Mrs Dalloway, it’s applicability and resonance only seems to increase. There is no writer quite like Virginia Woolf ~ C
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