Friday, February 09, 2007

Classics Challenge: Mrs Dalloway

My second book for the classics challenge is Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I bought this a couple of years ago inspired by the book, The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. Of course, now I don’t remember the latter book, but Mrs. Dalloway has languished on my TBR pile, probably for at least a couple of years.
Only the discipline of a reading challenge inspired me to read this and I am heartily glad I did. Although Mrs. Dalloway isn’t a light read, it is beautiful. It is also almost plotless which can be challenging at times. Dalloway is a story of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway and of the people who share her world, however peripherally. The reader follows this day, as Clarissa prepares for an evening party.
Mrs. Dalloway has many themes but one of the most profound is that of reaching a certain turning point in life. Clarissa and her friends are in their 50’s and are looking back at a life over half over. They ponder their mortality, their past loves and especially the present moment.
One has a presentiment of Woolf’s depression and eventual suicide. One character in Dalloway suffers from an apparent psychotic depression and commits suicide. Clarissa sees his death as almost heroic; a defiance of aging. She muses on her own temptation to kill herself, perhaps by fire, and of her fear of living her life to its natural end.
This is not to imply that Dalloway is a depressing book. It is, rather, haunting and poetic. The characters drift in and out, going about their daily routines. In places the language is delightful. Here is a description of Clarissa at her party: “She wore ear-rings, and a silver-green mermaid’s dress. Lolloping on the waves and braiding her tresses she seemed, having that gift still; to be; to exist; to sum it all up in the moment as she passed; turned, caught her scarf in some other woman’s dress, unhitched it, laughed, all with the most perfect ease and air of a creature floating in its element. But age had brushed her; even as a mermaid might behold in her glass the setting sun on some very clear evening over the waves.”
This is a novel truly deserving of the name “classic.” It also deserves to be read. I hope you consider trying it.

6 comments:

booklogged said...

Gee, I've never felt like reading this, but your review makes it sound like I should consider it. Good review.

fay said...

This was my first Woolf, and I remember loving it. The nice thing about your review is that it is more representational than evaluative, which will steer readers either toward or away from the book, based on their own taste in reading. It's one of the advantages of reading bloggers over professional book reviewers, who often give a plot summary followed by thumbs up or thumbs down. It's possible to recommend a book, while also giving enough detail that people can make up their own minds about reading it, which is what you have done here.

Eva said...

I really enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway; read it last December. It's definitely not a quick read though! Your review reminded me of how good it was. :)

Larry said...

I also enjoyed Mrs. Dalloway. Have you read To The Lighthouse?

Woolf's style is so different than that of any other novelist. It took me a while to learn to enjoy it.

sognatrice said...

I *love* Mrs. Dalloway--all of Woolf's books actually. Orlando and The Waves are other lesser-known favorites of mine :)

gel said...

Yes, it's already on my list since I met a blogger about a month ago who uses that name as part of her email addy! I've read other Woolf.
Your reviews incites wanting to read this.