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.