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Mrs Dalloway (Cathedral Classics) [Paperback]

by Virginia Woolf
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)

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Book Description

October 20, 2010 1907523650 978-1907523656
Virginia Woolf's novel follows a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, an upper class married Englishwoman, whose inner life exists in a state of continuous tension. She is torn between the boring conventional existence she has chosen to lead, and thoughts of what might have been, had she accepted the marriage proposal of the Bohemian Peter Walsh. But Walsh too, has his doubts, and Woolf shows that all her characters, despite making radically different life-choices, are ultimately left uneasy and questioning of their role in existence. Outwardly self-assured, inwardly despairing, Mrs Dalloway symbolizes upper class English Society, of which the novel is, in part, a critique.

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Editorial Reviews Review

As Clarissa Dalloway walks through London on a fine June morning, a sky-writing plane captures her attention. Crowds stare upwards to decipher the message while the plane turns and loops, leaving off one letter, picking up another. Like the airplane's swooping path, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa and those whose lives brush hers--from Peter Walsh, whom she spurned years ago, to her daughter Elizabeth, the girl's angry teacher, Doris Kilman, and war-shocked Septimus Warren Smith, who is sinking into madness.

As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for the party she is giving that evening, a series of events intrudes on her composure. Her husband is invited, without her, to lunch with Lady Bruton (who, Clarissa notes anxiously, gives the most amusing luncheons). Meanwhile, Peter Walsh appears, recently from India, to criticize and confide in her. His sudden arrival evokes memories of a distant past, the choices she made then, and her wistful friendship with Sally Seton.

Woolf then explores the relationships between women and men, and between women, as Clarissa muses, "It was something central which permeated; something warm which broke up surfaces and rippled the cold contact of man and woman, or of women together.... Her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?" While Clarissa is transported to past afternoons with Sally, and as she sits mending her green dress, Warren Smith catapults desperately into his delusions. Although his troubles form a tangent to Clarissa's web, they undeniably touch it, and the strands connecting all these characters draw tighter as evening deepens. As she immerses us in each inner life, Virginia Woolf offers exquisite, painful images of the past bleeding into the present, of desire overwhelmed by society's demands. --Joannie Kervran Stangeland --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"Mrs. Dalloway 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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Cathedral Classics
  • Paperback: 122 pages
  • Publisher: Aziloth Books (October 20, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907523650
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907523656
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (277 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #375,158 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More 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.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
196 of 208 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Mystery of Human Personality October 8, 2000
By A Customer
Although the time covered in this complex novel is only one day, Virginia Woolf, through her genius, manages to cover a lifetime unraveling and exposing the mysteries of the human personality.
The central character of the novel is the delicate Clarissa Dalloway, a disciplined English gentlewoman who provides the perfect contrast to another of the book's characters, Septimus Warren Smith, an ex-soldier whose world is disintegrating into chaos. Although Clarissa and Septimus never meet, it is through the interweaving of each one's story into a gossamer whole that Woolf works her genius.
The book is set on a June day in 1923, as Clarissa prepares for a party that evening. Unfolding events trigger memories and recollections of her past, and Woolf offers these bits and pieces to the reader who must then construct the psychological and emotional makeup of Clarissa Dalloway in his own mind. We also learn much about Clarissa through the thoughts of other characters, such as her one-time lover, Peter Walsh, her friend, Sally Seton, her husband, Richard and her daughter Elizabeth.
It is Septimus Warren Smith, however, driven to the brink of insanity by the war, an insanity that even his wife's tender ministrations cannot cure, who acts as Clarissa's societal antithesis and serves to divide her world into the "then" and the "now."
In this extremely complex and character-driven novel, Woolf offers her readers a challenge. The novel is not separated into chapters; almost all of the action occurs in the thoughts and reminiscences of the characters and the reader must piece together the story from the random bits and pieces of information each character provides.
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65 of 68 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic lyricism in Virginia Woolf January 3, 2001
By mcl
Any young aspiring writer should compare Woolf's early work, such as Night and Day to something like Mrs. Dalloway. The transformation in narrative strength is incredible. I think Woolf found her voice when she gave up on traditional technique and focused on vivid imagery, poetic language, and really getting into the souuls of her characters.
Her views on love in this boook are heartbreaking. Love serves as mere convenience, romance is just an illusion. 9 times out of 10 people choose safety. Pretty cynical viewpoint, but she lived during the days of a crumbling Empire and wrote about it beautifully. She really achieved her greatest literary power later on in life.
Also, this book studies insanity and the doctors who are impotent to help. I'm sure woolf would have the same view in today's heavily medicated society.
This book is not for the faint of heart. She does not hide characters emotions, but tends to dwelon their weaknesses. The final party scene is brilliant. If you like this book, read To The Lighthouse, which is equally brilliant.
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98 of 109 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, but worth the effort January 3, 2004
It's not really fair to judge this book or its author by today's standards, but damn, this is a hard read. I'd read it about 20 years ago and recall struggling with the endless sentences and the rambling explorations of Mrs. Dalloway's interior thoughts, her every little fleeting idea, and the tiny events of the day in her life which this book chronicles.
Then of course when The Hours was published, I rummaged around in the bookshelf, found it, and read it again.
And then the movie came out with that wonderful cast of characters, and, well, I had to read it a third time. And I'll say this: it takes more than a single reading to harvest all the gems from this dense prose. Mrs. Dalloway grew on me with the passage of time and with three careful readings. The studied explorations into past and present, men and women, women and other women, society and the family, love and's a lot to take on in what is really a pretty small book - and only someone of Woolf's talents and brilliance could have made so much of so little.
Highly recommended, but I'm sorry - you'll probably have to read it more than once to extract every single little diamond chip.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic book that is still a joy August 30, 1997
By A Customer
I believe it was Lionel Trilling who said that if it's true that a book reads you as much as you read a book, certain books had found him at first difficult and boring, but had eventually grown friendly. "Mrs. Dalloway" found me to be -- when I first attempted to read it in high school -- a dull, even fragile creature; but with time the book made way for me in its life, and now we are rather fond acquaintances. Virginia Woolf is, of course, one of The Greats, but despite this debilitating label she is a writer whose books are addictive to any energetic and patient reader who is in love with the English language. Language is certainly not the only beauty in Woolf's work, but it is the aspect of her writing that first drew my amazed attention. She is in many ways an impressionist, a literary Monet, while we Americans are more comfortable with naturalists and expressionists, so perhaps a reader new to Woolf would need to exercise a few mind muscles which haven't had much attention paid to them, but this isnot a bad thing. And there's a good chance I'm wrong, a good chance that I'm taking my own particular weaknesses and ascribing them to the readership at large. (Oh well.) The point is this: give "Mrs. Dalloway" a chance. Go to it blind, without assumptions, with an open mind and curious heart. I think the book will find you to be a very engaging person, full of wonders and mystery.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars a lot of waffling over nothing.
Quaint prose which doesn't translate into contemporary fiction . Her observations were too clumsy and over worked. And the characters... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Jane Townsend
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic
A feast for the senses. An example of the best of English literature written between the wars. Today's writing pales by comparison.
Published 5 days ago by Sarah Seawell
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Mrs. Dalloway
I had to read this book for my monthly book club, and otherwise probably never would have given it a go. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Linda Sue Richards
1.0 out of 5 stars A tedious read
I felt this story read like the ramblings of a lunatic. I have heard all my life that this author was a great writer. I was disappointed to say the least. Read more
Published 20 days ago by LBHayes
5.0 out of 5 stars Top 10
I read this book for 2 reasons- I saw it on a list of the top ten novels ever written, and I had never read V Woolf. It did not disappoint. Read more
Published 23 days ago by Tricia Culp
5.0 out of 5 stars it's a great modernist text, of course
This novel is a great example of modernism with all it's excessive fragmentation and dizzying time leaps and humorous/sad narrative voice. Read more
Published 1 month ago by pomogirl
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic women's lit
I loved the access to the characters' inner thoughts and vulnerabilities. You have to wade thru stream of consciousness and be ready to jump to a new character w/o warning, but... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mimi Schroeder
5.0 out of 5 stars good read
Classic story by great author. We had seen the movie with the great cast. Really good stuff. I love the book.
Published 1 month ago by Diana Yergin
1.0 out of 5 stars boring
First book I ever (finally) read that had no chapters or breaks. Was not impressed with it. I don't recommend.
Published 1 month ago by jenjoe
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Have read this before but felt compelled to read again. This is the epitome of modernist literature. You have to love the writing style and characterisation. Read more
Published 2 months ago by barnettanzac
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