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Mrs. Dalloway Paperback – September 24, 1990
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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
Mrs. Dalloway ... contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English ... -- Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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 regret...it'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.
The chief pleasures of the book are the vivid, evocative, poetic language, and Woolf's gift for inner dialogue - the stories characters tell themselves - which in turn reveals them to us.
How good is the book? I "Mrs. Dalloway" can be found on many lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century, one of Virginia Woolf's major achievements. More often than not, it's considered her best work after "To the Lighthouse." Personally, I loved the book, and it led me to start reading her other books and to the biographies. The practical question is not whether this is a good book - it is arguably a great book. The question is whether it is for you.
The book is unapologetically literary, which means that if you don't find language a genuine pleasure, you probably won't enjoy it. For those who do, the rich, imaginative language is the reason for reading. There is little in the way of conventional suspense to keep one turning the pages. The stream-of-consciousness style is demanding, and it requires an attentive reader. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to overemphasize the difficulties. The action of the book is relatively easy to follow, and one does not need a concordance to appreciate it. In fact a good sense of the language can be had simply by reading the first few pages provided in Amazon's section, "Look Inside the Book."
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I know, I know. Woolf is classic. But I just couldn’t stand this book. The way it was written literally gave me a headache. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Adan Ramie
WOOLF wrote to a rhythm more than she wrote to a plot, and Mrs. Dalloway is a perfect example of her stellar method. Is there one sentence, one word, that is not perfect? Read morePublished 22 days ago by Robert McDowell
I originally purchased this book for a women's literature class. Not only was this class one of the best classes I have ever taken but, this book was phenomenal. Read morePublished 1 month ago by sarahashley
The way it is written is magic, amazingly beautiful. Every character, from Clarissa Dalloway to her daughter Elizabeth and her tutor Miiss Kidman, Septimus, the poor veteran with... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Margherita S. Larson
this is a tedious book that does not actually have a plot. It is a stream of consciousness from a woman with a dark view on life - she took her own life in the end, and I'm not... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Madeline