Monday, September 15, 2014
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
First Published 1925
Source: my audiobook was purchased at my local library book sale
Narrator: Virginia Leishman
This novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman's life, a day that is also the last day of a war veteran's life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloway's preparations for a party she is to give that evening, Woolf ultimately manages to reveal much more; for it is the feeling behind these daily events and their juxtaposition with the journey to suicide of Septimus Smith that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness.
A 1925 landmark of modernist fiction that follows an the wife of an MP around London as she prepares for her party that afternoon. Direct and vivid in its telling of details, the novel shifts from the consciousness of Clarissa Dalloway to that of others, including a shell-shocked veteran of World War I whose destiny briefly intersects with hers.
While Virginia Leishman's narration was wonderful, I really found this book difficult to listen to; it was just much too easy for my mind to wander and when I came back to the book it felt that I really hadn't missed anything. That's not a fault of the book; it's not a book meant to keep a reader rapt with action. In fact, there's very little action. And that was Woolf's point - the idea that there's a lot to be learned from the smallest actions of life.
Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours (which was inspired by Mrs. Dalloway), says of Mrs. Dalloway: "Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English..." I feel like I missed that in listening to the book. So while I can say that I've read Mrs. Dalloway, I don't feel that I've really appreciated the book, as much as I enjoyed it. Somewhere on my bookshelves, I have a copy of this book and I'm almost certain to be picking it up and rereading this book one day. There is just so much to think about in the book and I feel like I didn't give it the attention it deserves.