Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mrs. Dalloway


As a slight deviation from my initial plan, I read Mrs. Dalloway as the fourth book for my classics challenge. I got Mrs. Dalloway from Bethany for winning the first Orbis Terrarum Giveaway. Thank you Bethany!

Mrs. Dalloway is set in England around the post world war I period. It describes a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway. Clarissa goes about her activities in preparation for a party that she is throwing that evening.

Through Clarissa’s thoughts and actions, Virginia Woolf brings out the complexity of the social structure in post war England.

 During the course of the day, she thinks about her past and her present and contemplates on how her life has turned out. She picked the stable and successful Richard Dalloway over the enigmatic Peter Walsh to marry and she wonders if she made the right choice in life. Peter Walsh confuses her more by paying her a visit in the afternoon after having just returned from India. As a parallel story, we see Septimus a World War I veteran who is in the park with his wife Lucrezia. Ever since the war, Septimus has been suffering from hallucinations. From the park Septimus and Rezia go to a psychiatrist who suggests that it might be better for Septimus to be admitted in a home for the mentally ill in the country. A few hours later, Septimus commits suicide by jumping out a window.

Towards the end of the novel you see how both the stories tie together. After having spent the entire day thinking about her life and her decisions, Clarissa hears about Septimus and his suicide during the evening party. She thinks about it and eventually decides that she actually understands what it is that he does and eventually comes to admire the act. Somehow the parts just fit right in together!

Virginia Woolf beautifully brings out the status of women in England around that time – she just weaves it into Clarissa’s thoughts and activities. She also exposes the pseudo society of England that was so wealth conscious and relationships were built on social standing and not on personalities.

 

Reading Mrs. Dalloway was a tough task for me. The language wasn’t simple and a lot of the sentences went on for more than 10 lines. A sentence contained many different thoughts and it took me a while to actually get into the book and understand Virginia Woolf’s writing style. Evidently, this is my first Woolf book. While I glanced at the book initially, it looked short and easy to read... I was totally mistaken. But I must say that I actually started liking the book halfway through it. I realized that Woolf must have been so forward in thought to write a book like in 1925. It definitely paved the way for modern writing.

Mrs. Dalloway is an interesting read and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different and has the time and the patience to sit through Virginia Woolf’s complex web of thoughts and words.

 

17 comments:

Trish said...

I read this book for college and loved it. But you're right, the stream of consciousness is not easy at first. After reading this one, I would recommend The Hours by Michael Cunningham. He puts a nice twist the the story.

Dar said...

I read this for my book club a few years back. I would say the same thing-I had difficulty with the writing but ended up kind of liking it by the end. I know many people enjoy reading Woolf but that one was enough for me. lol.

I can't believe you're already on your fourth book for the challenge. Wowser!

Ramya said...

@trish - haven't heard of michael cunningham but shall try to get his book.. thanks for the reco!

@dar - oh yeah.. i had such a tough time getting a hang of this one.. i don't think i'll take another woolf book anytime soon.. but definitely will do so later (maybe YEARS later) when the effect of mrs.dalloway has worn off!

Shoshana said...

I admit that I don't usually sit through classic. Trying this year, but still wading my way through some Russian authors.

Trish, I love The Hours by Cunningham. The movie was good too.

tanabata said...

I had a hard time with Mrs. Dalloway too. It was worth reading but I think stream-of-consciousness and I just don't get along very well.
You should definitely read The Hours now that you've read Mrs. Dalloway. Both the book and movie are good.

Ramya said...

@Shoshana - russian authorS in plural? wow! you must have a lot of patience. I read crime and punishment this year but that is enough russian authors in a year for me!

@tanabata - i guess you saw that Trish recommended the same book as well.. hmm..two recos.. now i just have to read it!!

Nymeth said...

One day I'll read this one. I've been meaning to for years, and I loved Michael Cunningham's The Hours, but for some reason I haven't yet found the right time to tackle it. Your reviews is encouraging, though.

C. B. James said...

I'm not a fan of Virginia Woolf though I have read Mrs. Dalloway twice for graduate school. My partner loves her work, though.

Welcome to the Short Story September mini-challenge, too. I've added you to the participants link list.

Myrhte said...

I just finished my first Woolf as well, The Waves. While I found it getting a bit boring, I am not ready to shove Virginia aside as an author I don't like, because there was something I liked about her writing. I still have To the Lighthouse on my stack.

I have The Hours on my TBR-pile as well, so I am thinking about reading these two soon to keep with the Woolf-theme.

Sathej said...

Honestly, the rate at which you read is quite amazing. I looked up your table of contents too - its been quite a climb as regards the number of books per year. Now its almost 30 and the year is not yet down! All praise for your passion :) I wish I too had time to read like this. I just bought a few books last week on a gift cheque - A Farewell to Arms, The Hungry Tide (Amitav Ghosh), To Kill the Mocking Bird and one more..(don't remember now:)Problem is time :(
Sathej

Ramya said...

@james - thanks.. i am excited about the challenge. you read mrs.dalloway twice? wow! i am wondering how i would feel about the book if i read it again..

@myrthe - i'll be right over to check out your review for Waves. I am not opposed to reading woolf books.. just won't do it soon!:)

@sathej - i think blogging really helps.. this year, i've taken part in 3 challenges and somehow, there's more motivation to read and post about it.. i am pretty excited about my count for this year as well.. and more importantly i think i am reading a good selection of books!

brad said...

haha. glad you got through it!! :) I haven't read my copy yet. It looks like people have mix feelings about it.

Ramya said...

@brad! - nice to meet you here!:) well, you should give it a shot:) bethany sent me my copy and i am so glad she did.. i kinda liked this one! if you ever get around to reading this in spite your totally busy schedule (you know, your work, studying and of course, the chicken!) you have to blog about what you thought of it!

Anna said...

Virginia Woolf is not an easy read. That's probably why I haven't read her since college. But your view has made me want to read this book, which I haven't yet.

Ramya said...

@anna - you should try Mrs. Dalloway.. it is not a big book in terms of length but it is a pretty intense book in terms of language and style of writing.. i'd be curious to see what you have to say about it!:)

bethany said...

awesome!!! wow, you got tons of comments, way to go girl!!! I am glad I got to send you this book. I, like Brad have yet to read our copy.

Amanda said...

I love Virginia Woolf, but she's extremely difficult to read.