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Top Contributor: LegoHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 28 December 2017
I first read “Mrs Dalloway” some years ago and never really got on with it, deciding – incorrectly – that she was not for me. However, Virginia Woolf, herself, has always fascinated me and, having recently read, “The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature,” I decided that I needed to give “Mrs Dalloway” another try.“Mrs Dalloway,” was first published in 1925 and is set over one summer day in June, 1923. However, as Bill Goldstein writes in, “The World Broke in Two,” Woolf started to write it in 1922, while immersed in Proust and deciding to write as she pleased, regardless of opinion. Clarissa Dalloway is getting ready to host a party and the novel begins with her plunging into London, setting out to buy some flowers.

Along the way there are various characters and points of view, things that trigger memories (obviously, echoes of Proust here) and musings on the past, questioning decisions and thinking of how life could have turned out, if only various paths were not taken. On the day of the party, Clarissa meets Peter Walsh, recently returned from India, who she could have married, had she not rejected his intensity for the more staid, and successful, Richard Dalloway (although success is relative and, although Dalloway is a politician, he had not made a Cabinet position). There is also the adjacent story of Septimus Warren Smith and his Italian wife, Rezia. Septimus is suffering from shell shock and Virginia Woolf writes movingly, and knowingly, of both the trauma of mental illness and the difficulty of watching someone you love suffer. Septimus is told that he needs to get a hobby, that there is nothing wrong with him, that he should get out of bed – in other words, he should ‘get on with it’. There is no sympathy, no understanding and no help for those young men who returned home damaged. Indeed, the First World War is everywhere in this novel, in a country which bore the scars of the conflict in every memory.

Virginia Woolf writes beautifully in this novel. There is the ‘grand deception,’ practiced by hostesses when there is a, “profound illusion in the first place about the food – how it is not paid for; and then that the table spreads itself voluntarily with glass and silver…” There is the embittered, but pious, tutor, Miss Kilman, who found religion and gained, “sinister serenity,” and the wonderful phrases just roll endlessly from her pen and create a world that is both known and yet unknown. This is London; the parks, the shops, the crowds, the people. It is a way of life now gone, but still it shows how much hidden emotion surrounds us; with every person we pass containing their own undercurrents, their own stories, their own passions. All hidden, but still there, beneath the surface. This novel makes you look at the world differently and that is what makes it so immersive.
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on 19 June 2017
I loved this so much, it perfectly shows how all our lives are entwined together whether we like it or not, it shows lives up and downs so well in our world in such a short space of time. The characters are all completely believable, you meet so many and in the book which is relatively short you learn so much about them, and their relations with eachother, perfect balance of their past and their current life. This was my first Virgina Woolf book and I've just bought two more which I am so excited to read. A mirror to society !
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on 22 February 2017
This is one of those books that has been on my list for a while. I somehow could not commit to it. Now I am so glad I did, for I would not have wanted to miss out! It took a while for me to get my head around the 'stream of consciousness' thing, and I started it several times, but I persevered and it was worth it. It's a simple plot that's been told over and over in many ways, but the way Virginia Woolf has handled it is unique. What did I enjoy most? the way the different life stories collide with this 'one day in the life of Mrs Dalloway' time structure. And the shell shocked solider grounds the message, the time wasting emptiness of the social class in which Mrs Dalloway lives. Virginia Woolf has left a legacy.
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on 24 August 2015
Reviewing Virginia Woolf seems absurdly pretentious, so I will restrict myself to trying to be helpful. It's a very very cleverly constructed book that takes you through one day in the life of an upper-middle class woman preparing to give a party the same evening. But it's not just her day, it's also other people around her or connected somehow with her. You enter the minds of these people, and see what they are thinking. It is fascinating, beautifully written and there were for me some passages that I needed to take a breath after they were so good. The structure of the story would have been very innovative in its time.
The day in question is nearly a hundred years ago, so it's a different world, and Mrs Dalloway lives on a social plane that was inaccessible for most people then. Don't expect a story that will be directly relevant to your experience, unless you are the sort of person who has problems with the servants, but do expect some insights into human psychology and emotion that might be useful, and some extraordinarily good writing.
I read Michael Cunningham's The Hours before reading this. It is partly about Virginia Woolf and the story is connected with Mrs Dalloway. I recommend reading it before or after reading this book.
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on 6 June 2018
I wanted to adore this book, it was recommended to me as the ultimate classic for character development, that it’s strips the person down in terms of their behavior and personality to all the things that lead to Mrs Dalloway to being Mrs Dalloway but on so many levels I just did not get this book, I couldn’t get my head into the heart of it. For a classic it’s very readable but I’d struggle to tell you what this book is actually about.
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on 26 February 2013
I find review comments about "wonderful prose" rather puzzling - yes there are some excellent passages but often one really effective simile is followed by two or three others which are poor. The whole effect is of an author over-writing through trying self-consciously to be "literary", which leaves the reader with a feeling of disengagement. Other parts simply don't ring true - even in the 1920s, it seems incredible that London would grind to a halt because of the presence of a car in which there may, or may not, be a member of royalty. Again there is the impression of a writer striving for effect rather than narrative truth.

The other problem with the book is that the central character is neither interesting nor particularly likeable. Somewhat curiously, Woolf seems rather better at conveying the thoughts of her male characters (particularly Peter Walsh) than of the females.

I'm still glad I read this as a famous example of the stream of consciousness style. However, I'm left wondering if Woolf is not rather over-rated and it didn't leave me rushing to try any of her other books.
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on 3 September 2014
This book requires great concentration, but it is worth it. The writer's style is taut, using elaborate vocabulary to detail the happenings on one day in 1923. Most of the action is of thought, not deeds. We hear the thoughts and worries of a small core of characters, stimulated by chance encounters on the day, encounters which open up past wounds and regrets- and some introspection. Is the successful hostess any happier than Septimus Smith, the shell-shocked First World War hero, who kills himself in the course of the day?
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on 1 March 2017
Needed this for my sister and her engish lit degree.. great quality and price, just what I was looking for. It's better to buy the books rather than borrow, as you can build up your little collections, my personal library has way over 200 books now!
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on 31 October 2014
Read this book in preparation for an English Literature course at university.It's the kind of novel that keeps you hooked and it was obviously chosen because it is a landmark novel. It is one of of the waypoints on the road to the modern novel as we know it. The book is very well written and Woolf creates a sense of each character's whole life with a few deft strokes of her pen. I think I am going to enjoy finding out more about this novel in my course. My appetite has been whetted by reading it.
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on 5 February 2016
It the the nth time that I read this book and I still enjoy it as much as the first time. Virginia Woolf's description of mental illness and its causes is so striking and poignant. Snow Beach
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