- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 1 edition (25 May 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141182490
- ISBN-13: 978-0141182490
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.7 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 181 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 65,851 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mrs Dalloway Paperback – 19 Sep 2000
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About the Author
In 1912 Virginia married Leonard Woolf, a writer and social reformer. Three years later, her first novel The Voyage Out was published, followed by Night and Day (1919) and Jacob's Room (1922). Between 1925 and 1931 Virginia Woolf produced what are now regarded as her finest masterpieces, from Mrs Dalloway (1925) to The Waves (1931). She also maintained an astonishing output of literary criticism, short fiction, journalism and biography. On 28 March 1941, a few months before the publication of her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia Woolf committed suicide.
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Conceptually at least, Woolf's work could be considered derivative of James Joyce's classic Ulysses which was written several years earlier. Each concern the daily lives of a range of characters, living in the British Isles, on a single day, and in each novel, that day is in the middle of June. The stream-of-consciousness technique is used in each. Woolf's work is much shorter, and in ways, more intense as a result. And Woolf's work concerns the "gratin" of society, the "ruling class," as they socialize, making and reinforcing connections, and largely ignoring the catastrophe that overwhelmed Europe, ending only five years earlier, casting its "short shadow" on current events. Where Woolf has the clear edge is in her depiction of that always fascinating subject: how women and men interact.
Clarissa Dalloway awakes, and throughout the day will be preparing for the party she will hold that night to help her husband's career. Sometimes she is reduced to a single "s," as in the third letter of Mrs. Richard Dalloway. Her role as wife and supporter is a key theme in the novel. They have a daughter, Elizabeth, 18, who, as many daughters of that age do, yearn for some independence. Peter Walsh, who once courted Clarissa in her youth, 30 years before, and is six months older than her, is just back from a few years "managing" things in India, and immediately races to see her, in part to report the news that he is in love with the young wife of a British major in India, who has two children. Hum! Why, oh why, indeed? The "backdrop," central London, Mayfair, Oxford Street, et al. is repeatedly referenced as an integral part of the work.
Woolf depicts "minor characters" with deft strokes; so much so that they are so memorable that the adjective "minor" does not do them justice. There is Septimus Warren Smith who "...went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare's plays and Miss Isabel Pole in a green dress walking in a square." He returned with what we now call PTSD caused by the loss of a friend; he also returned with an Italian wife, Lucrezia. There is Miss Kilman, of the frayed cloth coat, around 40, who knows that life has passed her by, and is the tutor of Elizabeth. Miss Kilman has found solace in religion. Perhaps four generations later, I became acquainted with the "Harley Street" doctors, and their clients (patients), and so I was most impressed with Woolf's depiction of one of their antecedents, Sir William Bradshaw. Woolf says: "Sir William said he never spoke of `madness'; he called it not having a sense of proportion." Hum, again. And they always seem to know this quiet place in the countryside where the "client" will not trouble or embarrass the family. Or, as Woolf put it: "He swooped; he devoured. He shut people up. It was this combination of decision and humanity that endeared Sir William so greatly to the relations of his victims."
Much more laconic that Joyce, as I have said, and equally so compared to Proust, but Woolf novel ends with the party - will it be "successful," and yes it will be if we don't mention unpleasant things like death - that is worthy of Proust's descriptions of the "gratin" across the channel. I foresee reading To the Lighthouse in the next six months. As for Mrs. Dalloway, 5-stars, plus.