One of my resolutions this year was that I wouldn’t join any challenges. I had however already signed up to taking part with ‘Woolf in Winter’ before 2009 ended. I joined as I had never read any Virginia Woolf before and yet owned a lot of her works, which actually works with my resolutions this year to get through more of the books I have owned for ages too. So how would my first journey into the world of Virginia Woolf with ‘Mrs Dalloway’ be, would I want to read more Woolf afterwards?
‘Mrs Dalloway’ is the story of a single day in London through the eyes of several people. I know all the synopses say that it’s just through one woman but actually there are three main characters, or I felt there were. For Clarissa Dalloway wife of the Prime Minister it is a very important day as she is throwing a party. Peter Walsh has just arrived back from India and has decided to visit Clarissa the woman he was once deeply enamoured with. The other character is Septimus who passes both Peter and Clarissa in the morning in separate spots after having announced to his wife he wants to kill himself. Through these three people we see how one day can differ so much for three separate people.
Also Virginia Woolf takes us into the minds of people that these three characters pass by. So what you get is one day with three main tales that intertwine and then random thoughts as they pass. To write like this in such a short book is quite some feat and I think it’s remarkably done. However respecting that someone has written something clever, unusual and interesting doesn’t mean that I actually liked the book and sadly I wasn’t a huge fan. I found all of the characters bar Septimus quite dull and one dimensional. I did find the passages about Septimus and the way his mind was working utterly fascinating and that and Clarissa looking back on her past and the love she felt for Sally Seton which again was written perfectly. Bar that slightly interesting point I found Clarissa needed a bit of a ‘good wake up shake’ and really I would have liked to have sympathised with her instead of just thinking ‘get a grip’. I am sure I will be outraging many Woolfites saying that, but it’s the truth.
Oddly this hasn’t put me off Woolf at all as I did find her writing wonderful and the way she described London was really atmospheric so I felt like I was with the characters even if I didn’t care for them. It was just that as an all-round book I ended up feeling very 50/50 about it and I don’t really like it when that happens. To the future though, I am looking forward to reading The Lighthouse in a few weeks and seeing just how that pans out. You can see a discussion about this book on Sarah’s blog later today should you wish to pop by.
Have I committed some kind of sacrilege by saying that? What are your thoughts on this novel? What are your thoughts on Virginia Woolf and which ones would you most recommend?
I am pleased to note both my mother (an avid book reader and Classics and English teacher) and the infamous Granny Savidge Reads aren’t great fans of this book but do love ‘To The Lighthouse’ and ‘Orlando’.