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Summary: Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway may be challenging but it is certainly rewarding. Woolf effortlessly lures you into the lives of her characters and beautifully captures the London in her magical description. Any lover of London or Fitzgerald will enjoy this masterful novel.
Review: Mrs Dalloway follows a basic plot about a group of upper class people in the inter war period of London as they prepare for a party hosted by the central protagonist Clarissa, Mrs Dalloway. The plot may be simplistic but the novel is far more complex. Woolf uses this basis to explore in depth the lives of her characters in great scrutiny, a pioneering approach in the period of which Woolf was writing where the focus of the novel was on the plot. Woolf writes in a stream of consciousness to enable the reader to gain insight into the thoughts of the different characters. Through this method the reader is able to analyse the events through the eyes of multiple characters. Woolf cleverly uses the differing thoughts of the characters to build up their past convincingly which helps engage the reader in her simple plot. Woolf largely focuses on the meaning of existence through her character’s thoughts and provides insight into the complex nature of living. This focus is mainly provided by the substantial sections of the novel dedicated both to Clarissa and Septimus Warren Smith. Septimus a World War One veteran is not part of the group attending the party but offers an interesting contrast to Clarissa and provides a moving portray of those living with the consequences of war. Not only does Woolf use her characters to consider deep themes of the human existence but she uses them to provide detailed descriptions of their environments too which creates a vibrant atmosphere which is almost palpable, I felt as though I myself was wondering though London as I read Mrs Dalloway. The beautiful description found in the novel is rare and is akin to the brilliant atmosphere that F. Scott Fitzgerald develops in The Great Gatsby. This said, Woolf is not as easy to read as Fitzgerald, Mrs Dalloway requires careful reading and a high level of concentration to follow the stream of thoughts as they do not belong to a single character. At times this means that the prose can be ‘heavy going’, however, it is worth pursuing as the novel is equally rewarding once you have adapted to Woolf’s style. A second reading would be sure to ensure an even greater appreciation for the novel. I know I will definitely be reading it again!
I would highly recommend reading Mrs Dalloway, there is a reason why it is thought to be one of the best English language novels written and even if you don’t like it you will understand the controversy of the style employed.
Have you read Mrs Dalloway and if so what did you think, did you enjoy it too? Or do you dislike Woolf’s style? Do you have any recommendations for similar style novels? I would love to know!