My rating: 3 of 5 stars
It took me three months to read Mrs. Dalloway. Sometimes, I wasn’t sure if I would finish this little gem. Without chapters and a clear point of view, this novel requires attention and respect. If I could write like Virginia Woolf, I probably would not have written this book. Still, I’m glad she did because Mrs. Dalloway is full of prose that is worth reading (even if you do it with SparkNotes open next you). In my opinion, whether or not you can follow the story or care for the characters is besides the point. There are profound moments hidden within this muddled society, for example:
“That was the devilish part of her-this coldness, this woodenness, something very profound in her, which he had felt again this morning talking to her; an impenetrability. Yet Heaven knows he loved her. She had some queer power of fiddling on one’s nerves, turning one’s nerves to fiddle-strings, yes (60-61).”
Woolf writes with clarity about the way that people interact with and effect each other. Even though I found it hard to keep the characters and their memories straight, I found Woolf’s ability to depict these human characters, without compromising their flaws or attributes, impressive, to say the least. In the end, I was invested in Sally Seton, Peter Walsh, Mrs. Dalloway, Mr. Dalloway, and Elizabeth.
Additionally, I loved Septimus’s story and would have read an entire novel about he and his wife. I might have liked him for the same reason Mrs. Dalloway does, “She felt very like him-the young man that killed himself. She felt glad that he had done it; thrown it away. The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved that air. He made her feel the beauty; made her feel the fun (186).” I thought the novel could have ended with her alone by the window thinking this about Septimus. It didn’t though. Woolf put all her characters back together and left it up to us to interpret the rest.
Some other lines that I loved:
“She was at her worst-effusive, insincere. It was a great mistake to have come. He should have stayed at home and read his book, though Peter Walsh…”
“Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was along. There was an embrace in death.”
“Then…there was the terror; the overwhelming incapacity, one’s parents giving it into one’s hands, this life, to be lived to the end, to be walked with serenely; there was in the depths of her heart and awful fear.”