Monday, December 10, 2007

On Finishing Mrs Dalloway

It's taken me forever but I finally finished Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway on Sunday. Actually I'm glad I took forever over this novel. It is so deliciously, wonderfully written that I think it's best savoured in little pieces. All at once might overload the system.

I think Mrs Dalloway is about as perfect as a novel gets and because I'm so attached to it, I'm a little bit nervous about really trying to review it and maybe not being able to do it justice. Perhaps instead I'll just list a few things I found interesting without trying to be in any way comprehensive.

Firstly, I'm really fascinated by the character of Clarissa Dalloway. She is so flawed- flighty, at times fickle, snobbish, even callous- but on the other hand so magnetic and charismatic. She seems simultaneously frustrated with her life and exhilarated by it, in love with Peter but also dismissive of him, class conscious but also horrified by the superficiality of the aristocracy. I think this makes her more real than many other characters in fiction, the very fact that she changes her mind from moment to moment and is not a personality composed of a fixed list of qualities.

I really enjoyed the style in which this novel is written too. Woolf captures the way the mind works so accurately that I felt I was reading the minds of the characters. The free associations and the sudden switching of topic and mood seemed so natural and realistic.

Towards the end I began to think this is a novel about aging, about looking over your life with a certain amount of experience and re-assessing the powerful moments from your youth. I liked that the aging process did not dull sensation for Clarissa. In fact, she seemed more sensitive and more insightful than she had ever been as a young woman.

Finally, nobody does descriptive writing quite like Woolf. Here is another wonderful image (of the sun setting) and it seems a good way to end this post:

I resign, the evening seemed to say, as it paled and faded above the battlements and prominences, moulded, pointed, of hotel, flat, and block of shops, I fade, she was beginning, I disappear, but London would have none of it, and rushed her bayonets into the sky, pinioned her, constrained her to partnership in her revelry.

8 comments:

Fay Sheco said...

Jess, you make me want to read it again. It would be interesting to see what I think of Mrs. D, now that I am so much closer to her age!

Dorothy W. said...

Did my last comment come through? Now I'm not sure. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I love Mrs. Dalloway and the book certainly deserves and rewards savoring!

jess said...

Fay, I think this is a book I'd like to read every ten years or so, just to see what it's like at different stages of life.

Dorothy, looks like only one comment came through. I'm glad you like Mrs Dalloway too though.

LK said...

Congrats! Virginia Woolf is wonderful, but it does take me a while to get through her text sometimes. What are your future Woolf reading plans?

Lisa Y said...

I've just started reading it recently for the very first time and on the first ten pages or so (I'm not going to read your review until I'm done :D). It indeed takes forever. I just can't move any faster because I keep on reviting the pages I've just read to marvel at the beautiful writing.

jess said...

Thanks LK. I'm hoping to read A Room of One's Own soon- I picked up a second-hand copy recently- but other than that I'm not sure. I definately want to read some more of her novels though.

I look forward to hearing what you think Lisa.

Melanie said...

I need to reread Mrs. D. too; it's been a while. I think my next favourite Woolf is The Waves.

Norbert said...

Hello,
well, I liked Mrs dalloway too. But I think there is a sort of sadness throughout the novel. And you get off this novel different. It's a form of spleen, isn't it ?