Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

27 Jun

First book, here we go! Of course, for me, I had to start with my personal favorite and forever homegirl, Virginia Woolf.

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Published: 1925

Genre: Fiction (stream of consciousness, feminism, modernism, 1920’s, post-WWI, upper-class British society)

Difficulty: Somewhat difficult, can get confusing at times.

Quick Read?: Deceptively not. Crawl into bed with this one, give yourself some time.

Synopsis: Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged mother and housewife in London, is planning a dinner party for that night. The novel follows her, and those around her, as she puts together the party with her servants. Her life intersects with her own family–her husband, her daughter–but also her former suitor, Richard, who stops in unexpectedly, and war veteran (and obvious victim of PTSD) Septimus. As Clarissa navigates her past and present, she attempts to pull off the perfect dinner party, only to be drawn out it’s revelry by an inevitable feeling of connection with the universe.

Yeah, OK, but why should I read this?:  Now I won’t even pretend I’m not biased here, because I totally am. I love me some Woolf, and modernist prose and poetry never fails to take my breath away.

That being said, Mrs. Dalloway is an absolute classic feminist text. If you have any issues in issues of gender or sexuality, any work by Woolf will be right up your alley, in that she helped form the feminist movement as we know it today. Clarissa’s struggles to be seen as a good wife, and as someone of importance in society, is one that is painful to watch her struggle through, though I’m sure for many women is a familiar struggle.

Also, the modernist stream of consciousness that can make this book difficult also makes it beautiful. As I’ll mention later, read it slowly. The narrator changes constantly, sometimes even mid-sentence. The beautiful flow from voice to voice can be overwhelming, but also incredibly moving. Don’t let it discourage you–I hate to say it, but you really do gotta go with the flow to enjoy this!

If you like this, try: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce, The Complete Short Stories by Flannery O’Connor, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, A Room of One’s Own by Woolf, To the Lighthouse by Woolf

The lovely Virginia Woolf herself, looking whimsical here.

A Few Intriguing Facts:

  • Woolf would have total mental breakdowns after she would finish her novels. Her writing on mental illness and it’s treatment, in all of her books, is pretty fascinating.
  • Mrs. Dalloway was the basis for the book and movie “The Hours,” by Michael Cunningham. It follows how the novel effected Woolf herself and others who would read her work throughout the twentieth century.

4 Responses to “Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf”

  1. cdpung July 27, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    I’ll agree that Mrs. Dalloway is a lovely little book. Have you read To the Lighthouse? If you haven’t, I’d highly recommend it. I’d say it has a more mature outlook than Mrs. Dalloway, and with To the Lighthouse, her artistic vision isn’t at all compromised by controversial ideas–she puts artistry first in this novel, is what I’m trying to say.

    • Better Know A Book July 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      I have read To the Lighthouse, and I love it! I’ll probably slowly add all of Woolf’s works up here…and yeah, Woolf’s views on art and life in Lighthouse are more pronounced, in a way, I can agree with you there!

  2. The Three Balladeers January 27, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    I know it was your first post, like 6 months ago, but I had to comment on this one, because I read my first Virginia woolf book last November (shame it was so late in my life, but it’s never too late uh?) and I started with Mrs Dalloway. Spending time with you guys made me want to discover her, and I only got time then! And it was like my very own latest literature epiphany (yeah, that much!)! 😉 I just loved it, and it made me wanna read more of her (I’ve just started The Waves), and know about her – I can’t wait to get into her letters. You know I’m more a linguist than a lit girl, and I just found her syntax and style striking!

    To sum up, c’est magnifique and je l’aime ! 😉



  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (A Good Love Story Series #2) « Better Know A Book - February 9, 2012

    […] like this, try: Pride and Prejudice or Persuasion by Austen; David Copperfield by Chales Dickens; Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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