Margot's Reviews > Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
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Aug 06, 2010

it was amazing
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I own a copy

I can't remember how many times I have tried to write a review about "Mrs.Dalloway". I kept giving up every single time because I didn't know where to start. It's really difficult to write about Virginia Woolf's works in my opinion, first because she was such an amazing author and person. I sincerely admire her for so long now that I'm quite intimidated to write anything about her or any of her works. I have read "Mrs.Dalloway", "The Waves" but also some letters she has written to her relatives and friends and her diary too. I'm still truly amazed by the quality of her writing in any kind of circumstances and type of subject.
I'm convinced that she was able to see people's soul. She always seemed to capture the right tone, the right mood of a moment in the day or the peculiar character (real or fictional) and the way she perceived the world and all the things that were surrounding her was so accurated and deep that I just can't help myself but being amazed.
Thanks to the first sentence of the novel, Virginia Woolf invites the reader to enter the story thanks to Mrs.Dalloway who is right from the beginning the hostess of the story and she is the one who organizes the reception. She is the one who guides us through the story, and through the different moments of the day, different streets of London. There is so many characters in the novel but they are all perfectly connected by the permanent presence (often inherent) of Clarissa. There is so many point of view, but you never feel lost. The transition are so perfectly mastered that you forget them. The rythm of the narration is never broken and everything seems perfectly natural.
I have a special attachment to Septimus. His story is the one who touched me the most by reading the book. All his thoughts, his sudden love of life immediately followed by an irrepressible feeling of sadness and despair... the small universe he and his wife seem to gravitate in.

"So he was deserted. The whole world was clamouring: Kill yourself, kill yourself, for our sakes. But why should he kill himself for their sakes? Food was pleasant; the sun hot; and this killing oneself, how does one set about it, with a table knife, uglily, with floods of blood, - by sucking a gaspipe? He was too weak; he could scarcely raise his hand. Besides, now that he was quite alone, condemned, deserted, as those who are about to die are alone, there was a luxury in it, an isolation full of sublimity; a freedom which the attached can never know."

Peter remains one of the most fascinating character for me. I mean... he is not really interesting as a character but he is as he is a symbol or a metaphor of something. It's the way I perceive it after two reads. I keep thinking about the part he plays in the story and in the narration process. He is obviously a door to memories but he is more than that in my opinion. I really try to figure this out but it still remains blurred for me.

"And it was awfully strange, he thought, how she still had the power, as she came tinkling, rustling, still had the power as she came across the room, to make the moon, which he detested, rise at Bourton on the terrace in the summer sky."

By reading Virginia Woolf's diary, I know that she was fascinated by Marcel Proust's writing and she was dreaming of achieving writing as well as he was. She shared with him this fascination for memory and its power, its strength. Throughout the novel, Peter is the driving force of memory as Clarissa is more focus on the embrace of life, its wealth and its complexity. The way you perceive the world and the people who are surrounding you, the burden of the decisions you made or are going to make. And the most I think about it the most I believe that the final encounter between Clarissa and Peter is more than the confrontation between two people who have changed (and still barely the same at the same time) but it's also a confrontation between the remembrance of past and the hard reality of a present fully embraced. Maybe I'm wrong thinking that but it's the way I perceive it perhaps because of the way Clarissa and Peter talk about their past. Clarissa seems to remember memories with an accurate sense of distance and sometimes regrets I suppose where as Peter soaks in past, and he is often overwhelmed by the strength of his memories with Clarissa. I quote this passage as an example:

"He had never felt so happy in the whole of his life! Without a word they made it up. They walked down to the lake. He had twenty minutes of perfect happiness. Her voice, her laugh, her dress (something floating, white, crimson), her spirit, her adventurousness; she made them all disembark and explore the island; she startled a hen; she laughed; she sang. And all the time, he knew perfectly well, Dalloway was falling in love with her; she was falling in love with Dalloway; but it didn't seem to matter. Nothing mattered. They sat on the ground and talked-he and Clarissa. They went in and out of each other's minds without any effort. And then in a second it was over. He said to himself as they were getting into the boat, 'She will marry that man,' dully, without any resentment; but it was an obvious thing. Dalloway would marry Clarissa."

There is a sharp contrast between his vision and Clarissa's one and I think in a peculiar moment when Clarissa in on a bus when she expresses the idea that she leaves a part of her everywhere but still have to move on. Maybe my theory is false (and I don't really trust my opinions) but as I read the book, it seems clear for me.


The stream of consciousness makes the novel really intimate and creates a sort of bell jar where all the characters evolve like in a microcosm where every habit, every trait of personnality is underlined. In few pages (the novel is not so long even if it takes a lot of time to read), Viriginia Woolf succeeds in depicted a social universe and more important than that she suceeds in baring the soul of her characters.

I finish this review with a quote:

"Such are the visions which ceaselessly float up, pace beside, put their faces in front of, the actual thing; often overpowering the solitary traveller and taking away from him the sense of the earth, the wish to return, and giving him for substitute a general peace, as if (so he thinks as he advances down the forest ride) all this fever of living were simplicity itself; and myriads of things merged in one thing; and this figure, made of sky and branches as it is, had risen from the troubled sea (he is elderly, past fifty now) as a shape might be sucked up out of the waves to shower down from her magnificent hands, compassion, comprehension, absolution. So, he thinks, may I never go back to the lamplight; to the sitting-room; never finish my book; never knock out my pipe; never ring for Mrs. Turner to clear away; rather let me walk on to this great figure, who will, with a toss of her head, mount me on her streamers and let me blow to nothingness with the rest."
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Quotes Margot Liked

Virginia Woolf
“Such are the visions which ceaselessly float up, pace beside, put their faces in front of, the actual thing; often overpowering the solitary traveller and taking away from him the sense of the earth, the wish to return, and giving him for substitute a general peace, as if (so he thinks as he advances down the forest ride) all this fever of living were simplicity itself; and myriads of things merged in one thing; and this figure, made of sky and branches as it is, had risen from the troubled sea (he is elderly, past fifty now) as a shape might be sucked up out of the waves to shower down from her magnificent hands, compassion, comprehension, absolution. So, he thinks, may I never go back to the lamplight; to the sitting-room; never finish my book; never knock out my pipe; never ring for Mrs. Turner to clear away; rather let me walk on to this great figure, who will, with a toss of her head, mount me on her streamers and let me blow to nothingness with the rest.”
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf
“Such are the visions which proffer great cornucopias full of fruit to the solitary traveller, or murmur in his ear like sirens lolloping away on the green sea waves, or are dashed in his face like bunches of roses, or rise to the surface like pale faces which fishermen flounder through floods to embrace.”
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway

Virginia Woolf
“There was nobody. Her words faded. So a rocket fades. Its sparks, having grazed their way into the night, surrender to it, dark descends, pours over the outlines of houses and towers; bleak hillsides soften and fall in. But though they are gone, the night is full of them; robbed of colour, blank of windows, they exist more ponderously, give out what the frank daylight fails to transmit—the trouble and suspense of things conglomerated there in the darkness; huddled together in the darkness; reft of the relief which dawn brings when, washing the walls white and grey, spotting each windowpane, lifting the mist from the fields, showing the red brown cows peacefully grazing, all is once more decked out to the eye; exists again. I am alone; I am alone!”
Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway


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