Julie Christine's Reviews > Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
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“What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with this extraordinary excitement?
It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was.”

I wake hours before dawn, thinking about tonight. There will be a party. I am the guest of honor and yet I am also organizing the details of seating and food and wine. I am the entertainment, a speech practiced over and over, using the cat tree as a podium, pretending to speak in front of the microphone that will be there in reality, carrying my low, soft voice into a deep, narrow room. I don't know how many will show, but I do know some of the guests, if I happen to catch their eye as I speak, will stir emotions in my already-heightened state that may lead to tears. I will have to modulate my breathing and empty my thoughts.

But today, in this long stretch of time before the zero hour, I have a house to clean—not that anyone will be here but, oh the nervous energy, oh the housework that has not happened this month of book launch—catering to fetch, wine to chill, legs to shave, black hosiery to sort through to look for a decent pair, since I have not worn anything of the sort in five, eight, ten years? I have a slight hangover to maneuver, since a family gathering last night saw my cup overflowing, literally. Vermentino and Rioja.

Clarissa. I feel you. I feel you in the lives I will pass on the street today, in the grocery store, in the café where I hope to sneak a few relaxing moments with some hot tea and my journal. Like you, a blast from my past has suddenly appeared, thirty years after he vanished, and I am thinking, thinking about young love and how I've changed and has he changed and what would we say, what will we say if we should meet? And on my walk this morning, the walk that I take nearly every morning that leads me through a small Victorian village to a working port and out to a beach and a trail, always encountering a man who bundles up on a park bench February through October, alone, asleep sometimes, sometimes awake, I sat beside him when a coyote came after me one day and we talked and now I wonder what wars he has fought, and which windows he has looked out of, deciding at the last moment not to jump.
“Quiet descended on her, calm, content, as her needle, drawing the silk smoothly to its gentle pause, collected the green folds together and attached them, very lightly, to the belt. So on a summer’s day waves collect, overbalance, and fall; collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying “that is all” more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more, says the heart, committing its burden to some sea, which sighs collectively for all sorrows, and renews, begins, collects, lets fall. And the body alone listens to the passing bee; the wave breaking; the dog barking, far away barking and barking.”

Clarissa. You long to take the plunge. Your life has been so proscribed, so proper, and now this return of an old love brings you back to that very singular moment in time where passion and possibility were all around you: the fervent love of a beautiful woman just tingling-fingertips away; the puppy-dog devotion of a silly man that you scorned for the dull security of Richard Dalloway. And now, in your fifties, depressed, mourning the life you never had, the youth that drains from your body and soul. A day in the life . . . a day like all the other days. A day that changes everything. Nothing.

Today, as the fog clears from my brain, I will listen, I will try to listen and watch and take tender, bittersweet note of inner lives, not only my own, but those playing out around me, the couple on the park bench spending their last moments together, unaware of the tragedy soon to befall them, of a beautiful young woman on the edge of her own bloom, hers rising, Clarissa's fading and time marching inexorably on.

The party will soon be over. Twenty-four hours from now, I will be thinking of another walk, the same trail the same lives, possibly the same hangover. I will be one day older. Will I have done enough the day before to have made a difference in those to follow?
The word "time" split its husk; poured its riches over him; and from his lips fell like shells, like shavings from a plane, without his making them, hard, white, imperishable words, and flew to attach themselves to their places in an ode to Time; an immortal ode to Time.


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Reading Progress

February 17, 2016 – Started Reading
February 17, 2016 – Shelved
February 18, 2016 –
page 30
15.23% ""The sparrow fluttering, rising, and falling in jagged fountains were part of the pattern; the white and blue, barred with black branches. Sounds made harmonies with premeditation; the spaces between them were as significant as the sounds. All taken together meant the birth of a new religion—""
February 19, 2016 –
page 57
28.93% ""So on this summer's day wave collect, overbalance, and fall' collect and fall; and the whole world seems to be saying "that is all" more and more ponderously, until even the heart in the body which lies in the sun on the beach says too, That is all. Fear no more, says the heart. Fear no more says the heart, committing its burden to some sea ..." \n Oh the sadness, the madness."
February 21, 2016 –
page 108
54.82% ""Through all the ages—when the pavement was grass, when it was swamp, though the age of tusk and mammoth, through the age of silent sunrise, the battered woman—for she wore a skirt—stood singing of love—love which has lasted a million years, she sang, love which prevails, and millions of years ago, her lover, who had been dead these centuries, had walked, she crooned, with her in May;""
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: classic
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: war-conflict
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: british-isles-theme-setting
February 23, 2016 – Shelved as: book-club-selection
February 23, 2016 – Finished Reading
February 28, 2016 – Shelved as: best-of-2016

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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Julie Christine It's my February #woolfalong read!


message 2: by Esil (new)

Esil Beautiful, beautiful review Julie! Good luck with the party :)


Cheryl I'm glad you composed thoughts on this, Julie. Beautiful review.


Michael Exquisite review, especially for how you immrese us in Clarissa. The water and wave metaphor. Quite a thing with Woolf it seems, from To the Lighthouse to The Waves, from The Voyage Out to how she died.


Julie Christine Esil wrote: "Beautiful, beautiful review Julie! Good luck with the party :)"

Oh Esil, thank you. And last night was lovely!!


Julie Christine Cheryl wrote: "I'm glad you composed thoughts on this, Julie. Beautiful review."

Thank you, my friend.


Julie Christine Michael wrote: "Exquisite review, especially for how you immrese us in Clarissa. The water and wave metaphor. Quite a thing with Woolf it seems, from To the Lighthouse to The Waves, from The Voyage Out to how she ..." Oh Michael, so true. And I feel such a connection to that theme-living on a small peninsula, nearly surrounded by water- it shapes and moves one's perspective.

I'm looking forward to The Voyage Out- it's my #Woolfalong read for March.


message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan I just love this.


Julie Christine Susan wrote: "I just love this."
Susan, thank you!


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