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Mrs. Dalloway
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1001 book reviews > Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

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Jenni (sprainedbrain) | 71 comments I loved this one so much more than To the Lighthouse. Woolf could certainly write a lovely sentence, and either I’m getting used to her stream of consciousness narrative or this one was just easier to get in to.

‘The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames.’ I listened to that line 5 times. The descriptions of nature in this book are beautiful.

Juliet Stevenson is absolutely perfect as narrator, as usual. I gave this book 4 stars.


Hilde (hilded) | 335 comments Glad to hear you liked it, I have this on my shelf and need to get to it at some point. But, To the Lighthouse took me a month reading, so I am in no hurry. I did end up liking it though, but it was a difficult read for me, and I found it best served in small portions.


Kristel (kristelh) | 3797 comments Mod
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. The story told in steam of consciousness takes place in one day. Clarissa Dallaway is having a party that day. The time period is interwar time period. The book addresses women and the restrictions of the milieu has on their activities. Women are restricted politically and must work through men. Ideas are judged on the basis of class and gender. We also have the shell-shocked veteran (PTSD) of WWI who disintegrates, thinks of suicide, and a very astute picture of how doctor's (males) of the time, made decisions without regard to what patient or family really needed. This is another hot issue of the time in which this book is written. There were opinions that it was nothing, malingerers or psychologically unfit. The one doctor is of the opinion that it is nothing and the other takes it seriously and says Septimus must go to home and learn to rest. There is the comparison of Mrs Dallaway to Ulysses (Joyce). Both stories take place in a day. I also would say, that The Garden Party which also occurs in one day and involves a young woman and a death that occurs during a party. For Clarissa, the "continuous present" (Gertrude Stein's phrase) of her charmed youth at Bourton keeps intruding into her thoughts on this day in London. For Septimus, the "continuous present" of his time as a soldier during the "Great War" keeps intruding, especially in the form of Evans, his fallen comrade.

More on mental illness; The author is critical of the medical community and is critical of the treatment of depression and PTSD (shell shock). Clarissa and Septimus never meet each other. Their realities are different. It depicts how one person's mental illness never impacts others. And something I didn't know; There are similarities in Septimus' condition to Woolf's struggles with bipolar disorder. Both hallucinate that birds sing in Greek, and Woolf once attempted to throw herself out of a window as Septimus does. Woolf had also been treated for her condition at various asylums, from which her antipathy towards doctors developed. Woolf committed suicide by drowning, sixteen years after the publication of Mrs Dalloway. Septimus is Clarissa's double (according to Woolf). Rating 4.33 (really it is just great, scored low on plot)


Jamie Barringer (Ravenmount) (ravenmount) | 423 comments Mrs. Dalloway prepares for her party, which she thinks of as important, though some of her friends seem to need to disparage her parties, even though they still attend them. A man she sees briefly in the park once commits suicide, and his death becomes a dark thread in the conversation at her party. And a man Mrs. Dalloway was once involved with turns up to see her again after many years, hoping a little that she might prefer him over her husband. Nothing else really happens, but the writing is pretty.
I like a bit more plot in my novels, and am not really fond of stream-of-consciousness, which Woolf employs in this book. Still, after reading Ulysses (Joyce), I barely noticed that this book was in a stream-of-consciousness style. This book was at least readable, and even enjoyable, if a bit too contemplative and slow for my tastes.
I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.


Valerie Brown | 500 comments Read Aug. 2019

I don't think I can cope with more than one Virginia Woolf novel in a year. As I said in my 'To the Lighthouse' review I don't mind SOC as a technique. However, I just don't find her characters (such as they are) and story/incidents very interesting. As another reviewer has said "While I respect and admire the literary advances VW makes with this novel, I just can't get into it." This is exactly how I feel. I was tempted to bump up my rating because of the art of her writing, but in the end that isn't enough. I don't think this novel has aged well. 2.5* which will be rounded down for GR.


Diane Zwang | 1189 comments Mod
3/5 stars
Read in 2014

I was inspired to read this book, my first Virginia Woolf, after I had read The Hours by Michael Cunningham. I quickly realized reading this that it was something different and I needed to do a little research. I discovered that this is a stream-of-consciousness book with internal monologues. That explained the changing of characters, places and time for me. Half way through the book though, I was tired of the endless monologues, no breaks and no chapters. I also watched a short documentary on Woolf which helped explain the childless Rezia and suicidal Septimus. I always have trouble reviewing “classical” books. I can tell that Virginia Woolf is a talented writer but stream-of-consciousness prose is not my thing.


Book Wormy | 1815 comments Mod
3 Stars for enjoyment 4 stars for the writing.

I read this alongside The Hours by Michael Cunningham and the books really complement each other. Reading The Hours made me appreciate this more in terms of what Virginia Woolf was attempting to do her commentary on the treatment of mental illness especially PTSD and her commentary about the restrictive lives women faced.

This is a book you really need to concentrate on as viewpoint switches without warning, the reader is plunged into the innermost thoughts of several characters and the time frame moves about a lot, again with no prior warning.

SOC is not my favourite genre but for this book I really feel it works.

Woolf is a gifted writer and her descriptions of the world and life are beautiful but as a novel nothing really happens. Perhaps that is the point that normal life is not always lived full tilt and for long periods we just bumble along.


Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 410 comments I don't much enjoy stream of consciousness writing. I'm glad I read The Hours first, as it made it easier to navigate what was going on. But the characters think such strange, disjointed things, it was still difficult to keep up. I do appreciate Virginia Woolf's focus on the lack of understanding and treatment of PTSD at the time, and on how women easily become subsumed by their husbands in marriage. But I would rather have read essays by her on those topics.


message 9: by Pip (last edited Jul 21, 2021 02:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Pip | 1302 comments I really thought I had read this years ago, hut when I started reading, I realised that I had not. I think, perhaps, that it would have been better to have read it before, rather than straight after reading The Hours, which had been Wolfe's working title. There are several characters, whose interior monologues are described, but the two most important are the socialite, Mrs Dalloway, who is hosting a party in the evening, and worries about whether it will be a success, despite not lifting a finger to help with the preparations except for walking through town to buy the flowers. The other main character is Septimus Warren Smith, whio is also wandering in St. James Park, zooming in and out of madness, or what we would label PTSD. His doctor proclaims there is nothing wrong with him, but the specialist he sees that day recognises his "shellshock" and prescribes a rest in the country. I was intrigued that I could absolutely follow Mrs Dalloway and her former lover Peter Evans in their ruminations but could not imagine the thoughts of Septimus. Yet others have written that the description of mental illness Wolfe described is quite brilliant and describes her own difficulties. In fact, Wolfe tried to hurl herself out a window before writing this, obviously not as successfully as Smith! Much is made of the innovative style Wolfe employed, but it was reminiscent of Dorothy Richardson, who had written earlier, and, I think, better.


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