Monday, January 18, 2010

Book Review: Mrs. Dalloway (Woolf in Winter)

Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
190 pages
copyright 1925

I apologize for being tardy to the Mrs. Dalloway party, where the participants of the currently ongoing Woolf in Winter read-along discussed this acclaimed novel.

As I wrote in my Sunday Salon post this week ("To Reread or Not to Reread?") , I read Mrs. Dalloway in college and was somewhat nonplussed about a re-read (even though I contemplated such several years ago when I read Michael Cunningham's The Hours, a spectacular book.) I thought I remembered most of what Mrs. Dalloway was about, and indeed, there were things that came back to me as if I was still sitting in Dr. Young's class.

But, I'd like to think I'm a different person now than I was then and maybe the passage of time gives me a renewed appreciation for Mrs. Dalloway two decades later. For one thing, I'm closer in age to Clarissa Dalloway and her peers, sad to say. If I thought I had an understanding of the dynamics between Clarissa and Richard and Peter back then (and in my know-it-all 20s, it wouldn't have been beyond the realm of possibility), then I have a different perspective on that now.

Mrs. Dalloway follows socialite Clarissa Dalloway through one June day in 1923 as she prepares to give a party. She throws these parties often, and doing so seems to stress her out a bit. The real story, however, is not about the party preparations but about the passage of time.

It's about how we are all interconnected and the threads stitching our lives together even if we don't recognize them. It's about the coincidences and decisions that make up our lives, the words said and words unspoken between friends, between spouses, between those we loved and still do.

I've written before about the Barbra Streisand song, "On My Way to You" that I love and that I had our soloist sing at our wedding ("so often as I wait for sleep, I find myself reciting/ the words I said or should have said, like scenes that need rewriting ... if I had changed a single day that went amiss or went astray, I may have never found my way to you.") I think that is at the essence of what I love and still love about Mrs. Dalloway.

Woolf conveys all this through the stream-of-consciousness and seemingly effortless way she segues from one character's thoughts into another. Her use of symbolism - the mending of the dress, the clocks striking, the presence of waves and water, the flowers, the windows in which we see others - coupled with exquisite prose and the ability to give the reader a full understanding of a character in only a page, or even a paragraph.

Others have commented that Mrs. Dalloway is a book that is a good candidate for rereading - and having just done so, I agree. I think that there are different elements that one can glean from the book depending on one's circumstances and life experiences when one reads it.

Sarah hosted the Mrs. Dalloway portion of the Woolf in Winter read-along, and you can find her thoughts as well as those from other bloggers right here.

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay, got your post added to my list! I'm glad you brought up the 'threads' theme again. I keep thinking about it, and it seems very important to the overall story.