This day, this cloudy March day, is one of great victory. I, Sara, have finally completed Mrs. Dalloway. I’d like you note that I started this book early in February, read seven pages, then left it on a table in my house until two nights ago. Are you impressed? No? What if I told you I then forced myself to read the entire thing today. It is a feat to be acknowledged, my friend, it is. You see, reading this book was a miserable experience. I think the entirety of my difficulty falls on the fact that I didn’t like the font of my book. Uh oh. Have I become a font snob? Let’s hope not.
Seriously, though; the font was awful. I mean, it wasn’t messy – it was neat – but it bothered me to oblivion. In addition, the book simply didn’t feel right in my hands. That makes no sense at all until you yourself experience it. Anyway, I had to force the words into my brain and it took an awful two hours. But now I am done and ready to share my sentiments!
As I said before, reading Mrs. Dalloway felt like a chore. I didn’t enjoy the process, and it’s not because the story was bad. I actually really enjoyed it! A couple months ago, I read Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, and my tutor recommended that I read Mrs. Dalloway. Since I enjoyed To the Lighthouse, I was excited about this book. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold the same weight.
The one aspect of Mrs. Dalloway that stood out to me was it’s tedious nature. I felt as though I struggled through it, though I mostly enjoyed the story. I feel as though this novel has some sort of connection with the author that I’ve never seen before. Perhaps Woolf was pouring her heart and soul into it, and that made it all the more complex. It was as though I was meandering through Woolf’s mind, trying to pick the story apart from other extremely grave thoughts. There was so much more in this novel than just…this novel. And for this reason I really think it’s one of Woolf’s most genuine works. It must take a lot for someone to pour so much into a story, and from Woolf’s biography, I know she was constantly bombarded with a tumultuous combination of thoughts.
Mrs. Dalloway follows three groups of people: Clarissa Dalloway, her friend, Peter, and a young soldier and his wife. During most of the novel, we follow Clarissa as she prepares for a party that she will have at her home that evening (the book covers only one day). We see Peter, a man who has just returned to England from India, and watch him do…whatever it is that he does. I honestly was so caught up in all the other little details that I forgot what he really does. Finally, we have the soldier and his wife. This couple was the most interesting, and the parts of the book that describe them compelled me the most. The young soldier is unwell. He had participated in ‘the War’, WWI, and his mind is constantly pelted with images of his friend who died in battle, Evans, and the fact that he killed so many people. He is always thinking about his ‘crimes’, and he is unable to live a normal life. He hears voices, sees apparitions, and is always considering suicide. His wife, who he married not out of love, but out of some strangled mental desperation, is young and afraid, and doesn’t understand the gravity of her husband’s illness. In a way, Mrs. Dalloway is about war, and here it becomes very realistic and gruesome. It’s strange, but I happened to connect most with these passages that relay the grim realities of war. I found these parts easiest to comprehend and more unidealized than everything else Woolf presents.
Thus, I think my favorite characters are the young soldier and his wife. I couldn’t stand Clarissa Dalloway or her family or Peter. They seemed too sterile – though I understand so much was going on beneath their surfaces – too English, too disconnected. The book depicts them as unbelievably complex on the inside, but their outer shells were terrible and I did not enjoy reading about them. For some reason they made me very uncomfortable. Perhaps Woolf had intended this? I wish I could ask her!
Now, the question is, would I recommend Mrs. Dalloway? And the answer is yes. Although I seem very disenchanted with it, I didn’t think it was terrible – just not as enjoyable as you would think. If you are bored or know that you have a great deal of spare time coming up, I do think you should grab this novel and give it a try. I would love to read it again (a different edition this time!) and actually pay attention to all the subtle hints towards big ideas that take some unpacking. Woolf’s work – and any work of a good author, really – is full of these tied up packages that take time and effort. Just remember, Mrs. Dalloway is not an uplifting book to read. It ends with what I thought was a rather abrupt sort of ending, though if I read it again perhaps it will make sense. It just wasn’t full of sweet-smelling posies, is all!
So what would I rate Mrs. Dalloway? Unfortunately, it’s more of a ‘library’ or ‘cardboard box’ type of book. I wouldn’t read it on the regular, due to it’s gravity and extremely somber tone.
So, if you have spare time (Spring Break is around the corner!) and you want a book that will make you think, try out Mrs. Dalloway. And if you’ve already read it, please let me know what you thought in the comments! I’m really curious as to what other people thought of it! Also, if you have any excited Spring Break books stocked up, let me know what they are! I’m always up for new books to read!