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Profile Image for Jason.
137 reviews2,344 followers
June 11, 2012
Experiencing Mrs. Dalloway is like being a piece of luggage on an airport conveyor belt, traversing lazily through a crowd of passengers, over and around and back again, but with the added bonus of being able to read people’s thoughts as they pass; this one checking his flight schedule, that one arguing with his wife, the one over there struggling with her cart, bumping into those arguing and checking. For the most part, the ride is smooth as Woolf transitions from one consciousness to another. But at times, I find myself falling off the conveyor belt. Whether this is a result of my own inabilities or whether Woolf’s dreamy style leads me naturally astray into my own wanderings, I do not know. But I do know that the effort to get back onto her belt are handsomely rewarded.

In short, this novel contains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever seen in print e-ink (welcome to the 21st century, Mrs D). But although quoting long passages in a Goodreads review is not usually my modus operandi, I feel I must do so here just to demonstrate my point. Have you ever had your mind so preoccupied with “stuff” that sometimes a passing comment triggers a strange feeling of not quite right–ness, a feeling which stems from the ability of your subconscious to somehow absorb the comment even while the conscious part of your brain has not yet had time to process it? This happens to me all the time, and that nagging feeling persists until I find time to reflect on what has caused it. Here Woolf captures the moment perfectly:
But—but—why did she suddenly feel, for no reason that she could discover, desperately unhappy? As a person who has dropped some grain of pearl or diamond into the grass and parts the tall blades very carefully, this way and that, and searches here and there vainly, and at last spies it there at the roots, so she went through one thing and another; no, it was not Sally Seton saying that Richard would never be in the Cabinet because he had a second-class brain (it came back to her); no, she did not mind that; nor was it to do with Elizabeth either and Doris Kilman; those were facts. It was a feeling, some unpleasant feeling, earlier in the day perhaps; something that Peter had said, combined with some depression of her own, in her bedroom, taking off her hat; and what Richard had said had added to it, but what had he said? There were his roses. Her parties! That was it! Her parties! Both of them criticised her very unfairly, laughed at her very unjustly, for her parties. That was it! That was it!
Besides shedding light on my own strange neurosis, I think this passage also reveals something interesting about Clarissa Dalloway. Why do Peter’s comments about her being the perfect hostess bother her so much? Mrs. Dalloway often claims to be fortunate to have married a man who allows her to be independent, and to be grateful to have avoided a catastrophic marriage to one who would have stifled her. But to me, these are just rationalizations for her decision to marry someone with whom she does not share the kind of intimacy that she might have otherwise had. In a way, her parties have taken the place of that intimacy, though it is an intimacy on her terms—she is able to enjoy the company of her high society friends while still keeping them at a comfortable enough distance to shield them from learning too much about her. When Peter gently mocks her parties, it annoys her because it invariably results in her having to reconcile the sacrifices she has made in exchange for her current lifestyle.

Another noteworthy aspect of Woolf’s writing is her acute description of post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD was not formally recognized until the 1970s, and even though documentation of symptoms was common in the 1940s when World War II veterans were being treated for “mental disturbances,” the fact that Woolf delves into this subject as early as 1925 is pretty profound. Back then, shell shock meant that you were suffering from a form of “exhaustion,” as if veterans of the Great War were no worse off than Britney Spears after a few too many nights out. In this regard, Septimus is a truly tragic character, a victim of a time and place without the resources to help him. His mental anguish seems also to mirror the sufferings of the unrelated Mrs. Dalloway. In fact, despite crossing paths in only the most abstract of ways, Clarissa and Septimus have quite a bit in common. They both struggle to balance their private lives against the need for social inclusion, they both internalize their emotions at the expense of personal relationships, and they both end up having to make difficult choices (albeit with drastically different outcomes) about their respective futures.

It’s true. Mrs. Dalloway offers remarkable insight into its characters and is certainly worth the effort. My only question is: does this conveyor belt stop here, or will it take me To the Lighthouse?

[September 2012 Update]
A recording of me reading this review can be found here.
Profile Image for Kenny.
507 reviews937 followers
August 3, 2021
"What does the brain matter,” said Lady Rosseter, getting up, “compared with the heart?”
Mrs. Dalloway ~~ Virginia Woolf


I didn't realize this until the final page, but at its heart, MRS. DALLOWAY is a love story. I absolutely loved this book.


Mrs. Dalloway is a complex, compelling novel. It is wrongly described as a portrait of a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway; this is not correct. Mrs. Dalloway is the hub that connects the spokes, the characters of Woolf's novel, but there is no main character. What MRS. DALLOWAY is, is a wonderful study of a day in the life of its principal characters. The novel enters into the consciousness of the people it takes as it subjects, creating a powerful effect. With Mrs. Dalloway Woolf created a visceral and unyielding vision of madness and a haunting descent into its depths.


Mrs. Dalloway follows a set of characters as they go about their lives on a normal day. The eponymous character, Clarissa Dalloway, does simple things: she buys some flowers, walks in a park, is visited by an old friend and throws a party. She speaks to a man who was once in love with her, and who still believes that she settled by marrying her politician husband. She talks to a female friend with whom she was once in love. Then, in the final pages of the book, she hears about a poor lost soul who threw himself from a doctor's window onto a line of railings.


Septimus Smith. Shell-shocked after his experiences in World War I, he is a so-called madman, who hears voices. He was once in love with a fellow soldier named Evans--a ghost who haunts him throughout the novel. His infirmity is rooted in his fear and his repression of this forbidden love. Finally, tired of a world that he believes is false and unreal, he commits suicide.


The two characters whose experiences form the core of the novel--Clarissa and Septimus--share a number of similarities. In fact, Woolf saw Clarissa and Septimus as more like two different aspects of the same person, and the linkage between the two is emphasized by a series of stylistic repetitions and mirrorings. Unbeknownst to Clarissa and Septimus, their paths cross a number of times throughout the day--just as some of the situations in their lives followed similar paths.

Clarissa and Septimus were in love with a person of their own sex, and both repressed their loves because of their social situations. Even as their lives mirror, parallel and cross--Clarissa and Septimus take different paths in the final moments of the novel. Both are existentially insecure in the worlds they inhabit--one chooses life, while the other chooses death.


Woolf's stream of consciousness style allows readers into the minds and hearts of her characters. She also incorporates a level of psychological realism that Victorian novels were never able to achieve. The everyday is seen in a new light: internal processes are opened up in her prose, memories compete for attention, thoughts arise unprompted, and the deeply significant and the utterly trivial are treated with equal importance. Woolf's prose is also enormously poetic. She has the very special ability to make the ordinary ebb and flow of the mind sing.


Mrs. Dalloway is linguistically inventive, but the novel also has an enormous amount to say about its characters. Woolf handles their situations with dignity and respect. As she studies Septimus and his deterioration into madness, we see a portrait that draws considerably from Woolf's own experiences. Woolf's stream of consciousness-style leads us to experience madness. We hear the competing voices of sanity and insanity.


Woolf's vision of madness does not dismiss Septimus as a person with a biological defect. She treats the consciousness of the madman as something apart, valuable in itself, and something from which the wonderful tapestry of her novel could be woven.

Profile Image for emma.
1,867 reviews54.4k followers
August 15, 2023
shoutout to virginia woolf for doing the lord's work (writing short books that make you look smart).

this is a great interesting beautifully written compelling makes-you-think type book that usually has a gorgeous cover and can be read over the course of one lazy afternoon.

no notes!

bottom line: thank you, virginia.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book935 followers
March 10, 2021
What a lark! What a plunge! There is a famous episode in the first section of Mrs Dalloway where a sky-writing aeroplane flies over London, soaring, spinning and plunging, writing in white letters of steam on a radiant sheet of blue sky. The onlookers on the ground, strolling down Regent’s Park and Oxford Street, try to decipher the signs above. “Blaxo? Kreemo? Toffee?” Whatever it is, this image is exceptionally profound, for it reflects the very novel we are reading. Woolf wrote Mrs Dalloway using this movement of the aircraft, gliding and spinning, soaring and plunging. As for the readers, it may take a bit of blinking and squinting and misreading before they can make sense of what they are reading — Glaxo? Kreemo? Toffee?

Virginia Woolf is famous for her use of “stream of consciousness”, “free indirect speech”, “vignettes”. But this does very little to characterise what happens in Mrs Dalloway. The novel doesn’t take the classic narrator’s transcendent and omniscient (God-like) view over the world. The author doesn’t just transcribe what happens on the narrator’s cerebral highway either. Indeed, Woolf’s narrator flies, freestyle, like the plane over London and all its dwellers, travelling and cartwheeling across different dimensions.

Space. Woolf’s novel moves over the West End of London, from St Pancras to Westminster and from Kensington to Holborn, and one can read Mrs Dalloway as a walk around the city, in the wake of the First World War. Here, Woolf’s prose is densely evocative. She makes us see, hear, smell, sense, with lyrical intensity, the earthly delights displayed everywhere: inside a flower shop on Bond Street, atop a bus down Whitehall, inside a cafe by a row of éclairs laid out on a cool marble table, inside a basement kitchen teeming with the preparations of a party, “life; London; this moment of June” (Everyman’s Library, p. 2).

Time. The story (as in Joyce’s Ulysses) takes place during one single ordinary day, from morning to evening, each hour marked by the resounding chimes of Big Ben. The events overlap and converge towards Clarissa Dalloway’s evening party. But, deeper still, Woolf displays a multi-layered view of time through her characters’ wistful memories or projects. Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged upper-class woman, goes about her day, continually journeying down memory lane to the days of her youth. The same is true of Peter Walsh, her old sweetheart. Again, something similar happens to Septimus Smith, the shell-shocked WWI veteran who gradually drowns into a mental breakdown, schizophrenia, and death. And yet again regarding his wife, Lucrezia, longing for her past life in Milan. In short, there is, in Woolf’s novel — as in Proust, to some degree — a sort of Heraclitean, ever-flowing perspective on time.

Consciousness — consciousness, most of all! Woolf’s writing technique could indeed be subsumed under the concept of “interior monologue”. But she has a very distinctive way of using it. Her narrator is like an abstract entity, a receiver that can render various characters’ interior speech. Not like a god; not quite like a movie camera floating and zooming around; rather like a radio set that tunes in and out of different mental frequencies. As if consciousness wasn’t something that belonged to this or that brain, this or that “self”, but a fluid of intersecting waves or threads, ever-present, ever-rippling on the surface of another dimension. As says Clarissa towards the end of the novel: “since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places, after death. Perhaps — perhaps.” (p. 172)

And so, beyond the trivia of London life, beyond Clarissa’s joy and Septimus’s despair, beyond the glistening fabric of the world, beyond even all the fragmented, limited, chaotic, insubstantial perspectives of the story, what Woolf’s writing reveals, like a developing solution, is the possibility of a flowing, unifying metaphysical realm. But what is it? Blaxo? Kreemo? Toffee?
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,100 reviews7,192 followers
April 24, 2022
[Revised, pictures add 4/24/22]

Virginia Woolf set out to write an unconventional novel and succeeded, although since she wrote, we have read so many unconventional novels that it seems tame. In her introduction to the edition I read, Maureen Howard writes: “If ever there was a work conceived in response to the state of the novel, a consciously modern novel, it is Mrs. Dalloway.”

Woolf may have been influenced by Ulysses because all the action occurs in one day. Church bells mark significant events. In turn this marking of the day influenced The Hours, a book based on Woolf’s life, by Michael Cunningham.


But unlike in Joyce’s work, this is not an ordinary day. True, it centers on what we would now call a cocktail party – Mrs. Dalloway lived for those and hosted them frequently – but it’s also the day when a former flame of hers (the fire on his part, not hers) returns from five years in India. And it’s also a day when one of the characters we follow commits suicide. His doctor arrives at the party and announces this to everyone as soon as he’s inside the door – now there’s a downer!

Through her reflections and that of several other characters we learn the details of Mrs. Dalloway’s life. She’s 52, pale, a bit sickly, attractive enough but not beautiful. We learn of her husband, a nice man, a government bureaucrat whose career has peaked – he will never be a Minister.

Mrs. Dalloway worries about her husband having lunch today with another woman friend of hers - Mrs. Dalloway was not invited; that’s unusual. Of her daughter, she worries that she is being “unduly influenced” by the religion of her female tutor (Catholicism we assume?). And of course she worries about meeting the old flame. He still loves her after 30 years, a marriage and various affairs. True love or arrested development?


The book, published in 1925, is also a time capsule of daily life in London in the early post-WW I years. It’s a time when horses are still being replaced by cars. As we follow her around town in her preparations we see the hustle and bustle of the city, the grocers, the shop girls, the crazies in the park.

A good book. It makes you think about life and death. You can’t ask for more than that. Her language is also fun. When is the last time you were “whelmed?” Not overwhelmed – just plain old whelmed? What’s a Holland bag? In the discussion below we finally figured out that it is a cloth bag to cover a chandelier to prevent it from getting dusty.


Top photo of 1930s cocktail party from
Hyde Park in the 1920s from
The author (1882-1941) from
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
October 27, 2016
Virginia Woolf I hate you.

There I said it. Some authors you just don’t get on with, and Woolf is right down the bottom of my shit list. I’ve got quite a few reasons why:

Artistic slaying

So there’s a trend with each and every new artistic movement which involves pissing all over the one that came before it. The newness asserts its dominance by destroying the old; it’s happened many times over history in all forms of artifice, whether it be literature, music, paintings or media in today’s society. The point is Virginia Woolf is a bitch. Here’s what she says about my beloved Jane Austen:

“Anyone who has the temerity to write about Jane Austen is aware of [two] facts: first, that of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness; second, that there are twenty-five elderly gentlemen living in the neighbourhood of London who resent any slight upon her genius as if it were an insult to the chastity of their aunts”- from A Room of One's Own.

And then this:

“With their simple tools and primitive materials, it might be said, Fielding did well and Jane Austen even better, but compare their opportunities with ours! Their masterpieces certainly have a strange air of simplicity” -from Modern Fiction.

Pffft…..Is this woman for real? Don't worry Austen, I've got your back.

Her Style (or lack thereof)

So Virginia Woolf is one of the defining authors of the modernist movement; she wrote the manifesto and she wrote some of the novels. Some would even argue that she is modernism, but is that a good thing? As a cultural movement, I find modernism slightly disturbing. I’m a romantic at heart, I believe in the idealism of Percy Shelley, Wordsworth’s vison of nature and Coleridge’s imagination; thus, I feel like I am naturally predisposed to react negatively towards the movement. Is this reader response theory at work? Yes it is, I’ve warned you I’m incredibly bias towards this.

It focuses on a more suburban way of life, and analyses the relationship between humans and the city. Therefore, we have pages and pages of material in which the characters wonder round the streets looking at random things. They observe the sights and they observe each other in a stream of mundane consciousness. They remark on nature and almost, almost, compare it to this new modern life. And this is where I throw my book at the wall. How could the two even be put together in a paragraph? The words Virginia Woolf uses to describe these things are ill at ease in my mind: they don’t belong here:

“Beauty, the world seemed to say. And as if to prove it (scientifically) wherever he looked at the houses, at the railings, at the antelopes stretching over the palings, beauty sprang instantly. To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.”

Is city life natural? Can we really describe a city in these terms? Woolf proposes to capture the real essence of life; this passage here isn’t life: it feels false. Who walks through a city sees a leaf and is enamoured by its beauty. No one. Step outside the city and experience life in the true Wordsworth fashion, visit the lakes see the trees, and see real nature. Granted, the Romantics made it sound sublime, but they captured the heart of it: they didn’t combine city life, with its connotations of ordinariness and industry, with the real essence of nature.

Real life is dull

So Woolf attempts (cough cough) to capture real life, modernism was said to be more real than realism. This isn’t some exciting plot or twisted love story or gothic drama: this is a book about a woman who hosts a very dull party. She walks round the city a few times making some disjointed descriptions, ponders a shell shocked victim, realises she never fulfilled her repressed lesbian desires, notices that the prime minister is in fact an ordinary man (shock horror- hold onto your seats!) and that’s it. So this new modern thing then, is it good?

In the case of this book, no, it’s not. It takes more than a rejection of literary norms to establish greatness. I’ve read modernists next since this one and I’ve actually enjoyed them. Sometimes I feel like Woolf didn’t know quite what she wanted when she wrote this, I feel like other writers adhere closer to her manifesto than she does herself. And, well, they don’t attack Austen.

102 reviews287 followers
December 3, 2009
While reading her works, I get the impression that Virginia Woolf knows everything about people and that she understands life better than anyone, ever. Is there a single hidden feeling or uncommon perspective with which she is not intimately acquainted? And does anyone else draw forth these feelings and perspectives with more grace and empathy, and impart them to us in such a lush, inimitable fashion? Perhaps. But you’d never think that while immersed in her exquisite, adult dramas. In Mrs. Dalloway, Woolf’s able to achieve complete well-roundedness for a half-dozen people in a smattering of pages; where each person is valuable and each is misguided, where disagreements truly have two (or more) reasonable sides, where issues of right wrong black white are utterly absent, dismissed as child’s play, uninteresting. Woolf allows her characters to hate as well as to love, and everyone must expose their private, raw feelings to the reader.

I want to get to know Virginia Woolf; I want to absorb her wisdom and to see the world through her eyes, with her soul: wise, beautiful, understanding. She’s one of the few authors whose writing is so evocative and filled with human beings so well-drawn that I frequently drift into thoughts of my own life, comparing myself to Peter Walsh or Clarissa Dalloway or Hugh Whitbread or Sally Seton, ferreting out my own shortcomings as I see them gently spread out in Woolf’s oh-so-real characters. Many people who’ve read Woolf’s shorter works admit surprise at how long it takes to finish them, even if one is fully engrossed. I think this is why: her writing invokes open-ended reverie that’s profoundly personal and inescapable.

Woolf’s prose is fantastic, although I prefer that of To the Lighthouse, which has a haunted, ethereal beauty that’s better-fit for the Isle of Skye than for London’s busy streets. Still, she has a poetic way with descriptions that I find so aesthetically pleasing. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. Is there a better (better-sounding, at least) description of Big Ben’s tolling? In many passages, the stops and starts feel abrupt, strange to the reading mind. But for whatever reason, it simply feels right; always just enough and never more.

It’s difficult to discuss or sum up the plot of this book, which moves fluidly from the streaming conscious of one character to the next. This passing of the story-telling baton is so subtle, however, that I can’t remember a single transition. None. These moments would likely deserve study and genuflection in an inevitable rereading. I suspect that Mrs. Dalloway is one of those books you can not only reread and enjoy at different stages in life, but one that will offer distinct new pleasures and wisdoms at each stage. In other words, it’s the best kind of book.

Mrs. Dalloway ultimately builds toward the title character’s dinner party, but I actually found this finale to be somewhat less interesting than the parts that came before. We’re introduced to many new characters in the final 25 pages, which, despite the fact that each one gets no more than a paragraph of time (and some must share), is something of a nuisance after becoming attached to five or six major players. She wraps things up well with the mainstays though, and the ending manages to be both understated and stirring, providing the readers with the pain and relief that comes with confession.

Upon finishing, the first thing that popped into my mind was Radiohead: Everything. In its right place.
Profile Image for Federico DN.
395 reviews787 followers
September 22, 2023
Queen of blah blah blah.

1920s, England. Wealthy fifty-one years old Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway walks the streets of London city and thinks about hosting one of her famed parties. Many socialites and part of the English high society are expected to attend. Peter Walsh, an old flame from the past, also arrives.

Man I HATED this with all my heart! This was two hundred pages of continuous ramblings, without any kind of discernible transition whatsoever! In a way it reminded me of that insufferable Faulkner; but the dreadful man at least learned to use chapters, and stuff happened! Boring as hell as he was some ‘memorable’ stuff occurred. Woolf however made this hateful book one never-ending chapter, with utterly unimportant recollections one after the other. I do have to give some credit to the woman and her writing for being much more potable than Faulkner’s though; not that ultimately that made it any more enjoyable.

You’d think a thing or two should happen in a book, but no; the whole story is just random flashbacks, and the ramblings and inner musings of Mrs. Dalloway, and every single person she knows. We get to hear what they like and don’t, who they love and hate, and why. And she ponders. They ALL ponder.

I must say Woolf is insufferably descriptive too; if there’s a speck of dust on the floor she’s bound to describe it, and most assuredly compare it with other specks of dust, intrinsically beautiful specks of dust that for some reason may or may have not been important for someone in the past; but who are we kidding here? It’s still just a freaking speck of dust!

I recently became aware of the “Stream of Consciousness” concept and apparently Woolf is one of its biggest representatives. And to my surprise so is Faulkner and Joyce. No wonder I hated and 1-starred them all. Must conclude I’m definitely not the ‘Stream of Consciousness’ type of reader. But if you are, or you enjoy those authors, then you might probably enjoy this one too.

For me I wish I could say this is the last I’ll ever see from Woolf in my life, but to my great dismay I also happen to have her ‘Orlando’ book which I also ‘borrowed’ from my parent’s bookcase. It’s at the bottom of the pile now, but it’s still there. And its turn WILL eventually arrive. May God have mercy of my suffering soul.

*** Still remaining, the movie (1997). Someday, FAR away.

[1925] [208p] [Classics] [HIGHLY Not Recommendable]

Reina del Blah blah blah.

1920, Inglaterra. La pudiente Sra. Clarissa Dalloway de cincuenta y un años camina las calles de Londres pensando en organizar una de sus afamadas fiestas. Varias personalidades y parte de la alta sociedad inglesa esperan asistir. Peter Walsh, una antigua flama del pasado, también llega.

¡Dios cómo ODIE esto con todo mi ser! Esto fueron doscientas páginas de continuos desvaríos y reflexiones internas, ¡sin ningún tipo de transición discernible en absoluto! En cierta forma esto me recordó a ese insufrible Faulkner, pero el odioso tipo al menos aprendió a usar capítulos, ¡y algunas cosas sucedían! Endemoniadamente aburrido como era algunas cosas ‘memorables’ pasaban. Woolf en cambio hizo este odioso libro un único capítulo sin fin, con recuerdos totalmente olvidables uno tras otro. Aunque tengo que darle algo de crédito a la mujer y su prosa por ser mucho más potable que la de Faulkner, no que en última instancia eso lo haya hecho en absoluto más disfrutable.

Uno pensaría que al menos una cosa o dos sucederían en un libro, pero no; toda la historia son sólo recuerdos aleatorios de la Sra. Dalloway, y cada una de las personas que conoce. Nos queda escuchar lo que les gusta y lo que no, a quien aman u odian, y porqué. Y ella reflexiona. TODOS reflexionan.

Debo decir que Woolf es insufriblemente descriptiva también; si hay una mota de polvo en el suelo ella está obligada a describirla, y con toda seguridad compararla con otras motas de polvo, intrínsecamente hermosas motas de polvo que por alguna razón fueron o no importantes para otros en el pasado; ¿pero a quién quiere engañar? ¡Sigue siendo una maldita mota de polvo!

Recientemente me enteré del concepto de “Flujo de Conciencia” y aparentemente Woolf es una de sus máximas representantes. Y para mi sorpresa también lo son Faulkner y Joyce. Con razón los odié y califiqué con 1-estrella a todos. Debo concluir que definitivamente no soy un lector afín del “Flujo de Conciencia”. Pero si vos lo sos, o te agradan esos autores, entonces muy probablemente disfrutarías este libro también.

Por mí me gustaría decir que esta es la última vez que voy a ver a Woolf en mi vida, pero para mi gran pesar también tengo su libro ‘Orlando’ que también tomé ‘prestado’ de la biblioteca de mis viejos. Está al fondo de la pila ahora, pero sigue ahí. Y eventualmente su día VA a llegar. Que Dios se apiade de mi alma atribulada.

*** Queda pendiente, la película (1997). Algún día, MUY lejano.

[1925] [208p] [Clásicos] [ALTAMENTE No Recomendable]
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
July 21, 2019
“So on a summer’s day waves collect, overbalance, 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.”

 photo mrs_dalloway_zps5qu2dh0m.jpg

We first meet Clarissa Dalloway and her husband Richard in The Voyage Out. Too many pages have been turned since my reading of Virginia Woolf’s first novel for me to remember that I’ve met them before. It is similar to meeting someone at a party and then meeting them again several years later. I might have a sliver of memory of meeting them before. I always find it awkward to decide to confess that I do have a vague memory of them, potentially subtly unintentionally insulting them, or brazen it out with of course I remember you (potential minefield if my slender memory is in fact wrong). There is always the option of hitting the restart button by saying what a pleasure it is to meet them.

Some of this, of course, is entirely up to how they play it and if they remember meeting me before.

Clarissa Dalloway would know exactly how to handle that situation. If she did bungle it, she would recover the situation with a little laugh and say something along the lines of how silly she is about names and faces. I feel that Virginia was a bit harsh in her description of Clarissa in The Voyage Out. Clarissa is "a tall slight woman, her body wrapped in furs, her face in veils, with artistic tastes and inclinations, but no brain whatsoever.” I think that Clarissa has become who she was supposed to be not, as we find out, who she wanted to be. She has become Mrs. Richard Dalloway, and her identity beyond that has become a series of sepia toned memories of her brief life before marriage.

If you were to look in any phone book for Phillips County, Kansas, from 1954 to 1995, you would find listed a Mrs. Dean Keeten. From the moment Leota Irene Chester (22) married Dean Leo Keeten she became known as Mrs. Dean Keeten. My grandfather died in 1954, but when she checked herself into the hospital in 1995, for what became the last time, she still registered as Mrs. Dean Keeten. To her, the only power she had existed in my grandfather’s name. I can only think that she was well aware of the powerlessness of women and wanted people to believe that if they irritated her they would have to deal with her husband, ghostly though he was. I’d like to think, too, that there was a lingering pride in being married to the man.

Clarissa has trepidations over the changes in herself. She is feeling older. ”. . . June morning; soft with the glow of rose petals for some, she knew, and felt it, as she paused by the open staircase window which let in blinds flapping, dog barking, let in, she thought, feeling herself suddenly shrivelled, aged, breastless, the grinding, blowing, flowering of the day, out of doors, out of the window, out of her body and brain which now failed….”

Clarissa is planning a party while her doppelganger Septimus Smith is considering his death. ”He is linked to Clarissa through his anxieties about sexuality and marriage; his anguish about mortality and immortality; and his acute sensitivities to his surroundings, which have gone over the line into madness.”

Birds sing in Greek.

He is haunted by the war, in particular his memories of his friend Evans who died in the closing months of the war.

He hallucinates.

He is certainly suffering from acute shell shock. He is: ”Septimus Warren Smith, aged about thirty, pale-faced, beak-nosed, wearing brown shoes and a shabby overcoat, with hazel eyes which had that look of apprehension in them which makes complete strangers apprehensive too. The world has raised its whip; where will it descend? I do wonder if there weren’t some homosexual overtones to his relationship with Evans. I like the idea because if he is a true doppelganger of Clarissa, then her thoughts and memories of Sally Seton tie in so nicely.

I would say Clarissa was smitten at first sight. ”But all that evening she could not take her eyes off Sally. It was an extraordinary beauty of the kind she most admired, dark, large-eyes, with that quality which, since she hadn’t got it herself, she always envied---a sort of abandonment, as if she could say anything, do anything;....” Sally must have been a handful because the strained relations with her family necessitated a span of time apart. There is the hope that an unruly child will act better with others than they do with their own family. A kiss shared between the two girls is remembered by Clarissa as one of the most passionate moments in her life.

Sally does come to the party, now married, now Lady Rosseter with five sons. She is completely reformed and conformed to the very aspects I’m sure she found so infuriating about her family.

Clarissa also has an old flame, Peter Walsh, who is back from India just in time to attend her party. She has not seen Sally or Peter for many years so her party is infused with a certain level of warped nostalgia. Though really one gets the impression that Clarissa might have preferred leaving them both suspended in time when they were who she remembered them to be. see... jilted Peter for Richard.

Peter is still in love with her. As she analyzes her thoughts of Peter, it is certainly on a more practical level than a romantic one. She considers, without any gossamer wrapped sentimentality, what her life would have been like if she had married him.

In his pockets Peter carries a menagerie of totems. ”...his knife, his watch; his seals, his note-case, and Clarissa’s letter which he would not read again but liked to think of, and Daisy’s photograph?” The knife he pulls out whenever he is nervous and opens and closes it. This trait so annoys Clarissa. It is potentially comparable to fondling oneself into arousal. I had the impression that if he were to lose everything he owned except for those few things he carried on his person, he would be fine. If he were to lose those precious items, he would be out of sorts for quite some time and would be slow to recover from their loss.

Peter has trouble with women, leaving scandals in his wake wherever he goes. He falls in love too easily, which could be attributed to a naturally romantic manner. He once followed a girl for a half hour and, from the scant information he gained about her, nearly fell in love with her. Easy to do when you have only flipped through the pages very quickly without taking the time to actual read the narrative. I’d like to think that the reason he is this way is because of the torch he still carries for Clarissa. Nothing else will ever be as real for him anyway. Of course, the woman he loved no longer exists either.

Clarissa shares some of her thoughts on death after she hears the chatter at her party about the suicide of Septimus Smith. ”Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate, people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded; one was alone. There was an embrace in death.” The reverence with which this statement about death is made put a shiver down my back. Woolf admitted that she had difficulty writing about the madness of Septimus. She used some of her own depression inspired hallucinations to describe his distressing anxiety. She had planned for Clarissa to die at the end of the novel, but shifted that role to Septimus. Not that I think Clarissa is Virginia, but there are certainly aspects to her thought processes that are shared with Woolf. It may have been too bold, too frightening for those who knew Virginia to have Clarissa kill herself.

The treatment, if you call it that, of Septimus is a condemnation of psychology in post WW1 British society. Woolf was treated by several incompetent doctors for her own struggles with depression. Sir William Bradshaw, the famous psychiatrist, who was treating Septimus often bragged about his ability to determine a person’s problems, and to also be able to prescribe a treatment in five minutes or less. Obviously, his respect for his own profession is rather cavalier, and certainly his dismissive attitude to the true nature of mental illness is reprehensible.

Virginia Woolf put stones in her pockets, walked into the river Ouse, and drowned herself sixteen years after the publication of this novel. I often think how long she had been considering suicide before she actually made that final decision.

I had planned to start this book and then set it aside while I finished another book. That turned out to be impossible. Mrs. Dalloway would not tolerate any rivals. I was hers for the duration. It is a modest book in regards to size, but so packed with so many wonderful observations that I could continue, with ease, to write several more thousand words regarding other aspects of this novel. I loved the style. There is a bounce to the writing as if springs have been attached to the words to keep them from miring down in meditative thought. The characters, though possessing few characteristics that I admire, were likeable, and today I actually find myself missing them as if I had toddled off to India or the West Indies.

The ending was superb.

”What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? Peter thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement?

It is Clarissa, he said.

For there she was.”

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Profile Image for s.penkevich.
964 reviews6,816 followers
March 4, 2022
Moments like this are buds on the tree of life.

Our lives are an elaborate and exquisite collage of moments. Each moment beautiful and powerful on their own when reflected upon, turned about and examined to breath in the full nostalgia for each glorious moment gone by, yet it is the compendium of moments that truly form our history of individuality. Yet, what is an expression of individuality if it is not taken in relation to all the lives around us, as a moment in history, a drop in a multitude of drops to form an ocean of existence? Virginia Woolf enacts the near impossibility in ‘Mrs Dalloway’ of charting for examination and reflection the whole of a lifeline for multiple characters, all interweaving to proclaim a brilliant portrait of existence itself, all succinctly packaged in the elegant wrappings of a solitary day. Akin to Joyce’s monumental achievement, Ulysses, Woolf’s poetic plunge into the minds and hearts of her assorted characters not only dredges up an impressively multi-faceted perspective on their lives as a whole, but delivers a cutting social satire extending far beyond the boundaries of the selective London society that struts and frets their 24 hours upon the stage of Woolf’s words.

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.
This simple phrase is one any serious student of literature would recognize lest they fear an inadequacy of appearance in the eyes of their collegiate classmates, much in the way a great deal of actions in Mrs Dalloway is a learned behavior for the sake of appearances. ‘Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame,’ and much of what we do out of habit, out of adherence to social standards, is what upholds the society at hand and shapes the civilization of the times. Woolf’s novel hinges upon manners and social standings, highlighting a withering hegemony during the a period of change and rebirth with society marching forward into an uncertain and unrestrained future following the first World War. However, before getting too far ahead into a broad scope, it is imperative to examine the immediate and singular implications of the novel. Much of Mrs Dalloway is deceptively simplistic, using the singular as a doorway into the collective, and offering a tiny gift of perfect that can be unpacked to expose an infinite depiction of the world. Take the title, for instance. In most cases, the central character is referred to as Clarissa Dalloway, yet it was essential to place Mrs Dalloway first and foremost in the readers mind to forever bind their impression of her as a married woman, an extension of Mr. Richard Dalloway. In comparison, Miss Kilman is never addressed in text without the title ‘Miss’ to emphasize her unmarried—and, in terms of the social standings of the time, inferior—position in society; or even Ellie Henderson whose poverty doesn’t even earn her a title of marital status in the eyes of the Dalloway circle, forever condemned to a singular name inconsequential to anything. Just the indication of Clarissa as the wife of a member of government expands well beyond her status as an individual to open a conversation about social implications.

Mrs Dalloway is always giving parties to cover the silence.

Personal identity plays a major theme within the novel with each character’s entire life on display simply through their actions and reflection within the solitary June day. Clarissa is examined through a weaving of past and present as she tumbles through an existential crises in regards to her position as the wife of a dignitary and as a the perfect party host. ‘Why, after all, did she do these things? Why seek pinnacles and stand drenched in fire? Might it consume her anyhow?’ Through her interactions with Peter, the reader is treated to her romantic lineage, rejecting Peter for the safer, more social circle security of Robert, which gives way to a questioning if she is merely a snob. Furthermore, the reader witnesses Clarissa in her heights of emotion through her friendship with Sally Seton¹, a relationship that seems to transcend the rigid gender roles of the time.
The strange thing, on looking back, was the purity, the integrity, of her feeling for Sally. It was not like one’s feeling for a man. It was completely disinterested, and besides, it had a quality which could only exist between women.
Virginia Woolf’s own sexuality has been a topic of interest over the years, and the relationship between Clarissa and Sally—the kiss shared between them being considered by Clarissa to be a notable peak of happiness in her life—is open to interpretation. However, this aspect of Clarissa’s life and identity allows for one of the numerous footholds of feminism found throughout the text, giving way to an image of Sally rejecting standard gender roles through examples such as her openly smoking cigars. Through Clarissa we see a desire of life, of not becoming stagnant, of not ‘being herself invisible; unseen; unknown…this being Mrs. Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs. Richard Dalloway.’ There must be a way to separate from the society, to form an identity beyond social conventions or gender, to find life in a world hurtling towards death.

Once you fall, Septimus repeated to himself, human nature is on you.

As a foil to the character of Clarissa, Woolf presents the war-torn Septimus. While Clarissa finds meaning in her merrymaking because ‘what she liked was simply life’, and bringing people together to be always moving towards a warm center of life, Septimus is shown as moving outwards, stolen away from the joys of life through his experiences of bloodshed in battle.
So there was no excuse, nothing whatever the matter, except the sin for which human nature had condemned him to death; that he did not feel.
While Clarissa grapples with her fear of death, ‘that is must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all,’ Septimus finds life, a never-ending spiral of guilt for not feeling beset by visions of his fallen comrade, to be a fearsome and loathsome beast. Doctors would have him locked away (a dramatic contrast to the lively parties hosted by Clarissa), and even his own wife forges an identity of guilt and self-conscious sorrow for upholding a clearly disturbed husband. This is a haunting portrait of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, the latter fmuch like Woolf herself suffered. Septimus and Clarissa are like opposite sides to the same coin, however, and many essential parrallels exist between them. Both find solace in the works of Shakespeare², both obsess over a lonely figure in an opposing window (one of Septimus’ last impressions in the land of the living), and both trying to express themselves in the world yet fearing the solitude that their failures will form for them. Even his inability to feel is similar to the love felt by Clarissa: 'But nothing is so strange when one is in love (and what was this except being in love?) as the complete indifference of other people.'

Death becomes an important discussion point of the novel, with each character trying to define themselves in the face of, or in spite of, their impending demise. Peter so fears death that he follows a stranger through town, inventing an elaborate fantasy of romance to blot out the deathly darkness. Yet, it is in contrast to death that we find life. Clarissa’s desire for communication, community and life is only given weight in relation to the news of death that invades her party.
Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; repute faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death.

What is most impressive about Mrs Dalloway is the nearly endless array of tones and voices that Woolf is able to so deftly sashay between. While each character is unique, it is the contrast between death and life that she weaves that is staggeringly wonderful. Right from the beginning, Woolf treats us to a feast of contrast.
For it was the middle of June. The War was over, except for some one like Mrs. Foxcroft at the Embassy last night eating her heart out because that nice boy was killed…but it was over; thank Heaven – over. It was June…and everywhere, thought it was still early, there was a beating, a stirring of galloping ponies, tapping of cricket bats…
Cold death and warm life on a sunny June day all mingle together here, and throughout the novel. And we are constantly reminded of our lives marching towards death like a battalion of soldiers, each hour pounded away by the ringing of Big Ben. This motif is two-fold, both representing the lives passing from present to past, but also using the image of Big Ben as a symbol of British society. The war has ended and a new era is dawning, one where the obdurate and stuffy society of old has been shown to be withered and wilting, like Clarissa’s elderly aunt with the glass eye. Not only are the lifelines of each character put under examination, but the history of the English empire as well, highlighting the ages of imperialism that have spread the sons of England across the map and over bloody battlefields. Clarissa is a prime example of the Euro-centrism found in society, frequently confusing the Albanians and Armenians, and assuming that her love of England and her contributions to society must in some way benefit them. ‘But she loved her roses (didn’t that help the Armenians?)’ In contrast is Peter, constantly toying with his knife—a symbol of masculinity imposed by an ideal enforced by bloodshed and military might—to evince not only his fears of inadequacy as a Man (fostered by Clarissa’s rejection for him and his possibly shady marriage plans), but his wishy-washy feelings of imperialism after spending time in India.
Beauty, the world seemed to say. And as if to prove it (scientifically) wherever he looked at the houses, at the railings, at the antelopes stretching over the palings, beauty sprang instantly. To watch a leaf quivering in the rush of air was an exquisite joy. Up in the sky swallows swooping, swerving, flinging themselves in and out, round and round, yet always with perfect control as if elastics held them; and the flies rising and falling; and the sun spotting now this leaf, now that, in mockery, dazzling it with soft gold in pure good temper; and now again some chime (it might be a motor horn) tinkling divinely on the grass stalks—all of this, calm and reasonable as it was, made out of ordinary things as it was, was the truth now; beauty, that was the truth now. Beauty was everywhere.
Mrs Dalloway is nearly overwhelming in scope despite the tiny package and seemingly singular advancements of plot. Seamlessly moving between the minds and hearts of each character with a prose that soars to the stratosphere, Woolf presents an intensely detailed portrait of post-war Europe and the struggles of identity found within us all. While it can be demanding at times, asking for your full cooperation and attention, but only because to miss a single second would be a tragic loss to the reader, this is one of the most impressive and inspiring novels I have ever read. Woolf manages to take the scale of Ulysses and the poetic prowess of the finest poets, and condense it all in 200pgs of pure literary excellence. Simple yet sprawling, this is one of the finest novels of the 20th century and an outstanding achievement that stands high even among Woolf's other literary giants. This novel has a bit more of a raw feel when compared to To the Lighthouse, yet that work is nothing short of pure perfection, a novel so highly tuned that one worries that even breathing on it will tarnish it's sleek and shiny luster. Dalloway stands just as tall, however, both as a satire on society and a powerful statement of feminism. A civilization is made up of the many lives within, and each life is made up of many moments, all of which culminating to a portrait of human beauty. Though at the end of life we must meet death, it is through death we find life.

It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.

¹ With regards to the discussion of marital titles, Sally Seton later becomes Lady Rosseter through marriage. This title further emphasizes marriage as a means of climbing the social ladder, with Sally seen in the past as an impoverished, rebellious ragamuffin, yet through marriage gains an aura of dignity. Perhaps Sally becoming a housewife is a statement on the society of the times suffocating feministic freedoms.

² There is an interesting rejection of Shakespeare found most notably in the characters of Richard Dallowlay and Lady Bruton. This emphasized the dying British society as a cold and artless being, devoid of emotion. This is most evident through Richard Dalloway, seen as a symbol of British society, as he fails to express his emotions of love towards his wife.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,029 reviews17.7k followers
September 18, 2023
Is this amazing book the archetype for present-day feminine TV Soap Operas..?

If you said that, I, and so many others who’ve been utterly charmed by Virginia Woolf’s disarmingly ‘unrehearsed’ slice-of-life prose in this incredible book, would take bitter umbrage!

No, this little book is MUCH more than that...

It’s a radiant hymn to the power of momentary, personal Epiphanies in our rapidly-moving, seemingly impersonal, and largely unconscious lives.

You know those magical Chicken-Soup-for-The-Soul moments when everything in our random lives suddenly - why? who knows! - makes SENSE?

Have you had those?

I think we all have, and a famous writer named James Joyce LIVED for them. From his earliest childhood on.

And they are the key to his densest novels.

Now, back in the early twentieth century, books by Mr. Joyce suddenly became scarce, for reasons that were perfectly clear to a precious few - but unknown to the hoi poloi (that’s US).

But Virginia Woolf could get ‘em. You see, her wonderful husband Leonard was a Publisher.

He founded the famed Hogarth Press. And he had continental publishing contacts, and thus clear access to the early classics of modern lit which back then were always so strangely out of stock in our world.

So when Leonard Woolf discovered the radical, stream-of-conscious world of Mr. Joyce, he let Virginia in on the secret.

And the rest - and Mrs. Dalloway - was history!

And NOW the English Speaking World, darkened by the inclement weather of European extremist politics, could see what the fuss over Mr. Joyce was REALLY about -

And it was simply this: the ordinary, isolated magical moments of simple people!

And that’s it.

And isn’t that what OUR life’s really about? Magic moments!

When I was in my Junior Year at University, I had a wonderful professor. She exuded such a simple radiance, a radiance that extended itself to every one of those modern novels in that endlessly fascinating course she taught - all of which she so loved, and wanted to share with her young students.

Now, hold on just a moment!

We’re talking MODERN novels? Those dark, twentieth-century explorations of the forbidden, hidden recesses of the fallen human psyche?

Writers like Joyce and Beckett? WHAT simple radiance do you mean to find in them?

OK, I’ll explain!

My prof was a bright- and starry-eyed scholar. Disabled from an early age, and a lifelong reader, she brought to her readings of these dark classics a joyful reverence, belonging to a human category few of us remember:

Unvarnished innocence!

So there I was - an impressionable kid in her class who had recently - and woefully - come of age, and could see in her something that rose far above my fellow hippie classmates, all of whom were living wildly for the day.

She had given me reason for rejoicing in the classics again - looking at them through her unspoiled, grateful eyes.

And I wanted to thank her for it.

For my final paper of the term I chose the subject ‘That Timeless Moment: The Epiphany in the Novels of Virginia Woolf.’ I poured my whole heart, soul and all the effort I could muster into it.

And she LOVED it.

Thanks, Mr. Joyce, Mrs. Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway - and dear Susan - for cutting through all of modern life’s oh-so-convenient dark obfuscations, paranoias and taboos -

To get us to the radiant HEART OF LIFE again.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews46 followers
August 19, 2021
(Book 698 From 1001 books) - Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

Mrs Dalloway (published on 14 May 1925) is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England. It is one of Woolf's best-known novels.

Clarissa Dalloway goes around London in the morning, getting ready to host a party that evening.

The nice day reminds her of her youth spent in the countryside in Bourton and makes her wonder about her choice of husband; she married the reliable Richard Dalloway instead of the enigmatic and demanding Peter Walsh, and she "had not the option" to be with a close female friend, Sally Seton.

Peter reintroduces these conflicts by paying a visit that morning. ...

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «خانم دالووی (دالاوی)»؛ «خانم دلوی»؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ انتشاراتیها: (نگاه، نیلوفر، رواق، زمان نو) سه ترجمه از جناب «پرویز داریوش»، بانو «فرزانه طاهری»؛ ��انو «خجسته کیهان» از این کتاب هست، تاریخ نخستین خوانش یازدهم ماه ژانویه سال2012میلادی

عنوان: خانم دالووی؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: پرویز داریوش؛ تهران، نگاه، 1362؛ در 240ص؛ شابک: 9643513947؛ چاپ دوم 1387؛ چاپ سوم 1389؛ شابک 9789643513948؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

عنوان: خانم دلوی؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: فرزانه طاهری؛ تهران، نیلوفر، 1388؛ چاپ سوم 1395؛ در 340ص؛ شابک 9789644484186؛

عنوان: خانم دالاوی؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: خجسته کیهان؛ تهران، نگاه، 1386؛ در 240ص؛ شابک 9643513947؛ چاپ دوم 1387؛ چاپ سوم 1389؛ شابک 9789643513948؛

رمان «خانم دالاوی» در سال 1925میلادی، و به شیوه ی جریان سیال ذهن نگاشته شد؛ (جریان سیال ذهن شکل ویژه ای از روایت داستان است که مشخصه‌ های اصلی آن پرشهای زمانی پی در پی، درهم ریختگی دستوری، و نشانه‌ گذاری، تبعیت از زمان ذهنی شخصیت داستان، و گاه نوعی شعرگونگی در زبان است)؛ در رمان «خانم دالاوی»، ماجراها از یک صبح تا شب، در شهر «لندن» روی میدهند؛ داستان با «کلاریسا دالاوی (خانم دالاوی)» آغاز، و در ادامه ی داستان، با دیگر شخصیتهای رمان، از طریق ذهنیات و افکارشان، آشنا میشویم؛ شاید بتوان گفت: دغدغه ی اصلی «وولف» در این کتاب، زندگی روزمره ی زنان و مردان طبقه اشراف، و به نوعی مرفه جامعه «انگلستان»، پس از جنگ جهانگیر نخست، است؛ «وولف» در این کتاب، با سبک ویژه ی خود، جریان سیال ذهن، به موشکافی دغدغه های همین افراد، و همچنین روابط آنها، در بطن شهر «لندن» میپردازند

نقل از متن: (خانم «دلوی» گفت که گل را خودش می‌خرد؛ آخر «لوسی» خیلی گرفتار بود؛ قرار بود درها را از پاشنه درآورند، قرار بود کارگران «رامپلمیر» بيایند؛ خانم «دلوی» در دل گفت، عجب صبحی، دل‌انگیز، از آن صبح‌هایی که در ساحل نصیب کودکان می‌شود؛ چه چکاوکی! چه شیرجه‌ ای! آخر هميشه وقتی، همراه با جیرجیر ضعیف لولاها، که حال می‌شنید، پنجره‌ های قدی را باز می‌کرد، و در «بورتن» به درون هوای آزاد، شیرجه می‌زد، همین احساس به او دست می‌داد؛ چه دل‌انگیز، چه آرام، ساکن‌تر از امروز صبح البته، هوای صبح زود؛ مثل لپ‌لپ موج؛ بوسه موج؛ خنک و گزنده و با اینحال؛ در چشم دخترِ هیجده ساله‌ ای که آن زمان بود، عبوس، چون آنجا جلو پنجره ی باز که ایستاده بود، دلش گواهی بد می‌داد؛ همان‌طور که به گل‌ها نگاه می‌کرد، به درختان، که دود پیچان از آن‌ها بلند می‌شد، و کلاغ‌های سیاه، که برمی‌خاستند، فرود می‌آمدند؛ ایستاده بود، نگاه می‌کرد، تا اينکه «پیتر والش» می‌گفت: غور در میان سبزیجات؟ همین را گفته بود؟ آدم‌ها را به گل‌ کلم ترجیح می‌دهم؛ این را حتماً صبحی سر صبحانه، که او به مهتابی رفته بود، گفته بود؛ «پیتر والش»، یکی از همین روزها، قرار بود از «هندوستان» برگردد، ماه ژوئن، یا ژوئیه، یادش نبود کدام، آخر نامه‌هایش بی‌نهایت ملال‌آور بودند؛ گفته‌هایش به یاد آدم می‌ماند؛ چشمانش، چاقوی جیبی‌اش، لبخندش، ترشرویی‌ اش، و وقتی میلیون‌ها چیز، به‌ کلی محو شده بود، چه عجیب! چند گفته‌ ای مثل این درباره ی کلم، به یاد می‌ماند.)؛ پایان نقل

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 01/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 27/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Luís.
1,943 reviews608 followers
January 28, 2023
I have just returned from an extraordinary trip - A trip to Virginia. There was one before Mrs. Dalloway. There will be an after, but everything I read from now on will come up against this love. Yes, to that love, because indeed loved it that it is about, can we say why we love?
Do not look for history in Mrs. Dalloway because history there is none! I looked at it, however, and the novel fell out of my hands towards page 50; I was so confused that nothing was happening. And then, suddenly, as in those images that take a long time to fixate on a world in 3-D, I plunged into this abundant and fascinating universe: the world of Virginia! The writing is magnificent, with sensitivity and poetry I had never encountered before. In it, she describes the wind blowing in the trees. I felt this wind on my cheek. I could smell the scents of the bark. Mrs. Dalloway was, for me, above all, a sensory journey.
But even more, this book is a beautiful hymn to femininity. Mrs. Dalloway, it's Virginia, me, my mother, my sister, all women simultaneously; had held their pain and hope there.
I remember reading it during my studies. It had bothered me, and now I understand why. There is a time to read Mrs. Dalloway. You must have felt the anger and the desire for life growling within you. And then later to have felt, on his shoulders, all the weight of regret. We must have loved, cried, and finally found appeasement.
I would have never liked to finish the book, and I did everything to prolong the reading, rereading the same passages several times and continually returning.
"Despite everything, that one day succeeds another day; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. That we wake up in the morning; that we see the sky; that we walk in the park; that we meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly Peter came in; then those roses; that was enough. After that, death was inconceivable. The idea that it had to end; and no one in the world would know how much she loved it all; how, to every moment..."
Yes, can we always say why we love? I loved Mrs. Dalloway for her beauty and her grace.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,892 followers
March 30, 2013


I can see why people hate Mrs-Dalloway-the-book (there are a fair few this-is-so-boring-I-lit-myself-on-fire kind of one/two star reviews) because Mrs Dalloway-the-book is the Terminator 2 of doileys, ribbons, and fetching hats, the Die Hard 4 of a sunny day in London, 1923, the Apocalypto of curtains and place mats and memories of moonlight boating parties; and the Transformers of wondering if you married the right person.

You have to get into Mrs Woolf’s style, which is a nimsywimsymimsy breathless-hush exalted stream of consciousness thing, all the sentences, if that’s what they are, make zigzags like mad flies, they each contain at least 29 commas, the pages zag randomly or not from one character’s brain to another (did you ever see Slacker? Like that, but more British), and as usual in these high falutin affairs, there’s zero story. You want a story? Lowbrow oik! Oh, okay, she’s having a party, and a guy is having problems from shellshock, and then she has the party and people come, rich types. End. Don’t look for anything else.


I can also see why you’d hate Mrs Dalloway herself, too, stuck-up self-admiring Tory cow. For the first 50 pages I was really hating on her doileys and her oh-gosh-I-was-so-clever-to-marry-the-right-man untrammelled egotism. Oh, little me, and all of this sparkly stuff, how lucky and deserving I am! She’s more than a little repulsive. But of course not to the people in her life, they’re all like oh Clarissa, let me fondle your doileys. (Except one, hah! But she’s ugly as sin, and a religious nutjob, so, you know, those sorry types are bound not to be in love with Clarissa. )

[not a good picture - Mrs D would think this was VULGAR]

Mrs Woolf winds her famous slippery metaphysical twistical delirious poetical lyrical ecstatic style through the minds of around six main characters who orbit each other during this one June day, a solar system of social engagement. What you have going on is 1923-style 360 degree feedback appraisals! Yes, that intolerable oppressive management tool of the 21st century is right here, as all the characters relentlessly judge each other and are judged in turn, and most, even dear Clarissa, come in for some industrial strength sneering by their nearest and dearest, they all condescend and look down upon each other, and then they flip and start making googoo eyes, it’s all a bit emotionally high-strung and vapid. Anyway this lot are my class enemy (they haven’t gone away) (but also they did create 90% of the great art, or pay the artists to create it, so I am a bit conflicted about the upper class) - but I was kind of hoping there would be a Russian communist with a bomb to blow them all to buggery when they all got to the party but it’s not that sort of novel. Instead it’s actually


The warp and the weft, the weep and the woof, life itself, never so well expressed – here’s Clarissa:

She feared time itself, the dwindling of life; how year by year her share was sliced, how little the margin that remained was capable any longer of stretching, of absorbing, as in the youthful years, the colours, salts, tones of existence, so that she filled the room she entered, and felt often as she stood hesitating one moment on the threshold of her drawing-room, an exquisite suspense, such as might stay a diver before plunging while the sea darkens and brightens beneath him, and the waves which threaten to break but only gently split their surface, roll and conceal and encrust as they just turn over the weeds with pearl.

That’s it – that’s this novel


I have to admit that quite a bit of the brain-delving and soul-surfing (and there is nothing here which isn’t) made no literal sense to me, I just could not follow what was being said & would love to ask a major Dalloway fan exactly what this or that passage was on about. So it does - towards the end - slightly turn into exquisite Woolfian background music. It is for that reason I cannot grant the elusive fifth star.


One year before Mrs D, Joyce published Ulysses, and VW had a copy. One of the chapters in Ulysses is The Wandering Rocks in which several characters peregrinate through Dublin, and Joyce streams their consciousnesses, jumping from person to person. And of course, like Ulysses, Mrs D happens all on one day. And Bloomsday and Dallowday are set in capital cities in the month of June.

Other than that, VW’s version of the interior monologue is completely utterly different.


At one point a random young woman down in London for a job thinks she’ll remember this day, her first day in the big city. Fifty years from now she’ll still remember it, she thinks. So it being 1923 in the novel, that means she’ll be remembering it in June 1973 while Life on Mars by David Bowie or Skweeze Me Pleeze Me by Slade plays from a nearby radio. There’s an odd thought.


VW is even, rarely, funny - a young man falls for his English tutor :

He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.

Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,986 followers
October 30, 2017
A few introductory comments on my rating and review:

My rating is reflective of my experience with this book and not the actual impact this book has had on literature and other people over the years. Sometimes when I read a book I don’t like, I cannot understand why others like it either. That is not the case here – it is very easy for me to tell why others would like this book and I think it was very interesting at its core; it is just the delivery that did not work for me.

I hesitate to actually say that I read this. I really only grasped about 15% of what was going on during the book as the randomness of the events in the plot had me confused and I kept daydreaming in the middle of it. It is only through internet searches after I was done that I was able to pull all the events together coherently.

Now, on to the review:

I think the story was very interesting. Also, from what I have read about Virginia Woolf, it is very reflective of her life experiences. But, I went low with my star rating because the stream of consciousness delivery had me lost and disinterested most of the time. As mentioned above – if it wasn’t for Google, I may not have fully understood what transpired. I did this as audio and I am glad I did because I am not sure I could have stuck with it if I was reading it.

As a famous classic on many must read lists, I get it. But, it is one of those that I think not a lot of people are going to get into. So, be warned before you go out to choose a classic and hope that Mrs. Dalloway is the one for you: a great story but rambling, stream of consciousness delivery has to be something you don’t mind.
Profile Image for Violet wells.
433 reviews3,222 followers
January 30, 2019
It’s been a while since I last read Mrs Dalloway. I’d always had it down as her third best book, but falling a fair way short of The Waves and To the Lighthouse. Therefore I was surprised by just how much I loved and admired it this time round. It’s probably her most popular novel – because it’s more intimate, more personal and sprightly and warm than her other novels. What’s most brilliant about it is the easy fluid way she makes of each passing moment a ruffled reservoir of the inner life of her characters. Every moment alters the composition, the ebb and flow of memory and identity. And everything, very subtly, is experienced in relation to the inevitability of death. It’s a deeply elegiac novel and one of the finest celebrations of the beauty to be gleaned in the passing moment I can think of.

She does, now and again, get carried away with her metaphors. Extending them until they bear little relation with their starting point, like shadows that have no source. In fact so epic and sweeping are her metaphors sometimes – usually when she’s writing about/making fun of men - that you think she might have had a copy of The Iliad on her desk while writing this. And men get a pretty rough deal on the whole.

There’s probably no richer book about London in the history of literature. I remember when I was a skinny nineteen year old thing walking about London and how Woolf’s presence, through her prose, was almost like a medium permeating the squares of Bloomsbury, the bridges and churches and parks of the city. She added an entire layer to my experience of the hidden riches of London. At one point Clarissa muses, “It ended in a transcendental theory which, with her horror of death, allowed her to believe, or say that she believed (for all her scepticism), that since our apparitions, the part of us which appears, are so momentary compared with the other, the unseen part of us, which spreads wide, the unseen might survive, be recovered somehow attached to this person or that, or even haunting certain places, after death. Perhaps - perhaps.” Well, no question, Virginia still haunts certain places –pretty much every London location she writes about in this novel.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
468 reviews3,253 followers
August 14, 2021
"What does the brain matter compared with the heart?"so states one of the last lines in this short brilliant novel, a thought -provoking book life is temporary after all. This phrase is about Mr. Richard Dalloway who works for the government in the early 1920's in London, England. Clarissa Dalloway's nice steady husband rather ordinary, he will never be a member of the prestigious cabinet, nevertheless she loves him, he reciprocates that emotion...she knows but he's much too embarrassed to verbalize , showing it by giving wonderful flowers yet there is something missing in her existence, she has a great husband a beautiful dutiful daughter Elizabeth 18, devoted to her father, a good home. She while not pretty at 52 but attractive , gives glamorous grand parties to her many friends and relatives, important people in society mostly. The movers and shakers in the nation, the perfect hostess elegant, calm, sophisticated always says the right thing to others, still she feels bored, needing excitement. Clarissa's mind constantly wanders, thinking and pondering has she chosen the right path. The happy memories of the past, thirty years ago...of the frightening Peter her first love, wild Sally Seton the best friend Clarissa ever had so fearless, outrageous and amusing everyone liked, Peter Walsh is coming back from India, a man she could have married nothing dull about him, an unstable but always vibrant, her former lover will be at the party ( not very successful), rich Sally also, Mrs . Dalloway is uneasy. The narrative of the book takes place in just one day, the ubiquitous giant Big Ben clock sounds the alarm, striking often every hour, and more as time flows by reminding her not only the party is near but life is limited, should not waste it in idle dreams, live in the present be content, in this crazy unpredictable, cold world...
will not continue forever, not last. Virginia Woolf's most popular novel, still has dark aspects the trying to forget , not possible...set a few years after the end of hostilities. A classic from another era, the vast sufferings of World War 1 soldiers is vaguely mentioned ( by one character) the English...
Profile Image for Piyangie.
529 reviews491 followers
June 19, 2022
In this second reading, I realized that although I have liked the book after my first reading, I hardly have understood it. In Mrs. Dalloway, the story is said to be about the events of a day in Clarissa Dalloway’s life. While this is true to an extent, it is more than that. Although the story marks the events of one day, the story both goes back and forth between Clarissa’s youth and her present life through Clarissa’s thoughts. Through one stream of thoughts, she revisits her youth, recalling the choices she made, relationships that were broken, and love unforgotten. Another stream takes her through her present life, her relationship with her husband and daughter, and her life as an upper-class society lady. Not only that. Clarissa’s life and her character are also framed through Peter Walsh’s thoughts. This is an interesting and colourful way to paint the true picture of Clarissa Dalloway’s life.

Virginia is well known for her style of writing. Her use of stream of consciousness has both attracted and deterred readers. I for a reader was attracted, although it was a difficult experience at first. The stream of consciousness is one of the most fascinating and colourful ways of writing. The thoughts, feelings, and reactions of characters, combined with an objective narrative have a personal allure. However, I personally felt that in Mrs. Dalloway, the stream of conscious writing was easy to follow and in particular interesting.

While the story centers on the life and relationships of Clarissa, Virginia also portrays the social, economic, and political changes that have and are taking place within London following World War I through the thoughts and observations of the characters.

Septimus Warren Smith, I felt, to be a subplot. Through his story, Virginia brings out the suffering of the mentally impaired. The mental and physical pain, the delusions, the desperation that ultimately paves way for committing suicide, are well and truly portrayed that the readers are overwhelmed with pity. Virginia doesn’t stop there. She goes further to show the suffering their loved ones go through. Also, by alluding Septimus’s mental condition to be a direct outcome of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Virginia exposes the terrible consequences of the War. At the same time, Virginia turns her attention to treatment that is directed at these patients and exposes the ineffectiveness of them, especially those institutionalizing them and being kept in isolation.

These stories, the characters, their thoughts, observations, their points of view are presented in her beautiful, poetic, lyrical, and colourful writing. It was such a pleasure to read those beautiful, poetic, and lyrical writing, page by page, as it paints a vivid picture of the story that she is telling.

It is amazing how much depth is carried in this short novel. No matter how many books I have read of her or how many times I have read her, Virginia Woolf never fails to amaze me with each new reading. She is such a brilliant writer and perhaps, the best woman author of the twentieth century.

I simply loved the read this second time around, and am very happy that I was finally able to understand and appreciate this masterpiece.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
March 5, 2020
I first read Mrs. Dalloway sometime between "The Hours" film was released & college (2002-2003), knowing pretty well what it aimed at--to chronicle life as it is lived, with plenty of characters to populate the sphere that’s immediately around the titular protagonist, the nucleus, the hopeless hostess of parties; all their thoughts at once made clear and later muddled with the novel’s own moving train of consciousness. This time around I found that the most difficult portion of Mrs. Dalloway is its middle section, after the Warren Smiths meet with the physician & Lady Bruton is introduced, & then there is this cavalcade of characters along with all of their inner musings. Sometimes Virginia Woolf uses “he” & “she,” & one knows not who on the stage she is precisely referring to. (It could be said that the emotion within each individual defies exactly who that character is. It is the emotion that’s important--the melancholic mood which at times may strike us all.)

The all-knowing narrator in Mrs. Dalloway is like the great revolving eye which transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau often mention. It knows all, but it also rides the collective wave of thought and feeling itself (in Woolf that feeling often deals with growing older, dying).

Difficult to put into words, it is clear what it was that (the overrated) IAN MCEWAN tried (& failed) to emulate: Woolf’s sense of impending devastation (In Saturday, another day-long narrative, an Englishman is surprised to see a fallen aeroplane alight in the morning sky… just as the denizens of England receive a fiery emblem: that of the Royal figure inside the coach in the streets of London) & in that grand English tradition: the utmost repression of the individual’s wants (in On Chesil Beach Mc Ewan’s thesis is not unlike the following: “Not for years have they spoken of it; which, he thought… is the greatest mistake in the world. The time comes when it can’t be said; one’s too shy to say it... ‘I love you.’”).

Confusing--it is meant to be like a wave washing over you as you stand alone; a delicate little flower before the awesome tide.
Profile Image for Guille.
782 reviews1,745 followers
August 30, 2018
Me impresionó Woolf con este libro, el primero que leí de ella. Me gustó todo, letra y música; todos los modos de la narración me parecieron portentosos. Me maravilló ese narrador de espíritu juguetón que nos va colando en el alma de los personajes para mostrarnos sus monólogos interiores caóticos, enrevesados, entrecortados, dispersos, saltarines. Me encantaron esos diálogos icebergs donde se mezcla con tanta agudeza lo dicho, lo callado y lo ni siquiera pensado. Y hasta con el discurso más tradicional de un narrador omnisciente supo estar a la altura.

Un libro soberbio acerca del paso del tiempo y la soledad, repleto de las obsesiones, miedos y debilidades de la autora. La literatura debió de servir a Woolf de catarsis y, al mismo tiempo, como vía de comunicación, siempre difícil, siempre imperfecta, siempre deficiente, siempre decepcionante, con los otros y con el universo todo.

El tema de la soledad abarca tanto la imposibilidad de comunión con los demás como el enfoque existencial de un individuo sin dioses, solo ante el mundo y ante sí mismo sin una base sólida a la que aferrarse.

Y en esta soledad, el tiempo, que imperturbable e indiferente nos va machacando sin piedad, que incomprensiblemente ya transcurría antes de nuestra aparición y seguirá avanzando igual de incomprensiblemente después de que nos hayamos ido, mantendrá el ritmo de la fiesta sin importarle que la muerte haga su presencia en ella una y otra vez.

La novela es una muestra de la habilidad e inteligencia de la autora para las situaciones, tanto las que mantienen el hilo de pensamiento como todas aquellas engarzadas para crear el ambiente adecuado, para transmitir el sentimiento correcto o para describir el rasgo definitorio de cada personaje.

Unos personajes que parecen recoger cada uno de ellos alguna parte de ella misma, partes no queridas. La visión de conjunto sobre el ser humano es desoladora. Un ser dejado de la mano de dios, necesitado de comunicación, de roce e imposibilitado para una intimidad real, para un profundo conocimiento del otro, que le deja desamparado. Un ser veleidoso, caprichoso, vanidoso y perplejo ante la complejidad de la vida, que es incapaz de comprender como las cosas no pueden funcionar de forma más sencilla, tan fácil como acercarse a esa bella muchacha que el azar, que no es el azar, ha puesto en nuestro camino y decirle “Venga conmigo a tomar un helado” y que ella nos responda naturalmente “Ah, sí”.

Woolf es dura con el ser humano en general, pero fundamentalmente con ella misma. Es dura con la cobardía de Clarissa ante la realización de sus deseos, con su debilidad ante la opinión de los demás, con su esnobismo. Es dura con la inseguridad de Peter Walsh, siempre manoseando su cortaplumas, con su falta de ambición, con su falta de lucha en la consecución de sus objetivos, con su cobardía para hacer frente a sus sentimientos. Es dura con la frialdad ecuánime de Richard, con su serenidad, con su falta de pasión, con su falta de sensibilidad artística. Es dura con la insustancialidad de Hugh, con su bobería, con su autocomplacencia.

Pero sobre todo es dura, durísima, con la señorita Kilman, lo cual es muy llamativo. La señorita Kildman que parece encarnar a la mujer liberada, autosuficiente, alejada de injustos sentimentalismos y capaz de hacer frente a la opinión dominante si la cree injusta, concentra, sin embargo, una buena parte de los odios de Woolf, quizás de los odios contra sí misma: odia su inteligencia (“la inteligencia es estúpida”); su falta de compasión, su trascendentalismo frío; sus aires de superioridad, su intolerancia, su afán por someter a los demás con su alta moral y, cómo no, también su debilidad.

Solo dos personajes se escapan a esta impiedad con el ser humano. Uno es Sally Seton, posiblemente la representación de su deseo, de su ideal, el espejo donde Clarissa no quiere mirarse, la independencia sin pretensiones, la claridad de sentimientos y de ideas, la mujer libre y dueña de sí misma. El otro es el encargado de, en base a sus opiniones y a su propia vida, darnos una buena parte de esa imagen tan descorazonadora del ser humano, el imposibilitado para sobrellevar la vida, el desesperado que ve la muerte como un abrazo, Septimus Warren Smith. Parece que este también tenía mucho de ella.
Profile Image for İntellecta.
199 reviews1,558 followers
February 24, 2021
England in 1923. A land between world wars, between tradition and modernity. Virginia Woolf's fourth novel, "Mrs Dalloway"

This book offers many partial even very modern approaches, reflecting the role of woman in society, the importance of marriage, the mental illness as a sign of our time, the consequences of war, the power of medicine and much more ..."

Ps:If you like the technique "Stream of consciousness "the book is suitable for you.
Profile Image for Candi.
622 reviews4,714 followers
September 22, 2023
"She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged. She sliced like a knife through everything; at the same time was outside, looking on. She had a perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very dangerous to live even one day. Not that she thought herself clever, or much out of the ordinary."

Virginia Woolf takes us through a single day in 1923 in post-World War I London. She does so with gorgeous prose and a stream of consciousness writing that takes us directly into the very minds of both Clarissa Dalloway herself as well as those to whom she comes in contact. It is as if one could hear every little musing and wandering thought process of each person we encounter in any ordinary day. Imagine hearing all this – it could get a bit busy and confusing as all these thoughts crowd in on us! Indeed, sometimes it was a bit disorienting as a reader to jump from one mind to the next; one must truly be patient to follow the flow of thoughts within this novel in order to be rewarded.

As Clarissa makes preparations for an evening party, she reflects on her past, her present and her future. Time itself plays a large role in this novel. "The clock was striking. The leaden circles dissolved in the air." When a former lover, Peter Walsh, returns to England from India, Clarissa contemplates her own identity. She examines her view of her inner self in relation to the scrutiny of Peter Walsh and what she believes he thinks of her. She perceives that he thinks of her as being empty and only interested in social concerns, prosperity and parties. She feels there is so much more to her than meets the eye. Can one ever really know the innermost workings of another human being? She frequently ponders death and what her own death would mean in the context of the life she has lived.

"Did it matter then, she asked herself, walking towards Bond Street, did it matter that she must inevitably cease completely; all this must go on without her; did she resent it; or did it not become consoling to believe that death ended absolutely? but that somehow in the streets of London, on the ebb and flow of things, here, there, she survived, Peter survived, lived in each other, she being part, she was positive, of the trees at home; of the house there, ugly, rambling all to bits and pieces as it was; part of people she had never met; being laid out like a mist between the people she knew best, who lifted her on their branches as she had seen the trees lift the mist, but it spread ever so far, her life, herself."

Ms. Woolf introduces us to another haunted individual within this book. A young veteran of The Great War, Septimus Warren Smith has survived the war but at great cost. Suffering from what appears to be post traumatic stress disorder, Septimus is in a downward spiral and is not able to obtain the proper psychological help needed to reverse the effects of the horrors he has witnessed. His young wife, displaced from her own country and family following her marriage, is a victim in her own right. She is not equipped to handle the trauma her husband suffers. She desires children and a stable life that Septimus is not able to provide given his illness. Unknown to one another, Septimus Smith and Clarissa Dalloway's stories are fundamentally linked together in a way which will become apparent to Clarissa on the evening of her party.

Undeniably, Virginia Woolf is a brilliant writer. I have adored two of her previous works, The Voyage Out and A Room of One's Own. Mrs. Dalloway is one I certainly respect as well. However, I found the flow of thought a bit more difficult in this compared to the others I have read thus far. Essentially, depending on whose psyche I happened to be meandering through at any given moment, I was either completely submerged or floundering to get a grasp. This affected my overall enjoyment of the book but not my admiration for the beautiful language and the talent of Ms. Woolf. I will continue to read her work and perhaps come back to this another day when I can more fully immerse myself and hopefully gain even further insight.

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Georgia Scott.
Author 3 books196 followers
June 26, 2023
The motion of a thread and needle is meditative to some as prayer beads are to others or the etching into air of crosses from heads to heart. Mrs Dalloway, a professed atheist, chooses green silk thread in this novel with her name.

"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."

Carol Ann Duffy writes in her introduction to the Vintage Classics edition of Mrs Dalloway that this is "a poet's novel . . . it speaks clearly to the poet in the reader." This Scot who was the first woman and openly lesbian poet to become Britain's Poet Laureate writes similarly of everyday things which can give our spirits wings.

The Prayer
by Carol Ann Duffy

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer
utters itself. So, a woman will lift
her head from the sieve of her hands and stare
at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift.

Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth
enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;
then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth
in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

Pray for us now. Grade 1 piano scales
console the lodger looking out across
a Midlands town. Then dusk, and someone calls
a child's name as though they named their loss.

Darkness outside. Inside, the radio's prayer -
Rockall. Malin. Dogger. Finisterre.

If you're in this frame of mind, read Mrs Dalloway. Not for her. For Virginia Woolf who saw horrors worthy of Mr Kurtz but also life's fleeting beauty.
Profile Image for Pavel Nedelcu.
313 reviews123 followers
December 25, 2021

Because I finished “Mrs. Dalloway” and I must say it exceeded (all) my expectations and has been giving me much more than “To the Lighthouse” - although the latter already had a maximum mark in my TopFav.

Many times I’ve heard of modern classics which once read turned out to be terrible flops; but Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway made me regret I postponed it for so long.

But perhaps it was better this way: in order to understand all the implications of Mrs. Dalloway you need some experience as a reader, and a certain degree of cultural knowledge.

The plot is one of the simplest: it famously begins with: “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself”. The flowers that she uses to decorate her house, because on that evening she’s going to give a party to which all members of London’s high society are invited.

However, the fact that Clarissa Dalloway goes out to buy flowers (could that be the reason I appreciated this novel more than To the Lighthouse, which is essentially set inside a house?) opens up a wide perspective on every person who might interact with Clarissa, every person hearing the sound of the Big Ben watch, every person who looks at something else that another person is looking at too, such as, for example, a motorbike passing by.

These signals are used in an almost inaudible way by Woolf as triggers to "jump" into the mind of each of her characters and record their flow of thoughts. The characters are followed on the street, inside the shops, at the doctor, in the intimacy of their homes… everywhere, till the evening party in the Dalloway House.

So, at the party everyone converges in some sort of general confusion, and the circle closes with a reflection on life, on the passage of time and how we evolve in the long run, on the unfortunate life choices, on eternal love.

A reflection expressed for only a quarter (the social etiquette and generally normal dialogue doesn’t allow it): but we readers are lucky, since we have also had access to the other 75% that swirls in people's minds.

Because literature is not quite like a movie where you (only) see scenes, action and movement, in which people speak for the spectator to understand.

I’ll use a quote from Neil Gaiman I saw running on social media recently to explain this concept better: “Fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gifts of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over.”

And in this (as, of course, in many other things), Virginia Woolf was a master.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,619 reviews985 followers
February 20, 2022
A modernist tour de force from the heart and mind of the insurmountable Virginia Woolf. Clarissa Dalloway, 52, a socialite, married well, and with the ear of the highly privileged, is preparing for her party in the evening. Septimus Warren Smith, shell shocked Great War veteran is on the brink of insanity. This is the story of a day in their lives.

Woolf takes you from character to character's point of view, with mostly streams of their thoughts, switching points of view when they cross paths, or are even just mentioned in passing. What starts of as confusing, steadily becomes a real nice flow; like you're watching a film where the camera's eye flicks from person to person as it changes focus... and this was written in the 1920s!

You read this book and you can see that their lives barely cross, and don't really get why these two people's stories are in the same book. Woolf uses this device to contrasts their class, their gender, their world views, the people around them, and even how the same individual treats them differently. Woolf implies that these differences can be bridged, but are yet to be.

Woolf also uses her own experiences with mental health decay and treatment, to illustrate Smith's condition, which must have been hard. She also has none to subtle digs at the way we treated our war veterans, how we treat women in general, attitudes to lesbianism and snobbery. She also deftly sets it all in post Great War London where the seeds of he end of Empire are growing, where the first Labour Government has been elected, and where most essentially of all the privileged have began to have real concerns of the impact of social equality on their own lives. All this is just under 200 pages! 8.5 out of 12. A book that goes straight on to my shelf, as one that I know I will love even more on rereading.

2020 read
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
December 6, 2018
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

Although famous for focusing upon a single day in the life of one woman, Mrs. Dalloway in fact ricochets from one interior life to the next, collapsing the present into the past as it does so. The novel is far less interested in defining Clarissa Dalloway as an individual than in exploring the many-sided effects she has on an assortment of others; by the end of the narrative, Woolf has offered her readers not a neat portrait of a personality but several impressionistic sketches of the same subject. Woolf's multifaceted characterization successfully thwarts attempts to sum up Mrs. Dalloway or to reduce her to her relationship with any one person. Likewise, the author's elaborate but accessible prose resists careless reading, forcing her readers to approach the short novel deliberately. Mrs. Dalloway was Woolf's first success at writing experimental long fiction, and it remains the perfect introduction to her mature work.
Profile Image for Robin.
493 reviews2,723 followers
April 8, 2019
The lit nerd in me is disappointed in myself for not enjoying this more. After an unsuccessful attempt at reading To the Lighthouse years ago, having putting it down, slightly baffled at my inability to grasp the all illusive point, I decided to try the highly beloved and acclaimed Mrs Dalloway.

Apparently, having a fascination with Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group, as well as truly loving the film "The Hours" (which is inspired by Mrs D), is not enough. Reading, in my opinion, should never feel like 'work', especially outside of university. And this felt like work. It was so difficult for my attention to stick to the words on the page. Every so often, Woolf would reel me back in with something concrete, with a beautiful turn of phrase, with a bit of plot that interested me. But then, inevitably, she would meander into paragraph after paragraph of... well, rambling and repetitive thoughts so personal to the character that it meant very little to me, the reader.

Often, I found myself thinking, Mrs Dalloway would have been so satisfying to *write*, so much more than to read. As a writer, employing the stream-of-consciousness style would be so freeing, hypnotic, and satisfying. Using only loose structure (this piece has no chapters or divisions, it simply hops from head to head to head of various characters, taking place over the course of one day), one is not constrained.

I'm full of admiration for Woolf - I see this piece as dreamy, philosophical, original; impressionist. I can see why it is set apart and why people could love it. I recognized the themes of time and mental illness, and love, uniquely treated. But I didn't enjoy reading it. Does that make sense?
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
580 reviews4,068 followers
October 7, 2018
No he podido conectar más con este libro y con todos sus personajes, no esperaba que fuera a absorberme esta historia de tal manera, sentir con tanta intensidad lo que Clarissa, Peter Walsh, Sally, Septimus e incluso Doris sienten, pero así ha sido.
Me ha ocurrido con muy pocos libros en mi vida este nivel de empatía TOTAL, y se ha convertido directamente en uno de mis libros preferidos.
Profile Image for Kalliope.
691 reviews22 followers
December 5, 2013

I love travelling by train, and this is one of the best environments for reading. Luckily I got a seat for myself and the coach is pleasant. There is so much light. How enjoyable!

What a funny way to start the book. Someone says that Clarissa Dalloway is setting off to buy the flowers. But here is the famous quote What a lark!, what a plunge!, but it is not quite at the beginning of the book and cannot quite join other iconic beginnings like Call me Ishmael.. or Longtemps je me suis couché de bonne heure.. or En un lugar de la Mancha de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme..

Regent’s park is certainly my favourite park in London. She is walking through this green and fresh and cool park. Did she mention that she was going to get the flowers? She meets a certain Hugh Whitbread and talks of doctors. I’d better write down the name. I always forget the names when reading. This Peter must have been her love. She is now 52; earlier the age of 18 is mentioned. We see her at two different ages then. And we hear more about her would-be husband. Right at the beginning. I wonder where this is taking us. Now I want to know more about her husband Richard. What is he like? if she keeps him absent.

What a weird thing to say, that it was silly to have other reasons for doing things. Much rather would she have been one of those people like Richard who did things for themselves. This quote makes me even more curious with the husband.

Peter is half Indian half English. He seems more intriguing now; I feel curiosity to know more of his background.

Offering newspapers now. No, gracias. I do not have the least interest in reading one. My treat is to have these hours to read my books and continue with dreamy Clarissa instead of current affairs.

Now she mentions flowers: delphiniums, sweet peas, arum lilies and carnations. This bouquet does not equal Proust’s flowers in spite of the beauty of English gardens. Carnations are the flowers most fittingly worn by gypsies. Scarlet carnations.

I am bit confused with this Septimus Warren Smith, what a weird name and makes funny initials, SMS (Short Message Service). He is 30. How curious, Woolf’s writing is so fluid but exact ages are given to several of the characters. What is this noise thing? I don’t get it. The Britishness continues, now with Royal family and Ascot and Hurlingham and the Empire and Gent’s clubs and, of course, the Tatler.

Those svelte windmills fruit of the new aerodynamics and huge and powerful turbines in this barren landscape of La Mancha. This is such a different view from the greenness of Regent’s park, and the contrast between what I see and what I imagine almost hurts my eyes. I wonder what the dear mythical figure of Don Quijote would have made of these modern windmills; he could not have thought they were giants, they are too slender.

The noise is from a car. But the explosion has not brought memories from the war to the characters. She mentions the sounds heard and the harmonies and describes the space between sound. I like this. Poor Lucrezia; she says that to love makes one solitary. What a sad thing to say. And now this strange sentence, that it is cowardly for a man to say he would kill himself. It makes me very uncomfortable to read such a premonition for Virginia.

We are in Lucrezia’s mind now and I have not noticed how imperceptibly we – the other readers and I – are shifted from the mind of a person to another one. I am finding myself reading back.

Back to Clarissa, now in her living room, looking at the silver and mending her silk dress, with the thimble. My mother always reminded me to use the thimble, which I never quite got the hang of it. I cling to dates and to hard facts whenever they are included, otherwise I feel like swimming in the open sea. So, Peter was in love with Clarissa in the 90s, and talks about the death of her soul. And five years have passed since the end of the war. And Peter now is 53, so one year older than Clarissa.

And here is another scene with flowers, and this time there are holly hocks, dahlias. I will have to look in google images to see what holly hocks look like. Make them float with heads cut off and make them float on water. This also reminds me of Odette who had her flowers floating on water, giving the scene a whiff of a brothel. Aunt Helen thinks that it is wicked to treat flowers like that. Quite right! So, yes, Proust is right in mentioning this as a sign of vulgarity.

And now they bring lunch. Good. Nowadays the service in trains is as it was in planes before. My tray arrives. I suppose I am hungry and welcome the interruption. I put my book aside and note the green and ivory of the seats and walls of the train coach.

The two women kiss on the lips. Again Woolf’s ghost enters through her writing. I perk up as Peter Walsh arrives to visit Clarissa. This accelerates the pulse of the plot and my curiosity is awakened. Do I detect a smack of envy in Peter? He does not like the importance of the social positions of Hugh and Dalloway but plans to ask them to put him into some secretary’s office with the idea of earning him about 500 a year. So, he does like that importance of the two men after all, if he can also obtain a benefit.

Nothing exists outside us except a state of mind. Another modernist concept and representational issues again. Once one is aware of this, there is no going back. There is a comment now on the strange name of Septimus. So, it is indeed a strange name. It wasn't just my idea.

I think I am getting the hang of how consciousness shifts from one person to another and it is through this subtle use of the third person. Before you realize it acts as a bridge and you are inside someone else’s mind. One can feel the depression in this book, in spite of all the beautiful things mentioned.

I flick back to Jarndyce & Jarndyce and take a break. What a change of gears this is with Dickens alliterations and repetitions, hammering ideas and making sure that he does not lose a reader and that the reader knows well where he stands.

One can watch a movie too, which is about to start, but I prefer to continue reading.

Peter Walsh is thinking of Clarissa on top of a bus. He goes through Shaftesbury Avenue. No matter how many years go by this avenue will always make me think of the Shaftesbury Psalter under its glass case at the British museum and subject of one of my BA theses. So very beautiful. Now that the British Library has moved to King’s Cross it may no longer be on display.

Peter arrives at the hotel and reads her letter. This is a very good view into Clarissa. The temptation to live at its extremes in contrast to the assurance of an established and predictable life. This dilemma is so relevant to so many people, it is uncanny. What she said before about doing things, like her party, because she loves life does not ring entirely true. Has she fled from life in rejecting Peter?

Bartlett pears. What is going on? Oh, Peter is eating and observing and being observed by a Mr and Mrs Morris from Liverpool. Walsh wears glasses and we are shifting again. Walsh has the manners of the upper class and this is what the Bartlett pears say. Is there bitterness in Woolf’s irony?, do I detect that she is snobbish after all, by paying so much attention to clues in social behaviour, to judge someone so much based on the person’s social standing?

There is something about Walsh that does not seem very attractive to me. He appears very well pleased with himself because the Morrises like him and all because of the Bartlett pears. Not only does she give the age of the characters, we are following the clock. I realize now and flick some pages back. Big Ben is ordering the life of Londoners. In one and a half hours we arrive at Alicante.

By law he has to be interned, if he has expressed desires to kill himself. I did not know that. Was Virginia Woolf confined? Most probably. I will have to read a biography on her.

Geraniums just seem out of place in London. This city calls for more delicate flowers and colours. Tough geraniums belong to the streets of Granada under its torrid sun and adorning whitewashed walls.

Consciousness moves like a camera, shifting viewpoints and positing itself behind the eyes of different characters but it does not really change its nature as it shifts. It just records a different discourse but language throughout remains the same… Do we really enter the characters? I am not sure.

Finally the husband moves in. Richard Dalloway. I like him and yet I think we are not supposed to. Conservatism vs freedom?

I like the image of Lady Bruton and the hold she thinks she has on her guests. And they went further and further away from her, being attached to her by a thin thread… which would stretch and stretch, get thinner an thinner as they walked across London; as if one’s friends were attached to one’s body, after lunching with them, by a thin thread.. It reminds me of Mm de Guermante’s eyes moving and walking away while continuing to being attached to her body by a loose thread.

They look at Spanish jewellery. What is meant by this?, Isabelinas?

Esther’s Narration, I mean Esther Summerson’s, and her sweetness and clarity of mind. Around seventy five years earlier, the life span of a person, and the language has been turned around. These modernists metamorphosed representation. Did Woolf like Dickens?

One O’clock . Exact time and the age of characters are fixed and defined, and the rest flows. Big Ben sound takes us back to Clarissa’s drawing room, and suddenly we jump into 3 o’clock. Two hours for two paragraphs. Where is La durée?

Yes, I like Richard Dalloway; he is more true to himself than Walsh. He is content even if he does not bring himself to tell her that he loves her. She is not feeling regret and I sense that she did the right choice. Walsh is full of intentions but does not succeed in taking off.

And her Party begins, and it is a bit boring to read. Spanish shawls are mentioned. What are these? Mantillas or mantones de Manila They must be the second; the first would be too churchy for this setting. They are not Spanish but Chinese even if they arrived to Europe via Manila.

Finally the two men finally face each other. Everything is so buried and so well guarded and civilized that this scene just comes and goes.

Alicante. I can smell the sea with gratitude as soon as we step out of the train station. I have not been here for years. This time the centre of town, as we zigzag through the maze of streets in the taxi, makes me realize what a Moorish city it is, no wonder with such a name as Al-Laqant. These narrow streets and alleys and buildings of massive golden stone remind me of La Valleta. A port to the sea.

The choice is between roses and Geopolitik. Are we supposed to despise Clarissa, Virginia?, No, what she liked was simply life. That is what I do it for..... to life. The two different aspects of India, the political or the beauty, clash. The pulling forces are the tensions for the Empire or the orchids and magnificent mountains. Everything is India. And now she sees herself carried on the back of coolies. Well, here Virginia’s conception of Clarissa is clear. If there were any doubts about what Woolf thinks of Clarissa now we know.

The Bradshaws arrive. Ah, yes, the doctor; so yes Septimus has killed himself. I have to go back and reread that section. So subtle. I think about reading, how much the reader brings in. I knew this and project it in the text. How did I know it? The section is written as a watercolour. We see the defined picture of what has happened in Clarissa’s party. Is she heartless?, her party and the life of a suffering youth. Clarissa made out of smiling and glossy cardboard. She did not pity him. She is upset her party is being damaged. But it is Woolf herself, the creator, and not the Bradshaws, who is spoiling her party. She has served it on a platter in front of Clarissa’s nose, in spite of her flowers.

Are SMS and Clarissa two sides of the same coin? Not perfectly. Clarissa’s love of life is presented as superficial and not as, literally, life-saving. And I feel the same with the dilemma presented by the two men in her life. I would have expected Peter Walsh to present a more tantalizing view of life. She settles, contentedly, for the middle way.

I enjoy being in the Paseo now, parallel to the beach and with all those yachts, and watching passers-by. The pavement with those wave patterns in black and white and the palm tress, the distinctive image of Alicante. This pavement is from the 1930s, almost from Clarissa’s time. Will sit at the heladería and finish this.

No, I am not trying to imitate Virginia Woolf. Who would dare? It is just that whenever I read one of her books my mind wanders off to nowhere, or to another book, or to myself.

For there she was.

For here I am.

Looking at the sea.

And yes, what a lark!, what a plunge!

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