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Mrs Dalloway - Book Review

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by Tammy Facey (subscribe)
Read. Write. Run.
Published September 11th 2013
The big bad Woolf

"Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." So begins Virginia Woolf's 1925 novel, chronicling the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a woman who "is always giving parties to cover the silence". During the course of one day, as Clarissa prepares and hosts a soiree, we learn there is fragility and darkness behind the high society hostess facade.

Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Mrs Dalloway

While Woolf has been praised for her eponymous novel I have always found her modernist texts simply exhausting. The stream of consciousness mixed with a desire to threaten and write in a clever, fragmented manner was simply too much for me to take in.

I like to think I'm an avid reader, and during my time at University I learned about 'hard reading', where you critique and explore every line break, chapter, and choice of word. While such a technique aided my understanding of the format, trying to work my way through Mrs Dalloway with any sort of ease escaped me.

It's not that the narrative was uninteresting (although how interesting can you make a stroll through London?), but there didn't seem to be much 'point'. While many texts challenge such a question, Woolf (taking into account printed texts), wasn't interested in existentialism. Instead, Mrs Dalloway seems merely words, upon words: a prime example of the Modernist movement.

Perhaps I have a problem with the Modernist period, but I found Mrs Dalloway a waste of time. I pondered the proposal that Mrs Dalloway was a reflection of Woolf herself, as considered by some scholars, but it doesn't make the novel a more gripping read.

Deflated, I put the book down. Maybe you'll feel differently, but frankly I wouldn't read another Woolf book again for pleasure.
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Why? To understand Modernism
Cost: 99p ebook (Collins Classics)
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