Monday, 15 March 2010

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. DallowayGenre: Literary Classic
How I read it: I own the book

What attracted me to the book: Have you looked at the cover? It's brilliant. I love the 1920s fashion.

What it worth the money? It cost me full price, this book. Would I spend the money just to have the cover? No. Well, maybe. The cover is awesome! Would I buy a plainly-covered book just to read the story? No. Buy it from a used book store. I wouldn't suggest taking it out from the library for the reasons listed below in my 'thoughts' section.

Who should read this book: This book is NOT for everyone...(remember how I said that about Jane Eyre? Well, I mean it for this book.)
a) you have a brain (and I don't mean one that understands Teletubbies. No wait, bad example. Who on this earth understands Teletubbies? Okay, different example... if you can recite 20 numbers after 3.14 on PI, you just might be capable of understanding this book and maybe rocket science. This book is harder than brain surgery... Nah, I joke. Almost.)
b) you like challenges and wake up every morning wondering why the sky is blue.

Summary (from amazon): This brilliant novel explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman's life. Direct and vivid in her account of the details of Clarissa Dalloway's preparations for a party she is to give that evening,Woolf ultimately managed to reveal much more; for it is the feeling behind these daily events that gives Mrs. Dalloway its texture and richness and makes it so memorable.

Why is it such a difficult read? It's the POV really. Woolf writes in a highly poetic, highly mobile third-person narrator, not merely "expressing" the character's thoughts but "mirroring" how the character perceives him or herself as seen by others. Often you will wonder who's talking or acting from one paragraph to the next. Also, she loves long sentences and even longer paragraphs.

My thoughts: This book is considered one of the most important and revolutionary artworks of the 20th century. And I agree. For that reason - and the fact I believe literary classics should be read no matter what their difficultly level is  - you should read it. 

In my opinion, this was Virginia Woolf's way of understanding the world. When I read that she committed suicide, I began to understand the novel more. In this book she took men and women from all walks of life - rich, poor, sad, apparently happy, those who did a great deal with their life and those who didn't - and examined one day of their life. 

Is the nun who sacrificed marriage more happy than the woman who married for love? Is life worth living? I believe perhaps she was trying to find the answers herself.

Although a tough read, I will not leave you stranded. Here's how you should read it:
a) plan to spend many months on this novel (you will not be able to read it in one sitting) Besides, this isn't a book that should be gobbled down with tea but digested with dentures.
b) read it alone without distractions and read it aloud. I think that's the most important ...
like poetry, read this book aloud.



Talli Roland said...

I love this book, and I agree with your reading tips 100 per cent. You need to read this in silence, without distraction.

It is worth the concentration, though!

Ann Elle Altman said...

Thank you, Talli, I'm glad you liked it too. I think I will read the book again in the future, to see what I think of it then.


Lydia Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.L. Campbell said...

This is another one I haven't read.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Joy, it's quite a good book. Difficult to get into at first.

Natasha said...

I have been the proud owner of this book for three years, but haven't got down to reading it yet. After your review, I am sure I am not going to be able to read it for several years now, because reading in solitude is a luxury I cannot afford right now :-(

Ann Elle Altman said...

Rayna, I hear you. It seems every time I want want alone time, it's impossible.


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