Is there anything to make you feel insufficient or stupid like reviewing very literary classics? ‘Cause I don’t think there is.
I read Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf in an incredibly stressful time this november and it really got rather snippeted, which is a shame. While reading, I definitely noticed that Woolf’s stream of consciousness-writing benefits massively from being read in bigger chunks, and my enjoyment of the book always increased when I had more time for it.
Even so and with all the fragmentary intake, I could really see, if not fully appreciate the brilliance of this novel.
It’s set over the course of only one day in 1920s’ London and mainly follows two people: Clarissa Dalloway, a middle-aged wife and mainly concerned throughout the novel with organising a dinner party, and Septimus Smith, a former soldier in WW I suffering from shellshock.
It’s structure is very unusual, although probably very Woolf. As her work is the absolute epitome of stream of consciousness, I was very interested to see how the narrative would be arranged in this book, and I have to say it’s definitely unlike anything else I’ve ever read. There’s not really an indication of change of narrator, and direct speech and thoughts aren’t clearly distinguished either.
While that may sound very choppy and hard to follow, I actually think it rather works. The way she manages to stick to recurring motives of time (and Big Ben’s bells) and memory and have all her perspectives just blend into each other and get interconnected without ever feeling even a tad forced or constructed impressed me a lot.
Still, I don’t feel at all that I got everything I could have (and can) out of reading this book and will definitely invest time in the future to read more of her work and also rereading this novel to understand its genius even better.
So while this isn’t a completely satisfying book to read because you just feel like it goes right over your head sometimes (at least that’s how I felt), it’s still highly rewardng and gives you that treasure hunter-feeling of something being there to be discovered, of a book having so much more than you expected it to give, and that’s a marvellous feeling.