Currently Reading: Mrs. Dalloway

The copy of Mrs. Dalloway that I own is impressively annotated by one of its previous owners. I wish that the notes were legible, because the few words that I can decipher include heavyweights like “trap of consciousness” and “death of soul.” Mrs. Dalloway surfaced in my mind on International Women’s Day (March 8) with its infamous first line, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself,” and I thought it was about time that I read the classic. While the story follows a single day in the post-WWI life of Clarissa Dalloway, readers weave in and out of the minds of several characters, abruptly dropping into each one’s stream of consciousness. Not only are there sudden shifts in person, place, and time, but there are also no chapters or paragraph breaks to delineate where it is appropriate to pause, so sharp attention is required. The book is a shining example of modernist literature, with its unconventional and lyrical flair: “Life; London; this moment of June” (p. 5).
 
Though the case with every book that I read, I am particularly aware that there is absolutely nothing new that I can say about Virginia Woolf or Mrs. Dalloway. Anything and everything critical, brilliant, subtle, funny, and beyond has already been said, and most likely by someone far smarter than I am. Author Anna Quindlen brings up a similar idea in her oft-quoted commencement speech at Mount Holyoke College:
 
“Every story has already been told. Once you’ve read Anna Karenina, Bleak House, The Sound and the Fury, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Wrinkle in Time, you understand that there is really no reason to ever write another novel.”
 
Don’t worry, she then counters herself: “Except that each writer brings to the table, if she will let herself, something that no one else in the history of time has ever had. And that is herself, her own personality, her own voice.”
 
With that in mind, I continue Mrs. Dalloway (I’m halfway through) with the hope that I will indeed have something unique to share. May has begun, the perfect month for finishing those lingering to-read books before summer inspires a brand new list. I’m happy to consider Mrs. Dalloway the first book of May, and to discover its influence on the month’s remaining book selections.
 
Follow on Bloglovin

12 Comments

  1. Wow, such a lovely post! Mrs. Dalloway is currently on the stack besides my bed waiting to be next in line and I am so curious and excited to read it! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. Mrs. Dalloway is one of the books that shapped my personality. You know those books you read, and they start being a pillar in your life and the way you look at it? I read it last year and I’m looking foward reading it again. Hope you’re enjoying it!

  3. Such a lovely post! Mrs Dalloway has been on my list for far too long and this all the motivation I need to finally get round to it. What a great quote too. Hope you enjoy it!

  4. I really enjoyed Mrs Dalloway a few years ago, so I’m glad you are too & hope you still are by the end! Your edition sounds wonderful, like a little book of secrets – I’d be so curious about who the annotator is/was…

  5. Thanks for posting this! I’ve never heard of this book but I’ve been wanting to read something by Virginia Wolf! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  6. Ooh I LOVE that quote, and Mount Holyoke is from my neck of the woods too. 😉 Have you read To the Lighthouse? That’s my absolutely favorite.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.