"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Classic book review: MRS. DALLOWAY

Title: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Book Beginning quote: 
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

Friday56 quote: 
It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels.
Heralded as Virginia Woolf's greatest novel, this is a vivid portrait of a single day in a woman's life. When we meet her, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party preparation while in her mind she is something much more than a perfect society hostess. As she readies her house, she is flooded with remembrances of faraway times. And, met with the realities of the present, Clarissa reexamines the choices that brought her there, hesitantly looking ahead to the unfamiliar work of growing old. (Publisher)
Review: While Mrs. Dalloway may be Virginia Woolf's most popular novel but it left me feeling flat. "What just happened?" I asked myself. "Why is this one of the top novels of all time?" Obviously I had no answers so I decided to hop on over to Shmoop to discover these and many other answers to questions I had about this classic novel. 

One of the first things Shmoop said caught my attention: "We're pretty sure if Woolf were alive today she's be the master of the social networking scene -- facebook, blogging, Twitter, you name it." Hey, I can relate to that. They go on to describe her "up-to-the-minute, this just-in" approach to storytelling. Mrs. Dalloway is the story of two main characters, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Warren Smith, and several secondary ones. We are let into their brains and hear their every thought, even the boring ones, though I am sure that literature profs would say that the thoughts show that lower and upper class people have pretty common thoughts.

Mrs. Dalloway is thought to be a fine example of 'modernist literature' (1899-1945.) It plays with time and order, perspective, and point-of-view. This doesn't sound all that remarkable to us in the 21st Century but before Mrs. Dalloway was published in 1925 most novels adhered to a fairly strict storytelling format, usually chronological. Woolf also brought up topics which were a no-no, like the negative psychological effects war had on its participants. Men came back from WWI with "shell shock" but no on knew what to do or how to help. At least Woolf was willing to talk about the terrors the soldiers experienced once they were home as they relived the trauma from their experiences. "Mrs Dalloway not only tells us that Septimus is damaged, but it also shows us what the world looks like through his eyes. We also get to see in depth how our main protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, suffers from her own form of psychological damage: the more subtle, everyday oppression of English society" (Shmoop Editorial Team).

In the end, Septimus commits suicide. This is a terrible thing, but it relates to the writer. Woolf, who probably suffered from bipolar disorder, commited suicide in 1941. Was she giving her readers a peek into her brain, to let them know how much she was suffering? That is a compelling thought and leaves me with lots of questions, but it really doesn't help me like the book that much more.

One more thing that probably led to my estimation of the novel relates to the audiobook version I chose. Clarissa Dalloway is thought by many people to be a snob. Since we are privy to everyone's thoughts we know that a lot of people thought she is a snob. Well, the audiobook narrator, Lucy Rayner, must have decided to build on that idea of snobbery and she read the book in the most snobbish of tones I've ever heard. It was unbearable. I could barely stand to listen to her. Before I reached the midpoint of the book I let my library checkout lapse and then requested another audiobook version with a different narrator to finish up the book. This second audiobook was just fine, and the voice actor didn't sound like a snob. Whew!

I'm not sorry that I read Mrs. Dalloway, but I doubt I will ever urge anyone else to read it. I read it because once upon a time I placed it on my Classics Club reading list and it's number came up for this month's Classics Club Spin selection. I keep asking myself why I continue to read these classic books when I don't enjoy them that much, and then I answer myself that I want to be considered to be a well-read person and should surely have a large cadre of classics on my personal list of read books when I finish my days on earth. Now who's the snob?

Citation: Shmoop Editorial Team. "Mrs Dalloway Introduction | Shmoop." Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 17 May 2024.

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