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Book Review: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (2/5)

31 Jan

I think it was my cousin who said I would like this book. It was easily available on audio so I decided to give it a try once I finished some nice, long audiobooks and was looking for something shorter. I now know that my cousin hates me, so that’s refreshing. This book drove me crazy and I’m trying to be polite and think that listening to it rather than reading it made it worse than it would have been otherwise. I’m trying to be nice.

Cover image via Goodreads

Cover image via Goodreads

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Summary from Goodreads:

In this vivid portrait of one day in a woman’s life, Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party preparation while in her mind she is much more than a perfect society hostess. As she readies her house, she is flooded with far-away remembrances. And, met with the realities of the present, Clarissa reexamines the choices she has made, hesitantly looking ahead to growing old.

I couldn’t stand the scream of consciousness in this book. I got so confused as to who was narrating and if what I was hearing was narration or thought and it was beyond frustrating as an audiobook. The only thing I really got out of the book is that everyone is very selfish except for Lucrezia. It made me want to smack Clarissa and punch Peter for being so full of themselves. Maybe they should have ended up together. They might not have noticed because they would have been so caught up in themselves that they wouldn’t bother to talk to the other. I was frustrated with most of the characters and I found some of them, like Dr. Holmes, unnecessary in the plot. I read that Clarissa’s story is supposed to parallel Septimus’ but I didn’t see that very well. I thought she might end up dead like he did but, alas, this isn’t The Awakening.

I hope most of these characters are an exaggeration of real people. Clarissa was so distraught over not being invited to a luncheon and others are so upset over not being invited to her dinner party. Richard seems to forget that he’s married at all and seems blown away by the idea he should show affection toward his wife. I hope these characters are a reflection of their time; when relationships between people were less familiar than the ones we see today. The thoughts that the characters scared was slightly scary only because some of them were so extreme.

Lucrezia was my favorite character only because she was the most logical person to me. Everyone was pining after someone else but I thought it more reasonable that she was pining after a healthy version of her husband and not a lost friend, lost love, or a version of herself she’d never achieve. She really cared for her husband and was doing all she could to keep him in his right mind and help him get better.

As much as I hated Clarissa, I could relate to her pining for her past and wanting to know how things could have been different if she’d made different choices. I think everyone thinks this way sometimes. If I’d chosen a different college or dated a different person in high school, would I have ended up where I am? Maybe not.

There wasn’t a part of the book that stuck out to me and that I enjoyed. A lot of the book ran together for me. On audio, it seemed like it wasn’t broken up by chapter or had any break between characters. It was seven hours of whining.

Clarissa was my least favorite of the narrators because she seemed the most self-absorbed and the most superficial. I could find moderately redeeming things in the other characters, but anything Clarissa talked about made me roll my eyes.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Juliet Stevenson. I don’t think Stevenson’s reading added anything to this book for me, but I don’t think it detracted from the book either. She seemed very whiny but the book called for that. My frustration was with the material so I won’t pretend that Stevenson had anything to do with how little I enjoyed this book.

If we’re all so obsessed with ourselves, we’ll never realize how much other people are obsessed with themselves. I struggle a bit with anxiety so as I write this, I feel hypocritical. As much as each character thought their problems were the biggest ones in the world and as much as they dwelt on their problems, other people had bigger issues and no one was helping anyone else. We’re all so obsessed with our own ‘dinner parties’ that we don’t stop and look around us and see other people struggling on their own with much bigger problems.

Writer’s Takeaway: Stream of consciousness is not something everyone enjoys but there are some people obsessed with this book. I, obviously, am not one of them. You’re never going to please every reader, so don’t try.

This was not a book for me and I don’t recommend it at all. Two out of Five stars.

This book fulfilled the 1920-1939 time period in my When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Mrs Dalloway | The Novels of Virginia Woolf
The meaning of the omnibus in Mrs Dalloway | Blogging Woolf
Mrs Dalloway’s Party – Virginia Woolf (1973)  | Heavenali