Mrs Dalloway by (Virginia Woolf)
So this was my choice… not to show off how highbrow I am – because I’m so not! – but because I’ve always wanted to read it and it’s so easy to look at new books when choosing and ignore all the big great ones of the past.
Not an easy read. I think the way of writing has changed so much since Woolf’s days that it took me a while to get into the groove; what a book though… amazing.
The story is simple, a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, she’s getting ready for a party in the evening, an old flame comes to town. On a parallel time Septimus Warren Smith is back from the war and is badly suffering from the terrors he lived through.
Let’s face it though, it is so much more than that. It’s about getting old and looking back to one’s life, one’s achievements, or simply at the days slipping by one after the other.
She felt very young; at the same time unspeakably aged”.
Aged, not old… And again she totally ‘got me’ when she writes “
She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having of children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest fo them, …, this being Mrs Dalloway; not even Clarissa any more; this being Mrs Richard Dalloway.
It is also, a love letter to London in June and not by any means least her description and sensitivity towards PTSD is incredible.
Books have been written on this novel so I won’t go on about it, just read it. Let the long sentence flow like thoughts in your head and enjoy. Occasionally one observation will cut through the page and stop you in your track.
She thought there were no Gods; no one was to blame; and so she evolved this atheist’s religion of doing good for the sake of goodness.
All the same, that one day should follow another; Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday; that one should wake up in the morning; see the sky; walk in the park; meet Hugh Whitbread; then suddenly in came Peter; then these roses; it was enough. After that, how unbelievable death was!-that it must end; and no one in the whole world would know how she had loved it all; how, every instant . ..
I could give you hundreds of quotes… best reading it for yourself.
ADDED: I just found out that Virginia Woolf ended her own life on this very day in 1941. Slightly spooky coincidence. She was such a brilliant, intelligent woman. And then I was on instagram and came across this lovely post by Pigeonpostbooks.
She says – and I quote – Vita (Sackville-West) and Virginia began an affair in the mid-1920s, and rather than dwelling on Virginia’s tragic and untimely death which occurred on this day in 1941, I thought I would focus on the love Vita felt for her. Here are words that Vita wrote to Virginia in 1926.
I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this—But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it …