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Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Mrs. Dalloway (original 1925; edition 1928)

by Virginia Woolf

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17,408291205 (3.86)1 / 1055
Fear no more the heat of the sun.' Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf's fourth novel, offers the reader an impression of a single June day in London in 1923. Clarissa Dalloway, the wife of a Conservative member of parliament, is preparing to give an evening party, while the shell-shocked Septimus Warren Smith hears the birds in Regent's Park chattering in Greek. There seems to be nothing, except perhaps London, to link Clarissa and Septimus. She is middle-aged and prosperous, with a sheltered happy life behind her; Smith isyoung, poor, and driven to hatred of himself and the whole human race. Yet bo.… (more)
Title:Mrs. Dalloway
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Info:New York : The Modern Library, 1928.
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, signed

Work details

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

  1. 211
    The Hours by Michael Cunningham (PLReader)
  2. 101
    The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (KayCliff)
  3. 41
    In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (caflores)
  4. 20
    Ulysse I by James Joyce (caflores)
  5. 10
    One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes (shaunie)
    shaunie: The subject matter is quite different but the writing style is similar, it's a shame One Fine Day is much less well known.
  6. 21
    Five Bells by Gail Jones (fountainoverflows)
  7. 10
    The Life and Death of Harriett Frean by May Sinclair (DanLovesAlice)
    DanLovesAlice: As much as Clarissa Dalloway is a product of a constrictive society, Sinclair's Harriet Frean is even worse. Severely psychologically affected in later life by her parent's rules, her individuality and freedom is ruined by always 'behaving beautifully'.… (more)
  8. 11
    Ulysses by James Joyce (Othemts)
  9. 12
    The Hours [2002 film] by Stephen Daldry (TheLittlePhrase)
  10. 05
    Great Books by David Denby (Anonymous user)
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English (267)  Spanish (6)  French (5)  Dutch (3)  Italian (2)  Swedish (2)  Catalan (2)  Norwegian (1)  German (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (290)
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)
modernist and mannered account of a day in London summer and Mrs. Dalloway's party
  ritaer | Jun 4, 2021 |
This is one of those books that I'm glad I've read because now I know what it's about and what it is and can place it in its little cubby of literary history. But...I didn't really like it much. It's okay, and I get that it's important. But, well, for me at least, it's...not good. Again, I get that it's maybe in some ways groundbreaking - that notion of making the reader leap from one character's stream of consciousness to another like an alien predator is probably pretty innovative for Woolf's time? - but I don't even think I can comfortably say that the writing is exceptional. It's not awful by any stretch, but there weren't any passages that made me stop and admire the language. I also felt like I couldn't see the plot for all the character's thoughts fogging up the glass, which is how some people like their novels, I know, but it's definitely not my jam. And I'm fairly certain that everyone and everything in the book has a serious case of ennui. I'm just not a Woolf fan, I suppose. ( )
  electrascaife | May 25, 2021 |
A very distinct work of Modernism, even though I found it extremely difficult not to compare this to Ulysses, another obvious Modernist reference point. The taking-place-in-a-single-day conceit, the stream-of-consciousness aspect, the side-paths and digressions, all of those techniques are also here, but instead of Ulysses' ocean of references, puns, and illusions, this is more like a flood. It took me a while to get into it, as I struggled through the various currents of memories, perspectives, and thoughts, but eventually I came to enjoy Woolf's almost absurd interest in the most minute details of life. I always respect writers who can bring out the drama of everyday things, and her almost determined whimsy took what could have been a terminally dull anecdote about a woman's adventures planning a dinner party and revealed a surprisingly large world beneath the surface, even if ultimately I didn't find the novel all that pleasurable on a visceral level.

You can learn a surprising amount just from looking at the very first sentence, which on the surface doesn't seem like a very promising candidate for a famous opening line. "Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself." It doesn't have a philosophical insight like Anna Karenina, it doesn't hint at the unusual like 1984, it contains no striking language like Gravity's Rainbow, it's subtle and understated and just straightforwardly ordinary - a normal woman doing something normal. But after you've made your way through the increasingly absorbing streams of narrative, as you come to appreciate Woolf's talent for depicting the complicated fluid dynamics of the mind, it sticks out at you and makes you appreciate how much can be contained in something so small. That's especially when compared against some of her more epic sentence- thoughts later on:

"So she sewed. When she sewed, he thought, she made a sound like a kettle on the hob; bubbling, murmuring, always busy, her strong little pointed fingers pinching and poking; her needle flashing straight. The sun might go in and out, on the tassels, on the wall-paper, but he would wait, he thought, stretching out his feet, looking at his ringed sock at the end of the sofa; he would wait in this warm place, this pocket of still air, which one comes on at the edge of a wood sometimes in the evening, when, because of a fall in the ground, or some arrangement of the trees (one must be scientific above all, scientific), warmth lingers, and the air buffets the cheek like the wing of a bird."

There's a lot in there about how people see life, a mixture of observation, rumination, and fantasy, and if nothing about that paragraph on its own screams classic, you've haven't really gotten her rhythm, which moves from graceful to gale-force in an instant. She repeatedly enters the heads of the characters of the novel and enlarges their skulls to reveal their loves, manias, and depressions. And, much in the same way that Pynchon was able to give the reader subtle hints as to exactly whose insane hallucinations the reader was currently enduring by subtly modulating the tone and language of each scene, Woolf's effervescent energy is actually underwritten with careful skill. No two character's reveries are quite alike, Septimus' quiet agony as he copes with shell-shock after the horror of World War I most notably.

I will say that I did not find her to be very strong in terms of humor. The novel makes much of social standing and customary proprieties, like you would expect for its setting in the particular place and time of interwar England; this settings interests other people more than it does me, so it's due to the tremendous power of Woolf's writing style that its extreme inward focus isn't deadly dull. Clarissa is focused on her dinner party as a way to block out the unpleasantness of life beyond, but even when you take that as a meta-commentary, as she reacts to the news of the suicide in the final dinner party scene, the novel can be somewhat wearying to read unless you're really into the setup and delivery. If she weren't so observant this book would be almost unreadable, so absent are Wodehouse-type jokes, but luckily she reaches so deeply into the characters of Clarissa, Septimus, Peter, and all the rest that the lack of humor is usually not felt so strongly.

I find it interesting that so many people seem to have loved this novel right away, since it took me a while to get into. It seems determinedly trivial but it isn't: life is made up out of all of these reminisces, the way that small things make you think of large things, the way that your thoughts zoom in and out and move in circles. My issue with it was that I didn't really care, at first, about these parties, marriages, divorces, personal connections and disconnections, but ultimately I was won over by Woolf's ability to almost literally force you to care about these characters. By the end you almost agree with Peter the ex-lover, who sums up Clarissa, and Clarissa's world, in the most appropriate way:

"'I will come,' said Peter, but he sat on for a moment. What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement?

It is Clarissa, he said.

For there she was." ( )
1 vote aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Nearly impossible to sustain the meteoric thrill of the first third, a novel assembling itself in an almost evolutionary process; Woolf's confounding sentences are made up of discrete, microbial fragments, bonded with a generous infusion of punctuation and some admirably sneaky transitions. Settles into a lovely, if more conventional meditation on age and memory. I have very little use for the final scene, which ties things off with a pretty rote interior climax. Rote, of course, within the context of Woolf's achievement, which is its own astonishing invention after all. Musing over it now it's still surprising that the vivid descriptions of Septimus's madness can exist in the same novel that eyes tea cakes with such petty jealousy. ( )
  brendanowicz | May 9, 2021 |
More of a 3.5 than a 4, but I enjoyed it. It is a rich, deep, dark, complex text that I am still coming to grips with. I look forward to the eventual and possibly soon reread of it. ( )
  sarahlh | Mar 6, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 267 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (144 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Woolf, Virginiaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, VanessaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bening, AnnetteNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brunt, NiniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cunningham, ValentineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cunningham, ValentineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Duffy, Carol AnnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hämäläinen, KyllikkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Herlitschka, MarlysTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, MaureenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mathias, RobertCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McNichol, StellaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pawlowski, Merry M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Risvik, KariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Scalero, AlessandraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Showalter, ElaineIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stevenson, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.

For Lucy had her work cut out for her. The doors would be taken off their hinges; Rumpelmayer’s men were coming. And then, thought Clarissa Dalloway, what a morning—fresh as if issued to children on a beach.
La signora Dalloway disse che i fiori li avrebbe comprati lei.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
"Mrs. Dalloway," "Mrs. Dalloway's Party," "The Mrs. Dalloway Reader," and "Mrs. Dalloway" in combination with other titles (e.g., "The Waves" or "To the Lighthouse") are each distinct works or combinations of works. Please preserve these distinctions, and don't combine any of the other works with this one. Thank you.
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Fear no more the heat of the sun.' Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf's fourth novel, offers the reader an impression of a single June day in London in 1923. Clarissa Dalloway, the wife of a Conservative member of parliament, is preparing to give an evening party, while the shell-shocked Septimus Warren Smith hears the birds in Regent's Park chattering in Greek. There seems to be nothing, except perhaps London, to link Clarissa and Septimus. She is middle-aged and prosperous, with a sheltered happy life behind her; Smith isyoung, poor, and driven to hatred of himself and the whole human race. Yet bo.

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Book description
s Clarissa Dalloway walks through London on a fine June morning, a sky-writing plane captures her attention. Crowds stare upwards to decipher the message while the plane turns and loops, leaving off one letter, picking up another. Like the airplane's swooping path, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa and those whose lives brush hers--from Peter Walsh, whom she spurned years ago, to her daughter Elizabeth, the girl's angry teacher, Doris Kilman, and war-shocked Septimus Warren Smith, who is sinking into madness.

As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for the party she is giving that evening, a series of events intrudes on her composure. Her husband is invited, without her, to lunch with Lady Bruton (who, Clarissa notes anxiously, gives the most amusing luncheons). Meanwhile, Peter Walsh appears, recently from India, to criticize and confide in her. His sudden arrival evokes memories of a distant past, the choices she made then, and her wistful friendship with Sally Seton.
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Average: (3.86)
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1 75
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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141182490, 0141198508, 024195679X

Urban Romantics

2 editions of this book were published by Urban Romantics.

Editions: 1909438014, 1909438022

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