Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
On the Things I Will Never Do Again life list that I have compiled, I will be adding read Virginia Woolf in font 48, caps lock, bold.
Considered to be a "classic" (although my boyfriend says it's "too new" to be a true classic), I picked this novel up at a used book store while on vacation. I had heard of it before, only good reviews, lots of "must reads" thrown around and I've been reading a large amount of fluff lately, so I thought a change of scene would be good.
How I was betrayed.
Mrs. Dalloway is naturally the main character of this self-titled book, and she is presented to us as an early 50 year old who is bored and unsatisfied with her life. The entire 200 page story is set in one day, beginning with the introduction of Clarissa Dalloway and the announcement that she will be hosting a party that night with her husband.
That's pretty much the entire novel.
Oh, well, there's Richard Dalloway, Clarissa's husband, who she somewhat loves or completely loves. She always seems teetering on the edge of one way or another. She recalls her first love, Peter Wolf, her childhood spent with him and her friend Sally Seton (lesbian crush), their easy-going life as a teenagers together.
In the meantime, we have a WWII veteran Septimius Smith who is suffering from some serious PTSD, not yet diagnosed as such in that time era. His wife Nezia is an Italian immigrant who struggles to find her husband buried deep in his shell, while he calls out names of dead soldiers and screams in agony and fear. Sometimes he is of his right mind, mostly he isn't.
My hatred of this novel is probably because I'm not a forward enough thinker. I clearly don't appreciate novels that have flowery "beautiful" prose, mainly because if I want to read poetry, I'll read it! I don't want to pick up a book that literally compromises entirely of streams of consciousness.
Oh yes, this novel is basically the thoughts of each person running into each other. There are no chapters. Sometimes paragraphs would consist of one sentence, an entirely long and strung out thing, with multiple uses of these guys: ; -- : -.
Tolstoy employed the same effect with Anna Karenina, but at least his sentences were leading somewhere and we saw some action. Woolf writes random thoughts that would probably have been best left internalized.
Did I like anything about this book? NO. I felt it was horrid, boring, bloated tripe. Basically the entire premise is the mid-life crises of a woman who is nattering on about first-world problems. (I hate throwing parties, I don't like people who aren't dressed smartly, I'm put out I wasn't invited to lunch with Mrs. Brouton, etc, etc, kill me.)
Woolf's most effective character was Septimius Smith and launching into his thoughts was like being dragged underwater by relentless undertow. In retrospect, perhaps Woolf was challenging some of herself into Smith, as she suffered from mental disorders herself, eventually committing suicide later in her life as did her character Smith.
What makes a classic a classic? Woolf is lauded for her ground breaking use of stream of consciousness writing, but I don't enjoy the technique so I found the novel lacking.
She is also considered to be a feminist author, but that also escapes me as well. Clarissa is portrayed as a weak self-involved person who is unable to figure out what she wants from life, unable to establish a relationship with her daughter, unable to express her feelings. Even her husband, grabbing a bouquet of roses, vows to tell her he loves her, yet the words will not come to his mouth.
Have we become a more loquacious society in general? Perhaps if people had simply said what they meant in the novel I would have enjoyed it a bit more. Instead one is left reading subtext, attempting to figure out what was going on, hoping there was more than meets the eye.
After finishing the book, I went on Wikipedia to see if perhaps I missed some important theme or moment with my skim reading. Nope. It literally is just about a day in London, people thinking about their lives and how horrible it is, blah blah blah.
IF you feel burdened to read a "classic", there are hundreds more I would recommend than this useless piece of self indulgence. 1/5 and I wish I had never wasted my time.
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