Review: ‘Mrs Dalloway’ by Virginia Woolf

I recently read this book on the recommendation of my boyfriend, and my mum has always loved ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham which is based on this classic, so I thought I’d give it a try.

I enjoyed ‘Mrs Dalloway’ as I haven’t read any Virginia Woolf before. ‘Mrs Dalloway’ is a super short read and I managed to finish it within a week, despite the prose style being a bit confusing at times.

Set after World War One, ‘Mrs Dalloway’ follows a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a high society woman who reminisces on her life and past experiences with various other characters, who become introduced as the book goes on.

Woolf also follows the life of Septimus and Rezia, a couple who have been deeply affected by the First World War. Throughout the book, Clarissa is planning for a party, which happens at the end of the book, and the novel is all about her thinking about past loves and losses, and reminiscing on what she could have had, now that she is an older woman.

I enjoyed reading ‘Mrs Dalloway’ despite not a lot happening in terms of direct action. As a comment on post-war society, as well as the class system of the period, the book approached a lot of interesting themes.

For example, the presence of class is very prominent within this book, with Clarissa representing the typical ‘society hostess.’ Her obsession with making everything perfect for her party that evening is a central part of the book, and as she explores what her life could have been if she’d married Peter, for example, renouncing more conservative ideas, represented by her husband Richard, she starts to wonder whether her life is simply frivolous, without meaning.

Clarissa also wonders whether she has forgotten her old convictions, focussing instead on superficial aspects of life.

The story of Septimus and Rezia was also one which incited sympathy and I thought their plight against Septimus’ undiagnosed shell shock was interesting to read about, particularly from the modern perspective, where we can see more effective methods of dealing with mental health issues such as PTSD.

Woolf’s prose style was slightly hard to get used to, as she switches around between ideas and perspectives quite a lot without much notice. Having said that, once I gave the book a good go I managed to get into the style of it, and I think I would give some of Woolf’s other books a go.

Have you read ‘Mrs Dalloway’? Are you a fan of Woolf’s fiction? Would you consider giving this book a go? Let me know all your thoughts in the comments below 🙂

Happy reading!

Photo credits here

13 thoughts

  1. This sounds intriguing, I have always imagined this to be a really difficult read so I have never given it a try! I did read “To the Lighthouse” and really enjoyed that, there’s a review on my blog if you’re interested!

    Liked by 1 person

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