Mrs. Dalloway

There are no chapters in this book.

Virginia Woolf writes as if she could stand no interruption until she finished penning the words which had to have a place to fall.

Reading this, the first scenes seem like a dream. As if the author creates the stage through character identification in alternating glances as a waltz through the town, and in which the reader becomes a fly on the wall.

The story then moves to Clarissa Dalloway as the life-force, the living – not asleep, but engaged in the realization of some of her life’s interruptions, speculating upon choices proposed, and decisions she’s made. But, since wishing for better prospects won’t create healthier relationships, she’ll just throw a party and wear her favorite dress. Clarissa Dalloway does not mourne.

The story then flashes back to viewing the world as through a dream, seemingly through the eyes of Virginia, herself. Vague images, as if wandering unobservedly through the township until settling on independent thought through individual character. This particular character, Peter Walsh, Clarissa’s lost love, the other voice of concern and reason, offers insight, as he perceives townspeople, the war, his self-worth by way of class and duty. He begins to imagine his place in this society since returning from the war. He recalls Clarissa’s husband, Richard Dalloway, and Peter bestows confidence, allowing that Richard is a « thorough good sort » (wasted on politics, in Peter’s opinion), and Clarissa is absorbed by her husband’s sense of poetic injustice… Richard believes Shakespeare’s sonnets to be indecent, not worthy of noble discretion since they, in Richard’s opinion, degrade privacy, as if « listening through keyholes » (!)

(Interesting that she weaves attitudes with British class perspectives, makes one wonder what she, herself, thought of Shakespeare.)

Depth of character interest.

This book, Mrs. Dalloway, provides every possibility for a personality to exist.

She writes about suicide, « how does one set about killing oneself » … « uglily, » she decides.

Then, a tirade, she rambles over health and wellness through the vague storyline of Septimus and Lucrezia, with her idea seeming as a Shakespearean respite – the tie to the storyline being a literal bloom, with Lucrezia’s roses as an indication of Clarissa’s talent for decorating the lives she touches. Mrs. Dalloway loves flowers and playing mistress of the house.

« Prophetic Christs and Christesses, » Sir William Bradshaw denounces the weak.

She imagines sanity through the sentiments of Sir William, a notable professor of human nature by way of psychiatric remedy. He promotes well-being as « proportion » and imagines proportion as being a rare combination of « family affection; honour, courage, and a brilliant career. » In the absence of this « divine » proportion, his diagnosis is solitude.

« life with its irreticences… »

She writes with currents of ramifications and lives in these pages. Her storyline washes her point, so that the plot remains in its depths. She describes by aquatic metaphor, her position within this world of high society and observance to class propriety.

Her prose is vaguely reminiscent of insanity. Beautiful, yet disturbingly chaotic, and even more disturbing that it is so easily read and followed by the reader. The story meanders and captivates before capturing credible thought. I found it to be almost frightening in the sense that it feels so much as if you’ve ventured too deeply into a lunatic’s mind.

Reading this book sometimes feels as if you’re watching a train wreck.

That said, it’s a must-read.

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