Building up towards my planned reading of Ulysses in August, I decided to try a different, shorter, Modernist classic. This was Woolf’s response to reading Joyce’s masterpiece, apparently, though as I haven’t read it (yet) I can give no comment on their literary relationship. What I can express, however, is my utter enjoyment of this beautiful, intelligent, moving and insightful short novel.
Woolf’s text tells the story of a single day in London in the early 1920s. Mrs Dalloway is, loosely, the central character, but the narrative voice flies, skits, darts and dances from perspective to perspective, so the reader sees inside even incidental character’s thoughts, minds, and souls, and also gets to understand the way each of the recurrent characters feels about each other.
It is about class, about notions of gender and assigned roles, it is about madness and depression and lust and love and life and death… Though it is very short (this Vintage edition only 172 pages), it packs a lot in.
Woolf’s soaring imagination, coupled with her knowledge and love of central London, creates an utterly evocative portrait of a city still shaken up by the horrors of the Great War. This is a beautiful piece, a charming piece, a stunning piece. I don’t have time to quote or go into more detail, but it’s marvellous.
Read it. If you haven’t.