Over at Instagram, there is a lovely book community where you can find people who would like to read books together and share their thoughts on it after — like a book club, but online! I love it, as I discover multiple books of different genres, and also get a chance to read a few of the classics that some people might have already read. I have always been better at reading books when I have a deadline, but I’m terrible at self-imposed deadlines, so a reading group is my best motivator.
With that said, I happened upon lovely ladies who wanted to discover pioneering writer Virginia Woolf, and I jumped at the chance to join them. I would never have picked this book up otherwise, despite how curious I am to see why it is considered a classic. Resh over at The Book Satchel (and over here on Instagram) coined up the brilliant tag ‘Wolf Down the Woolf‘ for our group, to use for read-along related posts.
Mrs. Dalloway is probably Virginia Woolf’s most well-known novel, and most say her most accessible. It was first published in 1925 by Hogarth Press, a publishing company founded by the authoress and her husband, Leonard Woolf.
I will not attempt to review this book; instead, I will attempt to put into words my thoughts and feelings while reading it. The writing will not be of the same level ofand virtuoso as Mrs. Woolf’s, so do forgive me in advance.
My initial impression of the first few pages of the book was that it was an arduous read. First, I had to get used with her writing style; the sentences would go on, and sometimes I would lose track, and I have to keep forcing myself to concentrate and understand what that sentence was trying to say, and how it was relevant to the story. This was, as I would realise later, a mistake.
The other point of difficulty for me was that it was god awful slow. It took until after the first third of the book for something to happen, after which I found it easier to read. I have other books lined up to read that I was really itching to get to, and Mrs. Dalloway felt more like an academic read than a for-leisure one. The amount of times this thought popped in my head, along with thinking of giving up and dropping it came up often. However, I was surprised at how, despite feeling frustrated with it, I still wanted to pick it up and re-immerse myself in the world Mrs. Dalloway was inhabiting.
Remember when I said it was a mistake trying to understand how sentences will be relevant to the overall story? Towards the end of the novel, I became cognizant that Virginia Woolf is a writer who saturates her reader in experiencing what it is like being in her book, how a character of hers thinks, how they experience and interact with the world around them, than having a plot and making expositions. She wants you to be Clarissa Dalloway, or Septimus Warren Smith, or Peter Walsh, to be in their shoes and see what they are seeing, understand why they think that way; or be immersed in London of 1923, feel the Bond Street crowd’s temperament or the wind in Regent’s Park in your face.
On hindsight, maybe that was why I couldn’t put the book down completely despite my brain wanting to. She wrote in such a descriptively beautiful manner that it was hard to turn away from it. She is a poet writing in prose, and I am left impressed at her masterful skill.
“The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames.”
– Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
see ratings explanation
NOTE: If I was rating the writing, I have to say it was excellent, five out five. This three and a half out of five rating is from the entire experience of reading the novel. I can’t say I’d like to read it again (maybe, to see if I would react to it differently) but I cannot say in the same breath that it is bad read.
This is the first in the Virginia Woolf series I am doing with the aforementioned girls. We will tackle To The Lighthouse, and I hope it will be a better experience!
Let’s have a chat!
Have you read Virginia Woolf? What is your favourite book? Did you have as much difficulty with her as I did?