Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Reviewed by Guy Portman
London resident and socialite Clarissa Dalloway is set to host a party that evening. Over the course of the day she has various emotions, thoughts and concerns. The minds of the book’s various characters, all of whose lives are linked to Clarissa’s, are also explored.
Clarissa had once considered marrying Peter Walsh. Peter, recently arrived back from India, is due to attend the party. There is also Septimus Warren Smith, a veteran of WWI, whose declining mental health is to culminate in tragedy. Sally Seton, another former love interest of Clarissa’s, was a feisty character in her youth, but is now leading a middle class conventional life with five sons.
Woolf’s stream of consciousness, internal monologue heavy style is on display throughout this short novel. The emphasis on memories, particularly Clarissa’s reminiscing, lends the text a nostalgic air. Set during a single day in June 1923, the book provides a commentary on inter-war London society. Themes include mental health, sexuality and social division. Feminism is also touched upon.
This is an innovative, intellectual, non-plot orientated work replete with pathos, long sentences and an abundance of semi-colons. Although this reader enjoyed Mrs Dalloway, the numerous points of view made it difficult to empathise with any of the characters.