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Mrs. Dalloway
(Virgiania Woolf)

This modern classic novel is not an easy read but it hides a multitude of reasons to keep reading between its cumbersome lines.

Mrs. Dalloway leaves her upper crust English home one bright morning to buy flowers for her party. In the day that opens up Mrs. Dalloway crosses paths and encounters old friends to the point that she spends her day in contemplation, something it appears she hasn't done for quite some time. Against the backdrop of a ticking Big Ben Clarissa Dalloway remembers her youth, her exuberance and her dislike for societies norms but interestingly finds herself to be all that she distasted as a vibrant young woman filled with a sense of freedom. In her world is the ever moody, Peter Walsh, a man who never quite left his love behind as he watched Clarissa walk away with Richard Dalloway so many years ago and Sally (her long lost best friend) who once contributed to Clarissa's immature whims. Unknowingly Septimus Warren Smith lurks behind the day in his war-torn madness and he becomes a factor in Mrs. Dalloway's delightful day.

Virginia Woolf wrote this novel in 1925 many years prior to her own mental illness and suicide, but within the lines of this novel I sensed a tortured soul and a scattered but calculated mind at work. I admit I struggled with Woolf's writing style and never quite found a fit that felt right. She writes with such stops and starts that one must almost be a literary professor to keep up with her thoughts as they are strung out into extraordinarily long sentences laced with a multitude of punctuations. I found that I was often lost on what character she was delving into and had to go back and re-read entire paragraphs to figure out where I had lost her thought. She is certainly demanding of one's attention! Interestingly enough there are many references to water in this novel and I felt the beginnings of a connection between Woolf's characters and her own suicide method. Don't expect simplicity in Woolf she believed that her style of calculated impressionism would open up the art of the novel. Certainly in one day Mrs. Dalloway experiences what most people search a lifetime for and I found Woolf's explanation of aging quite moving, "But age had brushed her; even as a mermaid might behold in her glass the setting sun on some very clear evening over the waves. There was a breath of tenderness; her severity, her prudery, her woodenness were all warmed through now...."

I recommend watching the film, "Mrs. Dalloway," with Vanessa Redgrave after reading this book once or twice because somehow bringing Woolf's characters to life gives them a less elite meaning and allows for a bit of commonness and intimacy. But to grasp the meaning wrapped in Woolf's prose this novel must be read over and over again. For so fragile a creature as Woolf ended up being she is by far one of the strongest writers to have graced this world and her work is something to spend hours pondering over.

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