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Mrs. Dalloway [Paperback]

Virginia Woolf
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (106 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 1 2001 0156628708 978-0156628709

Direct and vivid in her account of Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party, Virginia Woolf explores the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life.


In Mrs. Dalloway, the novel on which the movie The Hours was based, Virginia Woolf details Clarissa Dalloway’s preparations for a party of which she is to be hostess, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life. The novel "contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century" (Michael Cunningham).

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As Clarissa Dalloway walks through London on a fine June morning, a sky-writing plane captures her attention. Crowds stare upwards to decipher the message while the plane turns and loops, leaving off one letter, picking up another. Like the airplane's swooping path, Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway follows Clarissa and those whose lives brush hers--from Peter Walsh, whom she spurned years ago, to her daughter Elizabeth, the girl's angry teacher, Doris Kilman, and war-shocked Septimus Warren Smith, who is sinking into madness.

As Mrs. Dalloway prepares for the party she is giving that evening, a series of events intrudes on her composure. Her husband is invited, without her, to lunch with Lady Bruton (who, Clarissa notes anxiously, gives the most amusing luncheons). Meanwhile, Peter Walsh appears, recently from India, to criticize and confide in her. His sudden arrival evokes memories of a distant past, the choices she made then, and her wistful friendship with Sally Seton.

Woolf then explores the relationships between women and men, and between women, as Clarissa muses, "It was something central which permeated; something warm which broke up surfaces and rippled the cold contact of man and woman, or of women together.... Her relation in the old days with Sally Seton. Had not that, after all, been love?" While Clarissa is transported to past afternoons with Sally, and as she sits mending her green dress, Warren Smith catapults desperately into his delusions. Although his troubles form a tangent to Clarissa's web, they undeniably touch it, and the strands connecting all these characters draw tighter as evening deepens. As she immerses us in each inner life, Virginia Woolf offers exquisite, painful images of the past bleeding into the present, of desire overwhelmed by society's demands. --Joannie Kervran Stangeland


"Mrs. Dalloway contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century."
—Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mrs. Dalloway - A Difficult but Satisfying Read Nov. 30 2005
Virginia Woolf's classic novel Mrs. Dalloway is an interesting and challenging read. The plot is simple enough, but the writing is complex and challenges the reader to understand the text in ways that many are not accustomed to. The stream-of-consciousness style is not often used in novels written for today's audiences.
I found myself relying on an online study guide to help me interpret what was happening in the story. I often had to reread passages several time, thinking critically about the meanings and then referring to other's interpretations of the work to help me comprehend what was happening. Perhaps this is a byproduct of growing up in the information age, and expecting all the answers to be readily available, without having to work for them.
The various characters in Mrs. Dalloway are relatable and you empathize with them. You want to know more about them and get even more inside their heads. However, due to the style of writing, this is difficult. As you read the novel you loose track of whose thoughts you are currently reading, and what their objective for the day is. There are so many a characters that it is hard to keep track of them all and this is unfortunate, because you want to stay connected with them all. Their lives, while simple, are engaging and leave the reader wanting to be invited to Clarissa Dalloway's party, simply to meet all of them.
I recommend this novel to anyone who is up for a challenging read. It truly is a classic novel that everyone should read. If you are willing to put in the work, the story will reward you. Virginia Woolf was one of the most prolific and influential writers of the 20th century, and Mrs. Dalloway proves why this is true.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio Cassette
"Wealth makes many friends,
But the poor is separated from his friend." -- Proverbs 19:4 (NKJV)

Think of Mrs. Dalloway as being the anti-Ulysses (the James Joyce's masterpiece). The concepts for the novels are similar, but the styles are polar opposites. I recommend becoming familiar with both works in order to appreciate the different ways that character studies can be developed during a day by relying extensively on thought life. Both are brilliant, but in much different ways.

Mrs. Dalloway is English, delicate, fussy, ornate, and feminine. Ulysses is Irish, crude, unrestrained, common, and masculine.

What stands out the most about Mrs. Dalloway are the many original descriptive sentences and phrases that look as though they went through 200 rewritings to be so polished and complete. Their expressions overwhelm the story at time because the reader is left gasping at a stunning turn of phrase or an idea. In writing, you can sit and admire and forget to read on.

A blessing of listening to the excellent reading by Virginia Leishman is that the brilliant writing is better integrated into the story by forcing you to keep going. I enjoyed the experience. I don't want to discourage you from reading the book first, but I believe you will appreciate the overall craft more if you listen before reading. It's the same advice I provide for William Faulkner's books. There's a beauty in the oral expression that is otherwise lost.

I found the story to feel a little dated. I also found myself not being terribly engaged by Mrs. Dalloway or her husband. That's a pretty big problem to have when listening to or reading a novel. Someone today who wrote historical fiction about this period would do it differently.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The real world! May 1 2004
I feel i must give great credit to Woolf for her work on Mrs Dalloway, although it may be dull as there is no real excitement at any part of the novel however, she really does deal with real people in the real world...reality! Her characters reveal how the world really is for so many..we have so many thoughts but are unable to fully communicate it all. It reminded me very much of Catcher in the Rye as you realise so many people in this world are 'fake'. I think anyone who hasn't been able to appreciate her work at all should really wake up!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating June 7 2004
Difficult, detailed, descriptive, dense -- an apt description of Virginia Woolf's prose. I've never been so annoyed by the difficulty and pointlessness of a story in my life. I thought Faulkner was difficult to read. At least his stories go somewhere, never mind that figuring out his plotlines is like putting together the pieces of a broken bottle. But even after I looked up the Cliff's Notes to see what it was that I hadn't picked up. Once I'd learned all I could learn, I still just didn't care.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
So im a 17 year girl who read this for fun in 2 days. the first 30 pages are tough, especially if you arent used to the language. this is my first book by VW. I came away amazed at woolf's ability to write, she is now my favorite female writer ever. One thinks it is only the story of mrs dalloway but it contains lives of others. I love septimus. ALl i can say is that it kicks butt and you should read it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Almost a story without a story ... Jan. 10 2007
By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER
"Mrs. Dalloway" is almost a story without a story. At first sight the plot of this book seems almost banal. After all, who wants to know how Clarissa Dalloway spends her day?. Isn't she merely a shallow woman who leds a boring life?.

Of course, we should remember that first impressions are often misleading... and in this case, they certainly are. "Mrs. Dalloway" is nothing less that a ground-breaking novel in which Virginia Woolf pioneers a style that would later be called "stream of consciousness". Thanks to that style the reader can, literally, read the thoughts of the characters without any kind of censorship. Even though that makes the book somewhat unclear at times, it is nonetheless strangely attractive, and compelling.

"Mrs. Dalloway" is the story of a day in Clarissa's life, but it is at the same time the story of the people who know her, or that are somehow connected to her, and the story of her/their dreams and thoughts. Virginia Woolf's goal in this book was ambitious, but she managed to achive it: she allows the reader to look right into the mind of the different characters...

As I previously mentioned, the story of Mrs. Dalloway is at the same time the story of many more, as the story of each of us is also the story of the people we know/love/hate/like/dislike. There are many people who help us to understand Clarissa, thanks to their interactions with her. However, we also see her under a different light thanks to characters that don't know her, or are merely distantly connected to her through one of her many acquaintances. For example, Septimus Warren Smith, an ex-soldier who battles madness, and whose gloomy life provides a stark contrast to the artificial cheerfulness of Clarissa's own life.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars myriad of impressions
Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf's novel about the ecstasy of living against a barrage of limitations brought about by the aging process, the roles we play in the world, and the... Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2005 by Rosanna DeRango
3.0 out of 5 stars Novel vindicated at the end
My initial response of hostility, sustained through much of the book, mellowed some at the end. It is a sensitive story of love and madness, apparent mostly on afterthought. Read more
Published on July 10 2004 by Shirley A. Phillips
1.0 out of 5 stars Help me!
I was happily grazing in the sunny uplands of my home town library when I was cornered by the insatiable Wolf. Come quick. Read more
Published on June 18 2004 by Mr. Sa Fyfe
5.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Truth
Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" is perhaps my favorite novel. As simple as it is intricate, she provides a seemingly endless number of new insights and observations that I... Read more
Published on May 18 2004 by K.E.A.R.
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a classic
Mrs. Dalloway doesn't make sense. It's not written in sequential order and her characters are all over the place. I found this book extremely boring and pointless. Read more
Published on March 27 2004 by P. Schwartz
4.0 out of 5 stars mrs dalloway
Mrs Dalloway is a book well written, it gives a very good example of real life. How people act, what kind of character they have. Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2004 by pauline
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, but worth the effort
It's not really fair to judge this book or its author by today's standards, but damn, this is a hard read. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004 by Peggy Vincent
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