Monday, 4 November 2013

Book Review: Virginia Woolf - Mrs Dalloway

Virginia Woolf is one of those authors I have always been slightly hesitant to approach. I am not sure why. My preconceptions were that it was the sheer exclusivity of her writing that her readers enjoyed. I rarely find people that genuinely enjoy her writing or see the purpose of it, for this reason. On the other hand, the ones I do know of say that her writing is pure poetry - but written in prose.

Having studied twentieth century American literature last year, I very was briefly introduced to this idea of high modernism. I had read Wharton's The Age of Innocence, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and Scott-Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. All of these novels, despite being written in the same century, bear no likeness to Woolf.  I would argue, however,  that Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury is (out of the texts I studied) comparable to Woolf - and this is because of the stream-of-consciousness element of the text. So, as you can see, reading this novel was a challenge at first. It did, however, become much easier to read as it progressed.

My verdict for this novel is a good one. I absolutely adored Mrs Dalloway for so many reasons. A year ago, I would say that I wouldn't have. I think that I now have the patience to read and admire the subtleties of writing that I wasn't able to fully appreciate when studying for my degree. Aesthetic writing is written purely for pleasure, and I often found this difficult when reading for research. I also found that this novel seemed to appeal to me at this specific time of my life when I am experiencing what it is like to live the life of an independent woman. The social stigmas and pressures of being a woman are heavily explored in this novel, and I am so excited to read A Room of One's Own later on this year (Christmas present, anyone?). My decision to purchase this novel was made when I was in a bookshop a couple of weeks ago, due to David's recommendation. I explained that I wanted to read some new authors, preferably women (because I'm developing an interest in feminism!) and so I read the first page and thought to myself: "hmm ... different" - it certainly was!

This novel is a perfect introduction to modernism. The characters, and the way they are portrayed, are unique. Septimus is my favourite character. I love it when there's a really well written novel that has a character that I genuinely begin to care for! The exploration of relationships, and the relationships' own relationships to time and circumstance is incredibly fascinating and deeply engrossing. The language that Woolf employs is  both refreshing and experimental. I appreciate this because this is what I find that other recognised female writers such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte or Sylvia Plath seem to lack. Although I am a big fan all three female authors, I imagine this must be the reason why Woolf attracts more male readers.

Ultimately, I would recommend Mrs Dalloway to someone who is searching for a female author to idolise. Considering the time that these works were published, Woolf demonstrates that women can be both innovative and engaging in their writing style and that they can take risks. It really is quite inspiring!

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