It is a June day in London in 1923, and the lovely Clarissa Dalloway is having a party. Whom will she see? Her friend Peter, back from India, who has never really stopped loving her? What about Sally, with whom Clarissa had her life’s happiest moment?
Meanwhile, the shell-shocked Septimus Smith is struggling with his life on the same London day.
Luminously beautiful, Mrs. Dalloway uses the internal monologues of the characters to tell a story of inter-war England. With this, Virginia Woolf changed the novel forever.
(P)2010 Naxos AudioBooks
First of all, this isn't in the style of Jane Eyre. Modernist writing can be very, very challenging. This book and "To the Lighthouse" are in the same class with James Joyce and William Faulkner. These authors require interaction with the reader.
If you are willing to 'work' with the author and pay attention to the writing, you will be rewarded with a life-long impact that will make much other writing seem vapid.
There are two ways to approach this book. One, search online for notes and commentary and prepare yourself for the journey. If you understand where the book is going, you will greatly enjoy the journey. Woolf intentionally rations information which can make the book very hard to follow. But as in life, if you know a person, you can follow their thoughts with fewer words because you understand that person.
The book is much like a conversation we have in our heads. It's not made of fully complete thoughts and is distracted by other thoughts. And the book takes place in a very narrow slice of time---a single day but with references to times past. Hang on tight!
Sit quietly and think. Pay attention to how your mind will burst forth with fragments of ideas, odd images and unrelated fragments. This how our brains work and what the modernists were exploring.
The other approach is to go through the book twice, unprepared. You'll have to go through the book more than once anyway. I listened to the same 30 minutes sometimes 5 or more times. Move ahead. Go back again!
Now, if you are willing to do this, a treasure awaits you. If not, this book will be a horrible drudge.
I loved it. Frankly, "To the Lighthouse" was easier.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
What an utterly absorbing audiobook is Mrs. Dalloway! From the first words read by Juliet Stevenson, I found myself immersed in Virgina Woolf???s stream of consciousness day in the 1923 London life of her characters, floating down the narrative river with repeated stops for nostalgic eddies of memory, until the novel ended with an emotional rush. I had to re-listen several times to the last five minutes, wanting to re-experience the tail end of the climax when middle-aged Peter Walsh, Clarissa Dalloway???s old flame, is sitting alone for a moment at Clarissa???s posh party:
What is this terror? what is this ecstasy? he thought to himself. What is it that fills me with extraordinary excitement?
It is Clarissa, he said.
For there she was.
I read the novel in university (thirty years ago) and had forgotten everything that happens in it. Ah, how sad it is! Even the comfortable upper class people like Clarissa and Peter feel something lacking, whether soul or love or life, and their middle-aged minds and hearts look backwards with such longing to their youths together, and the interwoven story of poetic, shell-shocked Septimus Warren Smith and his poor young Italian wife Lucrezia is almost unbearably inexorable. And yet Woolf???s writing is so beautiful, honest, lucid, and (surprisingly) witty, and Stevenson???s reading so engaging, empathetic, and perfect, that listening to this audiobook was a pleasurable pain.
If you???d like to experience a great example of modernist stream of consciousness fiction that is much more compact and understandable than James Joyce???s Ulysses, or are interested in London between the wars, or like stories that depict passionate middle-aged characters who married the ???right??? people at the cost of their souls and who have never forgotten the ???wrong??? people they didn???t marry, you should listen to this book.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
All the action within this novel takes place during one day and evening as Mrs Clarissa Dalloway, an upper-class woman, is first preparing for, then throws a party in the evening. While still at home before she sets out to run her errands, she is visited by Peter Walsh, a man she's known since she was a young girl and who once asked her to marry him. For the whole of the novel, we wander from one stream of thoughts to another, with Clarissa's mind wandering from the moment's happenings and backwards into the past, then without preamble we are following Peter's thoughts, then Clarissa's husband and so on, with the author's focus wandering between every person encountered in the novel. Clarissa thinks about the life choices she has made. Peter has just come back from India and is seeking a divorce from his wife now that he has fallen in love with a much younger married woman. Clarissa's husband has bought her flowers and intends to tell her he loves her, something he presumably hasn't said in a very long time. There is Doris Kilman, the teacher of Clarissa's daughter Elizabeth, who, while she venerates the young girl to a degree that borders on desire (or as much desire as a religious fanatic will make allowances for), despises her mother Clarissa for all she stands for as a society woman living a life of ease and luxury. We meet Septimus Warren Smith, sitting in the park with his wife; he is a war veteran suffering from a very bad case of shell-shock who is being treated for suicidal depression. His wife is concerned because he talks to himself and to his deceased army friend Evans, who may have been much more than just a buddy, and together they are waiting to meet a psychiatrist who will suggest a course of treatment for the young man.
I had a couple of false stars with this book over the years, never making it past the first couple of pages, and must say one needs to be in the right frame of mind to fully appreciate this short, yet very profound novel. Having just finished reading A Room of One's Own I found myself in the right mood for more of Woolf's deep reflections on life and how we are affected by circumstances and the people we are surrounded by, whether by choice or happenstance. Once one gets accustomed to the flow of words, which doesn't follow a traditional narrative style with chapters and commentary, but pours forth in an organic way meant to mimic a real-life experience, one is transported by the portraits Woolf paints of these people, whom we get to know from the inside out, as opposed to the other way round. Because of this, there is a timeless quality to this novel, even though the events it alludes to are very much fixed in the London of the 1920s.
Beautifully narrated by the much recommended Juliet Stevenson.
The writing just blew me away. I thought that it would be inaccessible, but instead it grabbed me from the first few words and never let go.
I have and I think that this was her best.
Woolf uses stream-of-consciousness to tell the story of one day in the life of ... . The frequent changes in point of view can be difficult to follow in the printed text, but the Audible version lets you get inside the heads of the various characters pretty seamlessly.
Mrs Dalloway hearing about Septimus Smith
The narrator relates the story evenly and makes the frequent changes in point-of-view seem natural.
Love Juliet Stevenson and she makes this book come alive. It is an amazing book but pretty heavy going.
It's good stuff to think about. Virginia Wolf is an amazing writer.
I love everything by Juliet Stevenson.
I don't think you could make this into a movie (though someone did). It's about the thoughts inside people's heads.
"pure enchanting magic..."
I've read Mrs Dalloway twice before. Loved did but failed to connect it all together and feel its moments. Listening to it being much faster that reading it, transmitted the true spirit of the book. And being Mrs Dalloway, the characters minds and imaginative thoughts enchanted me completely. It is as if I have never read it before. The sense is magical.
I understand now the genius of Woolf's flow of thoughts. I am not a fast reader but if you are then you probably are lucky enough to get the sense by reading alone.
For me, I cannot wait to listen to all Woolf's books and live the magic.
And important to say, an excellent narrater such as Juliet Stevenson is key to that wonderful and accurate transmission.
Beautifully narrated. Listener is transported into the world of Clarissa Dalloway and all the thoughts that percolate through her mind on a june day in London of the 1920's. Wonderful listening, all the nuances articulated with aplomb and brings the book to live.
"Amazing detail of characters and moods"
I read English Literature at University and Virginia Woolf always used to bore me. To The Lighthouse was compulsory reading but I never got past like page 10. Then my favourite movie of all time The Hours came out and I saw some extras about how it's related to Mrs Dalloway and I dashed to a book shop and bought the novel. When I started reading it I found myself actually speaking out the words under my breath, it was so absolutely beautiful, I had to hear the words. (In this way I was only able to read it when I was alone in my room). So the first book I downloaded from Audible was Mrs Dalloway, the second one To The Lighthouse. Juliet Stevenson is the perfect narrator for this book. The detail with which everything and everyone is described blows my mind and I don't mind the slowness because it's like a painting where you just have to stop and look at every little detail, you can't skip anything. Woolf was clearly not only genial but also a beautiful, beautiful mind.
This works so well read out loud, at least when the reader is as good as Juliet Stevenson. You get a real feel of a stream, with London almost one of the characters. I loved the way impressions of the most worthy and formal characters change as they remember their childhood.
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