Mrs. Dalloway, perhaps Virginia Woolf’s greatest novel, follows English socialite Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for a party in post-World War I London. Four-time Oscar nominee Annette Bening (American Beauty, The Kids Are All Right) performs Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness style of storytelling brilliantly, exploring the hidden springs of thought and action in one day of a woman’s life.
When we first meet Clarissa Dalloway, she is preoccupied with the last-minute minutiae of party-planning while being flooded with memories of long ago. Clarissa then examines the realities of the present as the story travels forwards and back in time and in and out of different characters’ minds.
Mrs. Dalloway is daring not only in its stream-of-consciousness form, but also in its content. Woolf’s depiction of Septimus Warren Smith brings to light the ugly and often ignored truth of how the brutality of war can drive men mad. We also get to see in depth how our main protagonist, Clarissa Dalloway, suffers from her own form of psychological damage: the more subtle, everyday oppression of English society.
Mrs. Dalloway is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, featuring the world’s most celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star helped select. For more great books performed by Hollywood’s finest, click here.
©1925 The Estate of Virginia Woolf (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
“Bening's work here is fine…her tone offers its characteristic grace…both this narrator and this novelist offer tremendous gifts.” (AudioFile)
So one curls on a comfortable chair lazily reading, but the day is too hot for such a curl and fan cools with inadequate breath, rather breathing hot the heat of the day. So, one's forehead glistens, then perspires, then -- dammit -- sweats, in fact. This is no longer civil, no longer polite. Why then must one persist in this futile exercise of reading? Oh for the appearances of course. We cannot all simply slip from the windowsill to the street below, ending our despair. Some of us must persist, perspire, not expire for the sake of it. For the bloody-minded British sake of it. So, one reads Mrs. Dalloway, not because one likes it -- certainly not because one likes her, the priggish self-centred, self-satisfied "perfect hostess". Even her friends agree. Except perhaps poor Peter. Yet again, his heart given to a woman who cannot love him: this icy Dalloway.
So, one thinks, this is modernism. How it smacks of Victorianism, how it sounds like George Eliot or Flaubert: women equally frozen, equally unable to speak, unable to throw off the social fetters -- except perhaps in Woolf the ennui has penetrated the men as well, leaving them emasculated, ineffectual, failed, mostly nothing. Indeed, it has penetrated the plot likewise, so the story (can one even call this a story, rather this scramble of thoughts left unarticulated because one just doesn't say, it is too much to say "I love you" too much to speak one's mind or heart except for Sally, she must speak her mind, but has so little of one, that it really cannot penetrate the humid fog the whole creates) drifts listlessly, interminably despite the novel's brevity, toward an endpoint that gives nothing, reveals nothing, offers nothing.
Oh, but the language?! Yes, admittedly, it is some of the most elegant nothing put into prose. If one regards it as poetry, takes delight in the languidness of language, in the emptiness of the loss of vigour or the possibility of action, then it does have a certain je ne sais quoi. And that is its appeal, the interior lives of these lost souls laid bare in the most exquisite poetic language, making their banality beautiful.
Perhaps afraid is not the right word. Although if I were stuck for a long time with nothing but Woolf novels I just might go mad. I guess that would be a fear. On the plus side, Annette Bening does a nice job conveying...well, not really much of anything. That to me is sad. Bening, a gifted artist is left trying to breathe life into a book that just sits there, tangentially wondering where things went. This is my third Woolf novel and after one hit and a miss I thought I would see if I couldn't get back on the plus side of the literary ledger. I tried to like this book, I really did. But there just isn't much to like. It's just a series of incoherent musings, with to be fair an occasional witty insight. But the ratio of incoherency to wit is far too lopsided to make this a book to recommend.
This is not one I recommend, but in all honesty I think I need to clear my head before I try to tackle such a weighty author. There, I admit that the failing could be...Or maybe not. Woolf is a tough author, and her style can be maddeningly difficult. Caveat emptor.
Yes--for the human insights, for the enduring style, for the unforgivable truth of it.
Well, of course, Cunningham's THE HOURS, eloquenty based on this eloquent work.
MRS. DALLOWAY is, of course, one of those novels that changes as one's life changes. Ah, the shock of recognition.
Yes and with an unqualified positive recommendation. The performance presents the story in an engaging way that keeps the listener hanging onto every word.
The focus on internal dialogs.
Ms. Bening's reading is highly nuanced, evidence of a deep understanding of the book and of her finely honed acting skills.
EITMOB (Engagingly Inside The Minds of Brits)
Get Ms. Bening back in the studio ASAP.
Not sure if it's me or not, but Annette Bening really put me to sleep. I listened to her for about an hour but my mind kept wandering because she was so boring to listen to. I am now listening to Phillidia Law's version and right away I'm captivated with it.
I really tried, but I could not get into this book. I wanted to like Annette Bening but I kept drifting off... I regret purchasing this book.
I will definitely try another Virginia Woolf book, but never another Annette Bening. I hate to be so critical, because I really like Annette Bening as an actress, but I thought her performance reading this book was painfully dull and basically terrible. None of the characters had any personality with her delivery, when I knew they should. It makes me think twice about the other books performed by other celebs/actors. At least these new classics that have been promoted. I am still a huge fan of Will Patten as a performer though. I dont want to lump them all in with this poor experience.
I didn't At all.
I typically don't write comments. I listen to too many books, most of which I like a lot, but this one was considerably bad. Sorry Audible.
Most boring book I've ever purchased. Story was super slow and hard to follow
don't waste your credits
It's hard to concentrate when it seems that the reader -- Bening - isn't. Her reading is amateurish -- surprising -- and one feels she is not "present.' Her voice is pleasant enough, but that's not enough. She's supposed to be an actress.
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