Mrs. Dalloway

dalloway“For there she was.”

Maybe because of the helter-skelter pace of this book and the way it ricochets from character to character, this ending had so much power.  Literally, I felt a jolt of energy as I read that line.  The book, the story, just clicks shut.  As though suddenly the lights went out or the door slammed shut.

It was a complicated book, overall. I haven’t had to devote such energy to every single word of a novel in a long time.  This wasn’t because it was complicated and tricky, like Nabokov, but because it was just confusing as hell.  Stream of consciousness (which, apparently, this novel is technically NOT, because it uses a third person voice? leave the literary hoo-ha to the professors, if that’s the case.  this was a bloody stream of consciousness if I’ve ever seen one) has always frightened me a little – I’ve never read Ulysses, either – and this was my first real time getting into it.  Dalloway has, effectively, sat on my shelf because of this until now (when I had to read it for class!  hooray!).

I can’t really say whether or not I liked the book.  The stuff with Septimus and his eventual suicide (did I mention I’m giving up on my spoiler policy?  at least for older books – I say there’s a two year statute of limitations on a novel’s twists.  Unless it is a MAJOR NOVEL like the Harry Potter books or a new Stephen King.  Then, it’s a month.) just didn’t really seem necessary to me.  I mean, that subplot was interesting in its own way but it never felt really important.  PTSD (or “shell shock”) is a major issue, even in today’s society, and the fact that doctors didn’t really know how to address it back then… well, that’s important.  But if it is THAT important, give him more depth.  More page time.  More anything – he just seemed like a peripheral somebody who became vaguely important because his death makes Clarissa realize that life is, in fact, important.

Speaking of Clarissa, I wanted more time with her.  The scenes with her were the most (in my mind) energetic and the ones that felt the most like life.  The beginning of the novel felt so different from the end; I think mainly because we’d been away from Clarissa as the focal point of the narrative and then WHAM the party and suddenly we’re remembering her.  Its an “oh yeahhh” kind of moment.  I wish there had been more of those.

Yet I find myself unable to not like this book or even feel ambivalent about it.  There is such power in the words, such a charge… The scenes that grabbed me were those with Clarissa, with Peter, and with Richard.  The ones that focused on what we might call the “main plot” I guess.  The energy in those scenes, the lines that Woolf tosses off about life… its brilliance.  Somewhat unfocused or somewhat rambunctious brilliance, perhaps – but brilliance nonetheless.  This is the sort of book that stays with you, despite… well, despite wondering if (when you finish it) it actually will.  Then, a month later, you find yourself still thinking about it and saying “wow… that WAS quite something, wasn’t it?”


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