Recently one of my friends challenged me to read “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf and frankly I was intrigued. I mean it is something to challenge a person to read Ulysses where you could almost be sure that the person would not finish it so easily but, to extend the same respect to a 165 page novel seems a bit too optimistic. However, I could understand why by the time I entered deep into the novel. It was pages and pages of text with images and locations as vivid as some of the best works I have read but, I could feel the fact why it seemed inaccessible to a lot of people. Probably in these types of books the utilitarian way is the best way to go with, because, a lot of people may not be as immersed as the others. It is the case with most of the books now-a-days anyway, no matter who you are, some kinds of writing will always alienate you, and will possibly make you hate a title even if you see positive literary merit in it. For this novel, I finished it in a day, reading it without stop since, the narrative tended to leave one confused if one left it alone. Only when I was at the later part of the novel did everything start hitting home.
The foreword says that Woolf was a lover of Keats. That was probably the first thing I noticed as I read the novel too. The beauty of the passages and the words seemed to be the remains of a poem which was molded into a story. The first thing that hits home is the language, Woolf writes without restraint and in a language that leaves you gasping for breath. It is possibly the only type of language that could have made this novel what it is.
Woolf creates characters with mastery. She interweaves tragedies of a London life under the guise of beautiful language. Do not be mistaken, every little story of an individual character is possibly a tragedy under disguise of a happy exterior. Even the smallest characters leave a lot of thinking to the individual who reads them and I am enamored. I am in love with Peter Walsh, and I pity Septimus, I understand Clarissa and I try and ignore Elizabeth, soon enough by the time am midway I feel like I am one of the characters interwoven into the book itself.
Herein lies Woolf’s mastery, she creates dialogue even though the book is pretty much filled with narrative passages. The dialogue is between the characters and the readers. The readers look through the eyes of different characters as the story progresses and it helps the novel to be seamless. Yet, for some readers that might pose a challenge as one wishes for more action, more activity in the book. With some books the tragedy is that every wishes to include all sorts of action into a small amount of pages, here the problem lies in the fact that the actions are possibly too less. Yet, that style pays off, because the story lacks action that is happening, the reader can further feel the small changes and it literally makes one think, makes one feel immersed within tragedies.
It is also a beautiful picture of London, a beautiful imagery of its residents and their emotions drenched in the aftermath of war. An image that makes the story more vividly colored as one reads from one page to another.
My only complaint about the book might be that the reader might be lost within the narrative. Often times I read some pages again and again trying to ascertain their meaning, and it adds to a sort of inaccessible air that the book gives off on starting.
I could harp on about individual character, but, I think that would be an injustice to the author and I would let you discover them yourself. It is worth a read, even though a lot of people might come out of the book with only hate. Perhaps it is because of the conflicting views that the book generates that actually makes it more of a classic. However, the key point here is not the mixed bag of emotions that this book would leave you with. It is more about London and about people, and the heightened emotions left by a draining war. It is about a lot of things that can happen in a day and it is beautiful.