Book Review: Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

I don’t think I’ve ever had such mixed feelings about a book before. I picked this up at a charity shop, only dimly aware of Virginia Woolf and her writing. Her stream of consciousness writing was mentioned in something I read recently and then by chance I saw this a copy of this.

What I enjoyed about this was the way Woolf captures how a train of thought winds about and the way people make brief, quick stories for those they encounter. Much of the book follows the eponymous character as she prepares to throw a party in the summer of 1923, running errands, meeting old friends and interacting with her family. From here it spins off to follow other character’s thoughts and actions, and this is all done very well.

The problems are is that the story doesn’t really build towards anything. Perhaps due to convention I expected the different strands to come together but they never do, and it all feels rather flat. And not much happens, which makes sense as it follows a regular day, but it means that at times it feels a slog. Page after page is devoured but very little has happened or changed.

Luckily despite these frustrations it does benefit from some fantastic writing, with Woolf having a distinctive voice and keen insight for how people think. Characters have recurring phrases or ideas, which rang true for me and every character’s view reflects their own outlooks and prejudices.

At times the writing is beautiful, with Woolf capturing snapshots of London life and creating evocative images and believable, familiar characters. Her talent is obvious but the story is thin and left me unsatisfied at the end.

Verdict: Some beautiful writing and a skillful execution of stream of consciousness make this a decent read, but Woolf’s talent can’t quite make up for a lack of incident and an unsatisfying ending. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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