“Mrs. Dalloway” is a classic, considered by some to be the finest modern novel. That sort of recommendation is enough to make me approach carefully; I’m not educated enough to fully appreciate the great works and I find reading them a chore. But I’m happy to say that, although I found the first bit tedious, it didn’t take me long to get sucked into the story.
It’s not that the plot is engaging; there is almost no plot. The book is merely a record of one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, and that of a few of her friends, and some people that she passes by. We are given access to their thoughts as they go about their day. Clarissa buys flowers, mends a dress, and gives a party. She hosts a visitor, just back from India. She thinks about a girl from her school days, with whom she had been in love. Septimus Smith, suffering from PTSD from WW I and the loss of a fellow soldier with whom he’d been in love, quietly sinks into a fatal madness. The stream of consciousness leads us seamlessly through the minds of these people; there are no chapters to provide breaking points. Wolff’s prose is simply beautiful; she describes the everyday moments that are usually forgotten or ignored as things of beauty. But the book is not just pretty prose; there is surprising depth to some of the characters. Clarissa and Septimus, in particular, although not directly connected, seem to be two sides of the questions of life and death. Five stars.