By: Virginia Woolf
In 1925, Virginia Woolf took note of the painstaking tragedy which plagued her surroundings and published a novel. She proclaimed, "I want to give life and death, sanity and insanity. I want to criticize the social system, and show it at work, at its most intense." Through her book, Woolf addresses the concepts of time, sanity, and mortality – and how they intersect – in a thought-provoking, disturbing, and exhilarating manner. As the story has it, the central character is the delicate Clarissa Dalloway, a mannerly English lady who provides the perfect contrast to another of the book's characters, Septimus Warren Smith, an ex-soldier whose world is overflowing with chaos. Although Clarissa and Septimus never meet, it is through the interweaving of each other’s story that the author highlights the injustices occurring in England during the post WWI era.
Setting: London, UK
“This late age of the world’s experience had bred in them all, all men and women, a well of tears. Tears and sorrows; courage and endurance; a perfectly upright and stoical bearing” (11).
**Fun Fact: Woolf wrote her novel in a garden shed. Each day, she spent three hours working on her masterpiece, embellishing and revising in a hard bound notebook.**
Although not filled with tons of pages, this extremely complex and character-driven novel will provide a challenge to most readers. Since it’s not separated into chapters, almost all of the action occurs in the thoughts and reminiscences of the characters, leaving the reader to piece together the story from bits and pieces of information. Reading Mrs. Dalloway was almost a culture shock and a literary slap in the face. Never before had I seen such sentences, nor did I know that a writer could do what Virginia Woolf has done with words. The story itself was extremely captivating, one continuous novel piled high with so much information about the post-World War I time period and the aftermath that followed. I believe this book would best be suited for the female gender, being that the main character and overall message is geared towards females. Because it’s so rich with literary value, I would also suggest being of at least high school age before delving into this work. Given time, this novel will touch hearts and leave readers longing for just one more taste of Virginia Woolf’s finest piece of literature.