Genres/Lists: Classics, Fiction, 1001 Books
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Reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf reminded me of why many of these books I have pledged to read are considered challenges. I was really looking forward to reading this book because I was under the impression that other people liked it. As I found out later, this is not necessarily the case and I can understand why. It’s not that Mrs. Dalloway is a bad book and, in fact, it gets better as it goes along and even has some profound quotes, such as, “Nothing exists outside us except a state of mind.”
The book is incredibly detailed and vivid in its descriptions, and Woolf does a great job of really getting inside of the heads of various characters. The problem is the stream of consciousness writing made it difficult to recognize transitions from one person to the next. No matter what page I was on, I felt like I was having aha moments about two pages before. I was always reading a few pages of my comprehension. The result is that I can look back on the book with some fondness, but I remember the difficulties I encountered. My favorite parts were those pertaining to Septimus and Rezia (even more so than Mrs. Dalloway herself). Theirs was a palpable and tragic story that I could have read an entire book about.
To be fair to the book, I skipped the Introduction. It was more or less a play-by-play of the entire book and I thought that reading it would ruin the story for me. Instead, I read it after I finished the book and it put things into better context for me. If I were to do it over again, though, I still don’t think I would have read the Introduction first. I don’t like knowing everything that’s going to happen in a book, even if it makes it “easier” to get through. The book has a great quote that says, “It is a thousand pities never to say what one feels,” and so, I will be honest….. I could have just read the Introduction and skipped reading the book altogether and come away with the same amount of comprehension. But that’s neither here nor there and I am left feeling ambiguous about the book. I enjoyed it after the fact, but not as much while reading it.