Nov 19, 2018
Mrs. Dalloway was the first novel to split the atom. If the novel before Mrs. Dalloway aspired to immensities of scope and scale, to heroic journeys across vast landscapes, with Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf insisted that it could also locate the enormous within the everyday; that a life of errands and party-giving was every bit as viable a subject as any life lived anywhere; and that should any human act in any novel seem unimportant, it has merely been inadequately observed. The novel as an art form has not been the same since.
I picked up The Hours one day at the library. I did not know what it was about when I started reading it, and it captured me immediately. The scene of Woolf at the water’s edge, the stones in her pocket, made my heart drop. As I read on, I realized this was, essentially, a crossover with Mrs. Dalloway. I hadn’t read Mrs. Dalloway yet. So, even though I loved The Hours up to that point, I put it down so as not to spoil myself.
Finally, years later, I finished Mrs. Dalloway.
This was a hard book to read. I actually had gotten a copy of the audiobook from Audible (no, this post is not sponsored by Audible) and while listening to it, I knew I could not just listen to it, I needed to devour these words on a page. I put out a hold on the book at the library and eagerly started reading right away. However, it was incredibly hard for me to read. I would read a paragraph and not know what exactly was happening.
Annette Brownings, the narrator of the audiobook, breathed so much life into Woolf’s words that I ended up listening to the audiobook while I read the physical book. That could be why it took me so long to read this book. But it was a very interesting way to read it. I find that when I listen to audiobooks, my mind can tend to wander. While reading, sometimes I will have to reread sentences before they make sense. Reading and listening at the same time really anchored me and I was able to focus.
And it was great that I was able to focus on it. The characters in Mrs. Dalloway absolutely grabbed me. I have never loved a cast of characters more. They are all so inexplicably human. I don’t know what it’s like to grow old as I’m still pretty young but I could feel these things that the characters went through, were going through.
Woolf has a wonderful way of narrating, it seems a lot like casual conversation. Quirky enough that you could spot a Woolf novel a mile away. I adored it, plain and simple (I’m sure that’s one of her quirky isms and I’m taking it!). Woolf understands life. She suffered through it. I am so glad that she left the world with her words for us to muse and contemplate over. How intriguing it is, how one can leave behind a legacy.
If anybody could have saved me it would have been you.