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Mrs. Dalloway

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Mrs. Dalloway By Virginia Woolf

I read Mrs. Dalloway because I was moved to read the book that inspired the book, and now academy award nominated movie, The Hours. In the film, Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf during the time in her rich and troubled life when she was writing the book she would perhaps be best known for, Mrs. Dalloway. The book has a profound effect on the three main characters’ lives, and it all begins with the simple opening sentence, “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” One simple act of independence and self-determination can change everything.

Mrs. Dalloway follows a single day in the life of this seemingly surface and simplistic woman, Clarissa Dalloway, as she prepares to host a party at her elegant home for her mostly wealthy and sometimes interesting guests. But nothing in Mrs. Dalloway is only what it seems. Clarissa is not simply the spoiled, shallow woman her former lover would like to think she is. Her husband Richard is not the dull, lifeless, sturdy husband others would like to think he is. Peter, the former lover, is not the independent, deep-thinking, carefree man of the world he would like everyone to think he is. In fact, Peter is so afraid he’s not truly alive that he fiddles with a pocket knife incessantly. Everything in the book bares soul to the reader. When Clarissa learns of the suicide of a young man who we meet in the book, she thinks, “Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate . . . There was an embrace in death.”

The language is so challenging in Mrs. Dalloway. At times I got so caught up in the description I had no idea which character was talking, and I didn’t care. It felt almost other-worldly to slow down, as you must, to read a novel with language this descriptive, this inescapable, this unnerving.

Can you imagine? A novel written in 1925 on the New York Times paperback bestseller list for the third week in a row. Magnificent. Stretch a little. Read something completely unlike what you usually read. Read Virginia Woolf’s classic, Mrs. Dalloway. On the book beat for KSL Newsradio 1160, I’m Amanda Dickson.

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