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Mrs. Dalloway - Let it sink in.

Given my credentials of not having attempted a single review in my life, I think a ‘Mrs. Dalloway review’ is almost at the edge of travesty. To be frank, I believe there may be very few among us, who could actually do justice to a book as compelling a Mrs. Dalloway. I was drawn to the book following the film, ‘The Hours’ based on Michael Cunningham’s novel by the same name and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. While The Hours (film) left me shell shocked and jolted to the core by its sheer brilliance of screenplay and acting prowess; Mrs. Dalloway left me speechless, literally. I feel so utterly handicapped over words and ideas to describe it, let alone critique it. This is but a very humble attempt or perhaps even a tribute to a great book by a greater writer. First and foremost, you need to forget any and every preconception you have about how to write or read a novel before you embark upon the Virginia reading experience. Woolf does not comply or confine herself to the structures of chapters or volumes. No chapter, no volume in the entire book. Woolf does not feel the necessity of a central plot to bring forth the very core of our emotions. She does not feel also, that it is so awfully necessary to terminate sentences with a period because she wants one to flow into the other. She therefore, is undoubtedly, a maestro at the usage of the semicolon. If you ever lecture to a class full of English literature students and wanted to cite an example of the ‘stream-of-consciousness’ style; Mrs. Dalloway is the piece. Woolf accomplishes, with almost eerie and spectral freedom, movement in and out of the heads of her characters. She meanders (for that could be the only possible word) through Clarissa’s (Dalloway) thoughts about a black car with royalty inside, Sally, ‘her’ Elizabeth; husband Richard, her lover of yore Peter, her parties, her ideas of life and freedom and inexorably … Septimus. Septimus, is a character that went on to become my personal favourite due to the absolute lucidity with which Woolf portrays the horrors of war through a man ripped apart by voices, daydreams, hallucinations and finally death. But even death is put forward in such sobriety that it shouts out what were but hidden words of Septimus. Virginia’s characters in the book are never larger than life. All placed rigidly in the post World War I era, each having their own unique, queer, yet ‘real’ niceties, opinions and prejudices of the English elite society to which they belong. In ways more than one, it is a work on social issues through inner sentiment. It is a work on mental trauma, its obscurity and stigmatization. It is also, to a large extent a work to the cause of feminism. It is also a work on death, its various forms, its precursors and consequences. Mrs. Dalloway is not your regular novel to be read once and put back to the shelf. It demands rereading; because the more you read, the more you realize what you missed out. It glues you and you live with its words. Woolf once quoted, “A good essay must have this permanent quality about it; it must draw its curtain round us, but it must be a curtain that shuts us in not out.” This is an excerpt from the book.

“Death was defiance. Death was an attempt to communicate; people feeling the impossibility of reaching the centre which, mystically, evaded them; closeness drew apart; rapture faded, one was alone. There was an embrace in death.” I think she proves her point.