Thursday, 11 May 2017

Book Notes: "Mrs Dalloway" by Virginia Woolf

Mrs DallowayMrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is the first Virginia Woolf novel I have read, but I have read her work before, specifically A Room of One's Own, where Ms Woolf writes about writing and feminism, and I found this interesting, even though Ernest Hemingway, my favourite author, didn't like Ms Woolf, and I wasn't sure whether this was because she was a rival or because she was a woman, and given her feminism and her love of women, more generally, I was not surprised that Hemingway, in his obvious then-contemporary male chauvinism, might not like Ms Woolf's views, but of course this was before I had read Mrs. Dalloway, which really is an interesting work, and rivals Hemingway's themes, at least in terms of the psychological impact of war, but Ms Woolf also covers the "war and society" aspects that Hemingway tends to ignore, outside of his protagonists' meanderings through society, so in this regard, at least, Ms Woolf's work differs, yet tends to be gender-focused in its own way, and that is not to say that it is bad, for it isn't, or that I found it difficult to read, for it wasn't, but there was something about it that made it difficult to read in bits and pieces, and it would be much better suited to a long sitting, if one could find the time, because it tends to read a little like James Joyce, even though Ms Woolf and her husband (notice I use Ms as I am sure 'Mrs' Woolf would have done, even though the New York Times referred to her as 'Mrs Woolf' in her obituary, which was, interestingly, only a 'believed dead' obituary because of a suicide note and her missing body, which is also interesting given that Hemingway, who really didn't like her so much, also took his own life), Leonard, were unable to print Ulysses because it was too big for their printing establishment, known as Hogarth Press, and all this from reading what is, comparatively, a rather short book, almost a novella, but if I were to record what I gleaned most importantly from this book is not so much that Woolf was a good or bad writer, for surely her work is very good, but that the reason Hemingway didn't like her had nothing to do with their polar opposites in terms of gender and so on, for surely even in death they were alike, but the thing that is most striking is the difference in their prose, and it is for this reason, I believe, that Hemingway didn't like Woolf, not for the aforementioned issues, but mostly because her writing leaves one feeling rather frantic and out of breath, which may well be a deliberate technique, and it surely works, as in leaving one breathless, but what I am not sure about is whether this has anything to do with the content or the simple fact that Ms Woolf's sentences are just so bloody long.



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