The 2015 Classics Challenge is set up by Stacey over at THE PRETTY BOOKS. The goal is to read one classic a month and to blog about the experience. I've always wanted to read more classics and since I'm in a monthly classics book group, I thought this would be a great way to combine the two!
WHEN I DISCOVERED THIS CLASSIC + WHY I CHOSE TO READ IT
Mrs. Dalloway is one of those classics that has always been around in my house, but no one actually seemed to have read. My parents say they've started it, but never finished it because it was too boring. I've heard about it from other people and the general consensus is always that it is pretty boring and "just a woman walking around all day buying flowers." So obviously, this isn't a book that I would have chosen, except for the fact that I started a course called Literary London at Waterstone's Piccadilly and this book was on the reading list. So slightly forced, I jumped into this classic.
WHAT MAKES IT A CLASSIC
I think with this book it is really more the writing style than the story itself. It is hard to even explain what the story is about without discussing Woolf's writing. Her modernist narration seems to randomly jump from the head of one character to another throughout the story until you get to the end and realise it's not random at all and Woolf really took you on a journey where she connected all these different people together. This was new at the time and even now I can say I've never read a book with such seemingly random narration, yet she is more in control of her story than any other author I know. For this reason, and for the obsession so many people have with Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group, I can't see this book ever not being a classic.
WHAT I THOUGHT OF THIS CLASSIC
It's hard to describe how I feel about this book. When I started it, I really didn't understand why so many people loved it - it's about a woman, Clarissa Dalloway, walking around London and buying flowers. Big deal.
And then you read some more and realise that it's not just Mrs. Dalloway, but a host of other characters. You read the stream of consciousness of every single one of them and though it often switches without your knowledge, they are all distinctively different in their voices. To juggle that with a good ten characters is an amazing feat on Woolf's part and as a writer, I really started to enjoy that side of the story.
The main struggle I had is that I didn't really enjoy Clarissa as a character. She's so far removed from what I'm like as a person that it was hard to relate to her worries - I know parties were important at the time, but she's so obsessed with hers that it gets a little bit tedious after a while. She also seemed rather unkind to most people and I can say that I enjoyed every single character more than her.
I still loved the story, because I loved the storyline, that runs kind of parallel to the one of Mrs. Dalloway, of Septimus Warren Smith, a traumatised war veteran, and his wife Rezia. Septimus is a troubled man, and unlike with Clarissa, I could totally understand why. He has seen some awful things during his service and now back in London, no one seems to be able to help him deal with it. Septimus broke my heart and I couldn't help but get emotionally invested in his story and root for him and his wife. Though the books is called Mrs. Dalloway, this really was the main storyline for me.
WILL IT STAY A CLASSIC
As I said before, I definitely think it will. After reading this, I can't imagine ever forgetting about this book and I think that makes it a classic. What also helps is that it doesn't run the risk of being overtaken by a film edition (like with Breakfast at Tiffany's). This story really only works as a novel and the sheer creativity and complexity could never be truly transported to another medium. So Mrs. Dalloway will always be a classic - if only because it shows the broad scope of what can be done with a story and its readers.
WHO I’D RECOMMEND IT TO
I think this classic is a little bit more difficult than the other ones I've read this year - I doubt I would have been able to read this a year ago. So I think I'd recommend this to people who have some experience with classics and who are okay with a slow start and a really focused reading. The book jumps from perspectives so much that you really need to pay attention to every word so that you can keep up with it. So if you're in a studious or ambitious mood, this is the book for you!