Ah Mrs Dalloway. Where to begin?
Coming fresh off the back of Trainspotting, I thought perhaps we could delve into a short book about post-war London and a well-to-do lady going about her business preparing for a rich person’s party. What could go wrong?
Well, run-on sentences could go wrong, for starters. I was only two or three pages in when I realised I wasn’t going to understand a single word that was written, ever know who was speaking, what was happening, or who was whom.
Is Mrs Dalloway a lesbian? Why did the nice Italian girl marry the crazy guy? Who are all these people in the park? What is the signwriter writing? Did anyone ever figure it out? Who’s the third wheel at the fancy lady’s lunch? Did anything even happen?
What I did enjoy is the description of London and its bustling busyness, the furious anger of Miss Kilman, Richard Dalloway’s sweet and loving thoughts toward his long-time wife that he can’t ever manage to vocalise, the mysterious woman across the road that Clarissa watches through the window, and poor cousin Ellie who isn’t invited to Clarissa’s party but wrangles an invitation anyway, then stands alone the whole time, ignored by everybody. Poor bugger.
One of my favourite bits is when the furious Miss Kilman is attempting to control her rage and often does so by distracting herself thinking of unrelated topics until she calms down (which I like to do too when I find myself getting annoyed over things that are better left ignored). She wills herself to “think about Rome” until she gets to the upcoming post box she’s walking toward, and I’ve totally adopted that as a mantra when idiots cut me off while driving or arsehole things happen in general. Think about Rome until the post box. Frankly, I think Miss Kilman is the most interesting of the whole bunch.
I dare say a lot of the themes and motifs went over my head (which happens often for me, I’m a literal reader), but upon further investigation and having them explained to me, they make sense and are really quite clever. The symbol of time and changes did stand out – people lived and died, loved and lost, and Big Ben chimed the time away all the while.
I have to admit I did just grit my teeth and get through it but I’m aware that I should like it and be very moved by it. I did find particular passages full of beautiful, mystical language that I adored in and around those infernal semi-colons, but on the whole I found it pretty tough going. Maybe next time!