This is on my list of 100 Best Books by British Authors, and though I can see that it may belong there technically, I will refrain from adding it to my personal re-read collection. This book was beautifully written, but very difficult to read due to the style of writing (there are spots where you must infer which character is being followed), but mainly because some of her characters suffer mightily, and you are in danger of being pulled down with them. She has captured bleakness and despair very well. This was written only a few years before she committed suicide, and her first hand experience of suffering certainly provides an empathetic lens into the pain and turmoil her characters experience.
This is the first Virginia Woolf novel I've read so it took a little while to get used to it. I did find it difficult to read at first but about midway through I started enjoying it a lot. She is a fantastic writer. I didn't care about the plot so much as the characterization. Recommended for people who like books written in the 20s and for English lit. majors. However, if you are looking for an easy read, this is not for you.
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Rereading this almost 40 years after my first reading and I am amazed at how well it holds up. The writing continues to be wonderful and engaging. The social commentary implicit in the characters thoughts and imagination also holds up well, partly as a comment on the class differences in the era in which it was written and in some extrapolations to politcal and social context of today. I do still see the threads of feminist stance which affirmed me as a young adult and which are still relevant today.
"Virginia Woolf’s famous novel may be about the titular rich lady preparing for a party, but it’s also about Septimus Smith — a shell-shocked World War I veteran who is haunted by the battlefield death of a friend and who serves as a sort of dark mirror for Clarissa Dalloway. If Trumbo’s Johnny is beyond help physically, then Septimus is in a similar place mentally, unable to control his thoughts and reintegrate himself into life in London with his wife. What makes Woolf’s depiction of post-traumatic stress so compelling is her ability to get into the character’s head, beautifully expressing his neurotic, obsessive thoughts."
Our book club described Virginia Woolf's novel as frantic, intense, and difficult to read. They also found the book to be sad, boring, twisted, dizzying and depressing. Participants said that it had too many semi-colons, was too overly descriptive, long-winded, and jumped around too much. The few who did enjoy it did so because it had beautiful language, was like listening to a manic depressive person and it could be summed up as Woolf may have been saying that the heart matters, not the brain.
Using, what seems at first to be, a simple plot, Woolf created an intricate novel filled with the very essence of daily life and human nature. A masterpiece!
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