Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf


17 Critic Reviews

Mrs. Dalloway is the tale of day in one woman’s life, as well as accounts from her friends...As I was reading this book, it became easier and easier to become a little overwhelmed with all of the characters. The story only narrates one day, but there are many flash-backs and memories that are included. However, I liked the book overall.
-Young Adult Book Reviews


Heralded as Virginia Woolf's greatest novel, this is a vivid portrait of a single day in a woman's life. When we meet her, Mrs. Clarissa Dalloway is preoccupied with the last-minute details of party preparation while in her mind she is something much more than a perfect society hostess. As she readies her house, she is flooded with remembrances of faraway times. And, met with the realities of the present, Clarissa reexamines the choices that brought her there, hesitantly looking ahead to the unfamiliar work of growing old.

"Mrs. Dalloway was the first novel to split the atom. If the novel before Mrs. Dalloway aspired to immensities of scope and scale, to heroic journeys across vast landscapes, with Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf insisted that it could also locate the enormous within the everyday; that a life of errands and party-giving was every bit as viable a subject as any life lived anywhere; and that should any human act in any novel seem unimportant, it has merely been inadequately observed. The novel as an art form has not been the same since.
"Mrs. Dalloway also contains some of the most beautiful, complex, incisive and idiosyncratic sentences ever written in English, and that alone would be reason enough to read it. It is one of the most moving, revolutionary artworks of the twentieth century."
--Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours

About Virginia Woolf

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Virginia Woolf was born in London, the daughter of the prominent literary critic Leslie Stephen. She never received a formal university education; her early education was obtained at home through her parents and governesses. After death of her father in 1904, her family moved to Bloomsbury, where they formed the nucleus of the Bloomsbury Group, a circle of philosophers, writers and artists. As a writer, Woolf was a great experimenter. She scorned the traditional narrative form and turned to expressionism as a means of telling her story. Mrs. Dalloway (1925) and To The Lighthouse (1927), her two generally acknowledged masterpieces, are stream-of-consciousness novels in which most of the action and conflict occur beneath a surface of social decorum. Mrs. Dalloway, set in London shortly after the end of World War I, takes place on a summer's day of no particular significance, except that intense emotion, insanity, and death intrude.To the Lighthouse's long first and third sections, each of which concerns one day 10 years apart, of the same family's summer holidays, are separated and connected by a lyrical short section during which the war occurs, several members of the family die, and decay and corruption run rampant. Orlando (1928) is the chronological life story of a person who begins as an Elizabethan gentleman and ends as a lady of the twentieth century; Woolf's friend, Victoria Sackville-West, served as the principal model for the multiple personalities. (The book was made into a movie in 1993.) Flush (1933) is a dog's soliloquy that, by indirection, recounts the love story of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Browning and their elopement and life in Florence. Her last short novel, Between the Acts (1941), was left without her final revision, but it is, nonetheless, a major representation of a society on the verge of collapse. Having had periods of depression throughout her life and fearing a final mental breakdown from which she might not recover, Woolf drowned herself in 1941. Her husband published part of her farewell letter to deny that she had taken her life because she could not face the terrible times of war. Leonard Woolf also edited A Writer's Diary (1953), which provides valuable insights into his wife's private thoughts and literary development. Equally informative are his own autobiographies, particularly Beginning Again and Downhill All the Way (1967), and The Letters of Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey . Virginia Woolf's Granite and Rainbow contains 27 essays on the art of fiction and biography. There are many sidelights on Woolf in the writings, letters, and biographies of other members of her Bloomsbury circle, such as Roger Fry, John Maynard Keynes (see Vol. 3), and Lytton Strachey (see Vol. 3). Also casting much light on her life, thought, and creative processes are The Common Reader (1925), The Second Common Reader (1933), A Room of One's Own (1929), Three Guineas (1938), The Captain's Death Bed and Other Essays, The Death of the Moth and Other Essays (1942), and various collections of her autobiographical writings, diaries, and letters. In addition, in recent years there has been a veritable industry of writers dealing with Woolf and her work.
Published August 1, 2005 by Mariner Books. 182 pages
Genres: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference, Action & Adventure, History, Travel, Gay & Lesbian, Biographies & Memoirs, War, Horror, Political & Social Sciences, Erotica. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Mrs. Dalloway
All: 17 | Positive: 13 | Negative: 4


Reviewed by Robert McCrum on Sep 01 2014

Woolf is one of the giants of this series, and Mrs Dalloway, her fourth novel, is one of her greatest achievements, a book whose afterlife continues to inspire new generations of writers and readers.

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Above average
Reviewed by Graham Hacia on Nov 03 2011

This third person stream-of-consciousness tactic of prose encapsulates the atmosphere of a people and time perfectly. For, throughout her narrative, the reader is juggled from mind to mind. Our orientation dissipates, and all that remains is the hazy ephemera of perspective.

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Open Letters Monthly

Above average
Reviewed by Rohan Maitzen on Aug 06 2009

This time I decided I should stop trying so hard and just keep reading, allowing myself to drift and wander and come back. When I did that, I started to fall under the spell of the language, which is beautiful and langorous but shot through with moments of startling clarity and, sometimes, brutality.

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Above average
Reviewed by Lane Graciano on Jul 11 2015

The story’s setting and subplots provide imaginative space in which musings, wishes and recriminations stream through Clarissa’s consciousness... hers is a psychological journey as full of complexity and depth as any in modern literature. It is certainly worth spending every hour, every minute reading.

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London Review of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Rosemary Hill on Aug 16 2007

The uneasy balance of power between domestic servants and their masters and mistresses, especially mistresses, is the theme of Alison Light’s study of the home life of Virginia Woolf, whose complicated relationship with her own cook, Nellie Boxall, involved a degree of intimidation on both sides.

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Her Circle Magazine

Reviewed by Marina DelVecchio on Aug 15 2012

If Woolf only allowed us to get to know Clarissa from her own limited point of view, this novel would have been extremely boring and commonplace. It is mostly through the point-of-view of those who know her that we get an authentic portrayal of this famous protagonist.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Jessica T on Jul 15 2015

Woolf makes it very clear that this purpose has nothing to do with God or love or any of the things people claim to live for. We are here to exist. We are here to delight in life, however we know how...This is what I found contained on every page of the book. This is what survives today, and what will continue to survive.

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Things Mean a Lot

Above average
Reviewed by Ana S. on Apr 23 2010

Mrs Dalloway is, among other things, a novel about the validity and importance of individuality, of one’s own private experiences of the world no matter how distant they may be from the consensus. It’s a novel about the fact that each and every one of the human beings you walk past every day is every bit as real as you are.

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Inverarity is not a Scottish village

Below average
Reviewed by Inverarity on May 10 2013

Mrs. Dalloway chronicles all of the innermost thoughts in the day of the life of middle-aged society lady Clarissa Dalloway...Let's just say I did not find her mental landscape particularly fascinating. Virginia Woolf's continual stream-of-consciousness prose...I found intensely annoying.

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Book Journey

Above average
Reviewed by Sheila on Sep 25 2011

As I read through this 177 page read I found it to be rather detail oriented, flitting from one topic and one character to the next....Am I glad I had an opportunity to try Virginia Woolf? Yes. But as for me and Mrs. Dalloway, I think we are going to agree to part ways as mere acquaintances.

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Rebecca Reads

Above average
Reviewed by Rebecca Reid on Jun 16 2011

I loved Clarissa and Septimus and Rezia and especially Peter Walsh. I hated Richard Dalloway, and Doris Kilman. Richard was a jerk. Poor Clarissa was trapped...I believe Woolf is an acquired tasted, and she is meant to be read slowly, ponderously. She is meant to be reread. No, she’s not for everyone.

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Lit Lovers

Above average
Reviewed by Molly Lundquist on Oct 01 2006

On another level, though, the book is a more adventuresome read. It deals in merging realities, shifting time frames, and stream-of-consciousness. Count these as Exhibits A, B, and C for literary modernism.

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The Literary Omnivore

Reviewed by The Literary Omnivore on Nov 28 2011

This is a deeply unhappy text, although there are flashes of light here and there; Clarissa is a pleasant person, and it’s only today that she discovers that her usual love of bringing people together is no longer fulfilling to her.

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Vulpus Libris

Above average
Reviewed by Sam Ruddock. on May 29 2009

Mrs Dalloway is a work of interlocking stream of consciousness internal monologues, of the hopes and dreams and fears of more than twenty characters...Virginia Woolf possesses a startling ability to find strength and originality in each of her characters, to cut right to the heart of their being and enunciate their thoughts and feelings...

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Above average
Reviewed by Chris on Sep 25 2008

This book was only 140 pages but it took a long time for me to finish. Mostly because of all the re-reading. Still, it was interesting. The theme of mortality, time getting away from us, gave me a lot to think about. Clarissa is a woman who is more than she seems.

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A Striped Armchair

Reviewed by Eva on Jan 15 2010

As for myself, I find Mrs. Dalloway to be a wonderful little book, one that validates the odd internal monologue I know I have going almost constantly, and I always finish it feeling hopeful. I think Clarissa has a wonderful life…she’s a character I’d happily become, since she finds joy in the little things, she’s well off materially...

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Young Adult Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Realistic Fiction on Nov 03 2010

Mrs. Dalloway is the tale of day in one woman’s life, as well as accounts from her friends...As I was reading this book, it became easier and easier to become a little overwhelmed with all of the characters. The story only narrates one day, but there are many flash-backs and memories that are included. However, I liked the book overall.

Read Full Review of Mrs. Dalloway

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O 30 Oct 2014

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