Synopsis: In 1920s London, Virginia Woolf is fighting against her rebellious spirit as she attempts to make a start on her new novel. A young wife and mother , broiling in a suburb of 1940s Los Angeles, yearns to escape and read her precious copy of Mrs Dalloway. And Clarissa Vaughan steps out of her smart Greenwich village apartment in 1990s New York to buy flowers for a party she is hosting for a dying friend.
First off I should tell you why I didn’t think I would lie this book. Mrs Dalloway is one of my favourite books of all time. When I was 16 Mrs Dalloway was one of the books that inspired me to keep writing and showed me how truly powerful a novel can be. I was initially excited about reading a re-imagining of Mrs Dalloway.
However as soon as I heard that the book would involve the fictionalised events of Virginia Woolf’s life while she was writing Mrs Dalloway I was wary. Virginia Woolf is one of my heroes, literary or otherwise, and I didn’t someone think could realistically write from her perspective. All in all I think I would rather learn about Woolf’s life from a biography or from her own words and letters. Although I don’t think he completely captures her wonderful perspective, there are moments when he captures an essence of her writing and in particular her humour.
For example my favourite Quote, (from the perspective of Virginia Woolf):
"Men may congratulate themselves for writing truly and passionately about the movements of nations; they may consider War and the search for God to be great literature’s only subjects; but if men’s standing in the world could be toppled by an ill advised choice of hat, English Literature would be dramatically changed".
However I think that apart from it being a well written and enjoyable story, what really brought me around to this adaptation is that it feels like it was written by someone who loves the original novel. It definitely feels like a respectful adaptation.
Since this book is split up into three perspectives of three different central characters I thought I would review the sections separately as they offer each offer very different reading experiences.
Clarissa, (nickname Mrs Dalloway): This is the character from the 90’s and is the most self conciously reimagining of Mrs Dalloway. I loved the amount of queer characters in this retelling, I feel like the queerness in Virginnia Woolf’s writing/life isn’t talked about enough when discussing Mrs Dalloway but this adaptation brought this aspect to the foreground albeit through a new set of characters. (Obviously this section isn’t just about LGBTQ themes of the original novel but they are a prominent part of this section). One of the problems I find with direct adaptations of other work is that the characters can become a little flat, that is not the case with this novel and in particular this section. There is a character (Richard) that I didn’t like but through the story we see him lose himself and it is written in a powerful and truly heartbreaking way.
Mrs Brown: This is the character from the 1940’s who us reading the novel ‘Mrs Dalloway’. As a reader of these sections I felt like I was also re-reading ‘Mrs Dalloway’ as whole sections of the original text are reproduced. To be honest I found these sections to be the most moving and the character of Mrs Brown the easiest to get inside the mind of, so I don’t want to spoil these sections by talking about the narrative too much.
Virginia Woolf: All in all these sections where we see the writing process of ‘Mrs Dalloway’ are my least favourite sections for the reasons stated above but when I loosened up I still enjoyed them. As I was enjoying some sections more than others, the pacing was a little bit off for me.
However it was still a quick and very enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone, particularly to those who enjoy the original novel Mrs Dalloway.
Have you read this book or Mrs Dalloway, what did you think? Or have you seen the movie, (I haven’t gotten hold of it yet), what did you think?