The Hours & Mrs Dalloway: Mixed Review

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May contain minor spoilers from the two books above! (Just warning you. I don’t think it’s really spoilery but I don’t want anyone to complain after reading what follows!)

I bought Mrs Dalloway last year because we were supposed to study it in class, but eventually we didn’t have the time, so it waited on my shelves until now.

Before school break started, one of my friends lent me The Hours, because I heard so many great things about it I wanted to read it. If you don’t know, The Hours (written by Michael Cunningham) is a fiction about three women through the 20th Century. Each part describes a day in their lives, just like Mrs Dalloway describes a day in Clarissa Dalloway’s life. The first woman is Virginia Woolf herself, and we can see her writing Mrs Dalloway in the 1920s. The second woman, Laura Brown, lives in the 1960s, and all she wants to do is escape her life to read Mrs Dalloway. The third woman is called Clarissa, and her friend Richard gave her the nickname of “Mrs Dalloway” and indeed, her life is surprisingly similar to that of Virginia Woolf’s character, though she lives in the 1990s.

Throughout the story, links and similarities appear between the different characters, though you may have to wait until the end for all the pieces of the puzzle to fall together. This book is extremely clever and well-written. I was a bit disappointed at the beginning, but the ending made up for that (so don’t lose hope!) And it is true, you don’t have to read Mrs Dalloway before, thought it may help, which is the reason I have read it afterwards (and I advise you to do it the other way around).

The Hours is interesting, it’s fascinating. It’s sometimes a bit puzzling but at some point everything makes sense, and that’s why I liked it. It is extremely satisfying. The ending is like a huge revelation and makes you want to read the book all over again, to get the hints, to realise you could have predicted everything. That’s what makes it beautiful. I gave it 4 stars, and I recommend it if you like Virginia Woolf, and if you like classical literature in general.

But enough about The Hours. (It is also a movie if you want to check it out.)

Mrs Dalloway goes through one day in Clarissa Dalloway’s life, and the people she comes across. She is hosting a party in the evening, and that’s the leitmotiv of the book. The story wanders from one character’s mind to another, and goes back to Clarissa’s, and the other supposedly main character, Septimus Smith, a young man who has post war trauma and thinks about his death throughout the entire book. The reader travels through the London of the 1920s and sees people just living their plain life, going to the park, buying flowers, going to the doctor. Planning a party, planning a suicide.

I know it has a good press, but I was disappointed. Yes, it is poetic. It is beautifully written. I won’t deny this, and I liked this side of the novel. But aside from that, I was disappointed. It was not enough for me. It felt something was missing. If I believe The Hours, Virginia spent the day writing, and only would write a few pages. It is obvious she really worked on the poetic aspect of her novel, and I won’t deny it, and it IS beautiful, and beautifully written. It’s a beautiful work, and almost feels like a 200 pages long poem. But I can’t help but wonder, what’s the point of this story? I had really high hopes for this book, and don’t know why I ended up so disappointed but I was. Somehow, I couldn’t relate, I couldn’t get into the story.

The ending is also well-written but leaves me wanting something more. Maybe I missed something, I don’t know. If you have read it and liked it, I would love to read your opinion on it!

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