I had read Virginia Woolf’s 1925 Mrs. Dalloway at least three times in the past, but I would guess that it’s been a good 12-15 years since the last time. For whatever reason, I started thinking recently about reading it again. I no longer had my paperback copy as many of my books went on to other lives after I divested myself of many of my things when moving across the country and back again.
A few months ago, I had signed up for Readmill, an ebook reader and service that includes many public domain works. I had read only one thing on it before, Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat around the time I had read Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake since Gogol’s story plays an important part in Lahiri’s tale.
I checked Readmill and Mrs. Dalloway is available, so I downloaded it along with several other of Woolf’s works. I have since downloaded many other classic novels and have become quite enamoured of Readmill’s reading experience. As with other ebook readers, it allows for adjusting fonts and brightness and includes a highlighting option.
Readmill has a built in social aspect through which you can connect with friends on Twitter and Facebook along with native Readmill users. My only complaint is that it is impossible to browse beyond the books Readmill suggests. Even searching by author seems to provide a limited view of what it really available. Gerald R. Lucas over at Medium has an excellent and more detailed review of Readmill.
As one could guess by the fact that I had already read Mrs. Dalloway at least three times, it has long been one of my favorite novels. Re-reading it after so many years has only added to the appeal. One of the magical things about re-reading books is that you approach the works from a new perspective. In fact, I’m a bit surprised now that I enjoyed it so much the first time I read it in my twenties because all the characters are middle-aged and I can relate to them in a much deeper way now that I am nearly as old as they are.
The structure of the novel still fascinates me. Mrs. Dalloway covers one day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway as she prepares for giving a party. The narrative shifts focus through various characters who cross her path or who somehow touch her life. There isn’t much in the way of conventional plot but it certainly doesn’t lack for drama. Even the smallest details can carry great weight when the inner lives of the characters are so wonderfully developed.
Mrs. Dalloway is deservedly a classic and belongs on anyone’s must read list.