I know some people are still reading – but I didn’t want to wait until the very last day of February to post this little round up of the first phase of #Woolfalong. Please feel free to come back and drop any links to reviews that I might have missed/or aren’t up yet in the comments box. I have tried to keep up with everyone as best as I can. I know not everyone who has been reading along with me are bloggers – but they have been able to join in the conversation using the #Woolfalong on Twitter.
My intention of starting #Woolfalong with To the Lighthouse and/or Mrs Dalloway was to explore two of Virginia Woolf’s best known, possibly best loved novels. Many readers will have chosen to read one or the other, I decided to read (strictly speaking re-read) both. I am so glad I did – my experience of both novels was vastly superior to my first reading of them. If I had to choose one over the other I would pick To the Lighthouse as the one I liked the most – but really both were wonderful reading experiences. They require a little effort from the reader of course, but I believe it is effort which is well rewarded.
Both To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway are modernist novels written in a stream of consciousness, told through shifting perspectives and published only a couple of years apart.
Each novel naturally has its own themes and it isn’t my intention to try and compare the novels in any depth. However, to my mind there are a few similarities in the two novels. Mrs Ramsay (To the Lighthouse) and Mrs Dalloway – central figures in their respective worlds, middle aged, mothers, though Mrs Ramsay seems a more passive woman than Clarissa Dalloway. Each of these women have a powerful effect on the people around them.
The passage of time and reminiscence play a part in both novels – that sense of time passing I felt was particularly strong in To the Lighthouse, while in Mrs Dalloway the central characters seem forever looking back, remembering or haunted in some way by times past.
To the Lighthouse is an elegy to Virginia Woolf’s parents – and presumably her childhood. The novel itself is about a marriage, childhood, parentage, reminiscence and grief, the tone is elegiac, poetic, characters perceptions are at the forefront of everything in the exploration of complex relationships.
For me, despite that hot day in June, Mrs Dalloway feels altogether darker, due perhaps to the presence throughout the novel of the inevitability of death and its other themes of mental illness and (due to the context of the times) repressed homosexuality.
Overall reading both these novels has got my #Woolfalong campaign off to a great start. I have enjoyed seeing other readers thoughts – and so I include some links below to reviews I have spotted, Apologies if I have missed any – if you make me aware of them I will edit them in, when I have a chance. Please hop through to the reviews below – they are all well worth reading.
Max, David Liz Grant and Leah read Mrs Dalloway Rachel, listened to Mrs Dalloway on audio book while Val read Mrs Dalloway’s Party – which I hope to read during the short story phase. Caroline at Bookword pointed me in the direction of her Mrs Dalloway review from last summer. Karen at Bookertalk has just posted her review of Mrs Dalloway and you can read it here. I’ll let you read their reviews for yourself to appreciate their diifering experiences and thoughts.
Several non-blogging readers on other social media platforms joined me in reading To the Lighthouse – including some friends of mine who make up a small but very lovely monthly bookgroup. Helen at She Reads Novels and Caroline at Bookword posted their reviews in January. Julie posted her review on Goodreads, Sarah from Hard Book Habit and Grant from 1streading’s blog recently finished reading it too. Cathy came late to the Dalloway party – and her wonderful review shows how much she loved it.
Phase two of #Woolfalong begins in a little over a week – for March and April – ‘beginnings and endings’ to read one or more of: – The Voyage Out/ Night and Day (Woolf’s first and second novels – or Between the Acts (her final novel). I read The Voyage Out last year – so I shall start with Night and Day – and possibly move on to Between the Acts. I hope some of you will join me.
So if you have read either of these novels please let us know some of your thoughts – positive or negative.