By Christa Protano
“And all the lives we ever lived and all the lives to be are full of trees and changing leaves.” — Virginia Woolf
As the weather starts to change and my yard becomes covered in fallen leaves, I’m reminded of Virginia Woolf’s most famous of quotes from To The Lighthouse. But it’s perhaps her earlier novel, Mrs. Dalloway, that deserves a revisit this season, especially considering the upcoming Word Cloud Classics edition, on sale October 18, 2022. Here are five reasons to put this classic on the top of your reading list.
1. You Are Not Afraid of Virginia Woolf
True, Ms. Woolf’s writing does tend to get confusing at times, but it’s her detailed take on her character’s stream of consciousness that made her one of the most critically-acclaimed authors. She is also known to be a feminist icon, having championed gender equality and women’s independence throughout many of her works. That said, it’s no surprise that she is known to have inspired the The Handmaid’s Tale author Margaret Atwood.
2. You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover
While Mrs. Dalloway the book has received a modern-day makeover thanks to Word Cloud’s calming pale blue cover, it’s not all high society rainbows and parties inside. As we follow British socialite Clarissa Dalloway and WWI veteran Septimus Smith throughout the day, we learn more about their individual pasts and life experiences. It is the idea that “appearances can be deceiving” that Woolf conveys to her readers through these two complex characters.
3. Tap Into Your Feelings
Thanks to Clarissa’s interior monologue, we discover that there is more to herself as an individual than being just a wife who is “The Perfect Hostess.” Throughout the day, she experiences joyfulness but also anxiety, jealousy, and regret. As a wife and mom myself, I find her character extremely relatable, and she serves as a helpful reminder to not be so hard on oneself when things don’t always go as planned.
4. Improve Your Mental Health Awareness
It’s no secret that Virginia Woolf had a history of mental health challenges and died by suicide. But before her untimely death, she poured her struggles into Mrs. Dalloway’s main characters, particularly ex-soldier Smith who unsuccessfully tries to seek help for PTSD. It’s a cautionary tale to remember as we continue to have conversations and advocate for more mental health treatments in our communities.
5. Get Ready for Awards Season
OK, so something as frivolous as the Oscars may not land well when we are talking about a book as serious as Mrs. Dalloway. But Woolf’s masterpiece did inspire an Academy Award-winning performance by Nicole Kidman in 2003’s The Hours. Whether you rewatch the film, or pick up a copy of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, you’ll be captivated by the three seemingly unconnected storylines and how all the drama comes together in the end.