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Julian Meynell's Books

I like Books.

Mrs. Dalloway

Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf, Maureen Howard Well written book. Very much of its time. I'm not a great fan of these early stream of consciousness books. They seem to me to be reacting to supposed problems with the 19th century novel, which I don't believe are there. Her influence is important, but early stream of consciousness novels like Falkner or Joyce are so focused on the fragmentary nature of human experience, that they either miss or devalue the human tendency to turn this into a narrative. Something like MacEwan's Atonement, which is influenced by Woolfe, but concentrates on this drive and how it can go wrong, is more interesting in my opinion. (Interestingly, later stream of consciousness novels have the same relation to the early ones, as Hume has to Kant. It is as if this intellectual movement unfolded in novels 200 years later than it did in philosophy.)

There is nothing really wrong with this book. Her prose is good. The characters well drawn. Fascinating insights into human beings and their different natures are contrasted sharply. She captures well the mood of London following WWI and how English culture was struggling to either adapt to or ignore the changes wrought by the war.

However, the book did not really grab me, and I just don't think that it will stay with me. I doubt that I will ever really think about it in the future. Woolf is mostly interesting for her innovations in technique, but I feel that she would have been a better writer if she had not have bothered to be so innovative.

It may be my last novel by her. I just can't get to the point where her books start to matter to me.