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Reading the Forsyte Saga – a Challenge for 2015!

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You might have noticed I’ve been muttering on about “The Forsyte Saga” recently, having conceived an interest in reading the books and picking up a set of interesting (and not so interesting!) Penguin copies:

Whilst the chattering was going on, Ali at HeavenAli came up with the ideal of having “The Forsyte Saga” as a read-along for 2015 – which I thought was a great idea, because it gives us 9 months for 9 books and plenty of catch up time if we get behind!

Ali has mentioned this in her post here, and if anyone wants to read along with us – please join in! The more the merrier! 🙂

Remembrance of things past….

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Mary by Vladimir Nabokov

Well, I *did* end up visiting another Nabokov quite soon, didn’t I? To be honest, I’ve been eyeing up this volume for a while – part of my Penguin Great Loves little box set, “Mary” was Nabokov’s first novel, written in Russian in Berlin soon after his marriage in 1925. My version is translated by Michael Glenny in collaboration with Nabokov – which is fascinating because Glenny’s translated many of the Russian books I’ve read and obviously was considered good enough by Nabokov which is praise indeed!

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The book comes with the byline “Love can be rewritten” and that’s a good point at which to start considering “Mary”. The protagonist is a Russian émigré by the name of Ganin, lodging in a dirty Berlin pension with a varied selection of fellow exiles – the old poet Podtyagin, Klara the typist, Alfyorov, plus the two ballet dancers Kolin and Gornotsvetov. The book opens idiosyncratically enough with Ganin and Alfyorov temporarily trapped in the old lift, though they are soon free – but the meeting will have consequences. We learn very little of substance about Ganin’s current life apart from the fact that he has had many and varied jobs while in exile, he has a girlfriend (Klara’s best friend Lyudmila) and his money is running out. The strange little pension is positioned next to a main train line and Ganin’s wanderlust is constantly kindled as he hears the trains thundering by. He plans to leave soon, which Alfyorov announces will be wonderful as the latter’s wife Mary is due to arrive in Berlin. He shows a picture of her to Ganin which is a revelation – because this Mary is the love of Ganin’s life and he has not seen her for many years, since before the revolution in Russia.

As what Ganin calls his shadow life in Berlin carries on around him, he slips mentally into reminiscence where memory of his early life in Russia is stronger and more real than the current one. He recalls vividly his young life, his meeting with Mary and the progress of their affair. His poignant and often painful memories are strong and when he does come back into real life it is to plan that he will meet Mary on her arrival in Berlin, they will be together and in effect run off into the romantic sunlight. Meanwhile, he splits up with his girlfriend, tries to help Podtyagin get a visa to go to Paris and ignores the fact that Klara is in love with him. But will Mary really arrive, will she be *his* Mary and will she still love him?

This wonderful little novella is about much more than just a love affair, however. Although the narrator’s love of Mary is never in doubt, the book is about memory, and is also a kind of lament for a lost Russia and an elegy for the Russian émigrés and what they had lost by leaving their country and losing a whole way of life. Ganin has lost his past and therefore feels homeless and unsettled; his constant restlessness and the feeling he wants to leave are exacerbated by the continual rumbling of the trains, reminding him of places he hasn’t seen:

“Meanwhile nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring. His window looked out onto the railway tracks, so that the chance of getting away never ceased to entice him. Every five minutes a subdued rumble would start to move through the house, followed by a huge cloud of smoke billowing outside the window and blotting out the white Berlin daylight. then it would slow dissolve again, revealing the fan of the railway tracks that narrowed in the distance between the black, sliced-off backs of houses, all under a sky as pale as almond milk.”

I wonder if Nabokov had been reading Proust when he wrote “Mary”, because although it’s a fraction of the size of the Frenchman’s epic work, it’s a powerful evocation of how strong memory can be and how things remembered can be more real than current reality itself.

“Ganin now tried to recapture that scent again, mixed with the fresh smells of the autumnal park, but, as we know, memory can restore to life everything except smells, although nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”

For Proust it was the taste of a Madeleine, but smell is just as strong a sense and I know that certain perfumes recall certain times and people for me.

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“Mary” is a beautiful little book – full of poignant memories of Russia before its changes, of lost loves and a lost world, and a wonderful portrait of a microcosmic émigré community surviving as best it can. I feel as if Nabokov’s first novel gives us a little more of a glimpse of the author than some of his other fictions do, as I imagine Ganin’s feelings of loss were mirrored by his author. The end of the book is unexpected in some ways, yet once you’ve assimilated it, the best way for the book to end. Ganin has been recreating and carrying on a relationship with Mary in his mind, and to rediscover her in reality simply wouldn’t work. If you haven’t read any Nabokov, this would be a good place to start; if you have, but have not read “Mary”, you have a treat in store!

Margaret Kennedy’s “The Feast” – a clash between good and evil

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Margaret Kennedy’s novel “The Feast”, which I’ve chosen for the Reading Week hosted by Fleur in her World, was published in 1950 and is set in 1947. Located on the Cornish coast, the story centres around the Pendizack hotel run by the Siddals, which is filled with a motley crew of guests.

feast

The book opens with a prologue in which the vicar of St. Sody, Rev. Bott (who is prone to Popish practices in his Anglican services) is attempting to write a sermon. He tells his visiting colleague that he is struggling with this, as it is meant to be read at a memorial for those killed recently when a portion of the cliff collapsed on the hotel. Bott reveals that the survivors made their way to him after the disaster, and talked – telling him more than perhaps they should. He begins to relate events, and then we flash back to the start of the week leading up to the tragedy.

The book is then divided into seven daily sections, each containing short chapters which introduce the various characters, letting us find out exactly what kind of people will be staying at the hotel. There are the Paleys, a couple with a shell of a marriage who’ve never recovered from the loss of their child; Sir Henry and his invalid wife Lady Gifford plus their four children (three adopted); Mrs. Cove and *her* three impoverished and neglected daughters; Miss Ellis, the bitter housekeeper; Nancibel, the kind-hearted maid; Anna, a hack novelist and family friend of the Siddals, along with her current toy-boy, Bruce; and Canon Wraxton, a fearsome, bullying and troublemaking preacher, accompanied by his downtrodden daughter Evangeline.

All of these characters are at, or reach, some kind of crisis point during the week. Miss Ellis goes on a kind of strike; Nancibel loves and loses; Evangeline achieves a kind of liberation; several relationships come to a head; the Cove children, mistreated and unloved, find the outside world and affection; and so on. It is the Cove girls who plan the feast of the title, as their dream is to be able to dispense bounty to others so some of their fellow guests conspire to help their dream come true – and it is the feast that will be pivotal to who survives and who does not.

“The Paleys always gave off this suggestion of a violence momentarily suspended. They would eat their breakfast every morning in a sombre, concentrated silence, as though bracing themselves for some enormous effort to be sustained during the day.”

In some ways, the book’s format is rather like that of one of those disaster movies which became so popular during the 1970s, in which a group of characters is set up in a situation where a dreadful event will take place and the entertainment as such is in seeing who will make to the end of the film and who will not.

Certainly, that’s a motivation here, and the suspense during reading builds dramatically towards the event at the end. But “The Feast” is much deeper than just a tacky movie – there is meditation on good and evil, some appalling people behaving very nastily, and a sense that the world has survived a War in which ‘good’ won, but that humanity has been tarnished and the Seven Deadly Sins are still very much alive and well. The strong War influence, with rationing still in place and a reference to the horrors of Belsen, informs much of the discussion in the book, and its effects have touched several people: Nancibel, who through her war work has stepped outside the confines expected of her to have a wider outlook on life; Lady Gifford, who fled to the USA and has no commitment or loyalty to her country; Sir Henry, who found a kind of freedom during the war years.

Siddal is the dispossessed head of the family who own the hotel, lurking in a back room in his dressing gown. He is also the slothful philosopher of the book, and despite his grumpy negativity and cynical viewpoint, is one of the most thought-provoking characters.

“I don’t think that man is going to survive. There is this fatal flow in our construction; a kind of moral imperviousness to a truth which we can perceive intellectually. Reason tells us that we should be grateful. Reason tells us that, if we were, we might be able to co-operate in the pursuit of happiness. But reason can’t run the machine. It can only draw up blue prints. Civilization after civilization has gone down into the dust because we cannot manage to be humble.”

He is the one character we know from the start will die, and it is his idleness that is also vital to events in the book…

The sufferings of the various children are a dominant factor in the story, particularly Hebe Gifford; bitterly aware of her adopted status, wise before her years owing to what she’s witnessed Lady Gifford getting up to while they were in America escaping the war, she’s ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous Anna. In fact, the chapter where Hebe is whisked away by Anna into some extremely unsuitable company is brilliantly and subtly written. Hebe, like the three Cove girls, has suffered much and it is their future which is at stake during the week leading up to the collapse of the cliff. It is the yin and yang of life that Kennedy is depicting here, good and evil balanced against each other. As Siddal comments in a key passage:

“I daresay..that mankind is protected and sustained by undeserved suffering; by all those millions of helpless people who pay for the evil we do and who shield us simply by being there… If any community of people were to be purely evil, were to have no element of innocence among them at all, the earth would probably open and swallow them up. Such a community would split the moral atom.”

It is in fact when the evil, as seen through Kennedy’s eyes, are left alone at the hotel that the atom splits and destroys them…

margaret kennedy

Kennedy’s characters are beautifully drawn and very believable. I got thoroughly involved with them; with their lives and their problems and their loves and desires, ending up knowing exactly who I hoped would survive the disaster and who I hoped wouldn’t. Watching them develop through the week was fascinating as Kennedy’s writing brilliantly brought each invidual to life. Seeing Christina Paley emerge from her self-imposed stupor was marvellous, as she started to take control of herself and try to help others; her input allows Evangeline to begin to gain a sense of self and this in turn enables Gerry to escape the smothering control of his family. I don’t want to say too much as giving away any hint of the richness of this novel might spoil it – I just recommend that you read it yourself.

Reading “The Feast” was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience and I’m so glad I chose it. In fact, I think it will benefit from a re-read as I was so anxious to reach the conclusion that I’m sure there are many profound little bits I’ve missed. Many thanks to Jane for hosting the week and prompting me to read my first Margaret Kennedy – wonderful stuff!

Shiny New Books hits #3!

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Yes, the wonderful online review magazine Shiny New Books continues to go from strength to strength, and issue 3 is now live here!

This edition seems even more packed with goodies than the first two, and I suspect it will take me several evenings to read through it – and also it will have a bad effect on the wishlist!

I have been happy to provide some reviews for this issue, and the first one I’d point you to is that for Gaito Gazdanov’s “The Buddha’s Return”:

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I have been much impressed with Gazdanov and his wonderful books on the Ramblings and so it was a delight to be able to review him for SNB – hopefully more people will be motivated to read him!

I’ve also covered the new version of E.F. Benson’s “Mapp and Lucia”, put out in a very decorative edition by Hesperus Press, to coincide with the forthcoming BBC adaptation:

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And finally, Sue Roe’s “In Montmartre” (already covered on the Ramblings) – an excellent book bringing to life the artists of Paris at the turn of the 20th century.

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SNB is as always a wonderful pot pourri of reviews, interesting facts, interviews and recommendations – ideal for any booklover. So go read!! 🙂

Joining in with Margaret Kennedy Reading Week

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kennedy-badge

Jane at Fleur in Her World is hosting a rather wonderful Margaret Kennedy Reading Week which starts today – and I’m very happy to be taking part!

Kennedy is probably best known for her second novel “The Constant Nymph” which went on to be a play and a film, and was also a Virago Modern Classic. I have a lovely green version on my shelves, but I’ve actually chosen to read this book:

I’ve read a couple of reviews of “The Feast”, one on Jane’s blog and another on Furrowed Middlebrow, both of which made me think it would be the ideal book for me to choose for this celebration. And having started a little early, I think I’ve definitely made the right choice as I’m hooked already.

Kennedy appears to be having something of a renaissance, as Vintage have just reprinted several of her books. So do join in if you have a Margaret Kennedy to hand (or if your library has one) – it promises to be a rewarding experience!

The offending articles…

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Ok, final thoughts on the tatty books – I promise not to moan any more after this! And here they are in all their glory:

They don’t look quite so bad from a distance, do they? I have made the decision to keep the third volume of the Forstyes as it *was* cheap and the main issue was the lying and the inaccuracy:

The description!

The description!

That’s how they described it (you can see the dirt on the cover even in my bad photo). And this is the page block:

But it will do to read – and HeavenAli has come up with the great idea of the Forsyte Sage for a 2015 read so we will be doing this, and she’s going to put together a post – hopefully more will join in!

Meanwhile, my book nerves have been soothed by the arrival of a brand new pristine volume from Persephone – their new Classic version of “The Home-Maker” by Dorothy Canfield Fisher:

Doesn’t it look lovely? And it sounds great too! Apart from that, I have been restrained this weekend, only bringing home a Tatyana Tolstoya from the Samaritans:

Having finished up reading “Look Who’s Back” (an incredible book in more ways than one – I shall review it in November for German Reading Month), I’m now limbering up for Margaret Kennedy Reading Week – “The Feast” awaits me!

Doom and gloom pre-Lolita

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Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov

Although Nabokov is still best-known for “Lolita” (pretty obviously because of the controversial subject matter), he actually had written 10 novels in Russian and 2 in English before that book brought his name to the public eye. Much of his early writing life was when he was living as an émigré in Berlin and so almost inevitably many of the early stories were set there. “Laughter in the Dark” is one of those stories, published in 1933 (his 6th novel) and set in Berlin between the wars.

laughter

In some ways, you could maybe think of “Laughter” as a kind of dry run for “Lolita”, featuring as it does a man’s obsession with a barely-of-legal-age young mistress. However, I felt it had more in common with “Despair”, telling as it does of a person in whose life *everything* goes wrong!

Unusually, in the opening paragraph of the book Nabokov summarises the plot very neatly in a few sentences:

“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in a disaster.”

However, as he points out, it would be boring just to tell a life story like that, so instead he goes on to reveal in full the story of Albinus’s fall. A prosperous Berlin businessman, Albert Albinus is married to the pale Elizabeth and has a young daughter Irma. Also constantly on the scene is his brother-in-law Paul. On the surface, then, a nice bourgeois life with all the comforts and nothing to worry about. However, there is something missing in Albert’s life – passion, perhaps. which he never really seems to have felt. Therefore, it’s not actually surprising when he falls head-over-heels into obsession with Margot, a 16-year-old usherette at a local cinema.

“And alongside of these feeble romances there had been hundreds of girls of whom he had dreamed but whom he had never got to know; they had just slid past him, leaving for a day or two that hopeless sense of loss which makes beauty what it is: a distant lone tree against golden heavens; ripples of light on the inner curve of a bridge; a thing quite impossible to capture.”

Margot is a hard nut – from what we would call a troubled background, with a cold, hard family, beatings as a child and an early awareness of what a girl can use to get what she wants. Therefore Albinus is a chicken ripe for plucking, and it isn’t long before Margot is calling the shots. Albinus, unable to turn his back on her, so obsessed is he, finds the conflict between the demands of family life and his need for Margot almost unbearable. Despite his attempts to hide the affair from his wife, things come out and the couple split up. Albinus’s infatuation with Margot continues, despite her terrible demands, her capriciousness and selfishness; and events spiral out of control as humiliation, lies and disaster follow…

young nabokov

The more I read of Vladimir Nabokov’s work, the more I come to admire his prose. Fluent in several languages, he translated many of his original Russian works himself as is the case here (apparently there was an earlier translation by someone else with which he wasn’t happy). He can tell a tale wonderfully, compellingly, and draw you into the world of his characters where you watch helplessly as their lives unravel and there is no power that can stop this.

“He grew accustomed to Margot’s presence in these rooms, once so full of memories. She had only to change the position of some trifling object, and immediately it lost its soul and the memory was extinguished; it was only a matter of how long she would take to touch everything, and, as she had quick fingers, in a couple of months his past life in these twelve rooms was quite dead. Beautiful as the flat was, it no longer had any connection with that flat in which he had lived with his wife.”

The character of Albinus is beautifully drawn, with his obsessions, his inability to draw back in the face of inevitable disaster and his naive hope that all will be well. Margot is a complex girl, a product of her surroundings and upbringing, cruel, capricious but yet needy and somehow sympathetic. Her early love of a man she knows as Miller will come back to stalk her in more ways than one. The shadowy figures of Elizabeth and Irma haunt Albinus, and Paul appears as a kind of avenging angel, encountering Albert or Margot again and again as the narrative continues, and trying to save them all.

Even though the characters aren’t always pleasant, you still find yourself sympathising with them and wishing they could tear themselves away from the horrors to come. And there *are* tragedies – sudden events that hit you in the gut when something undeserved happens. In many ways, what happens to Albinus and Margot is brought upon themselves, but there are innocent victims and Nabokov’s narrative is capable of sudden depth and poignance when you least expect it.

As always, Nabokov takes events and people, unpalatable on the surface, and weaves a compelling story around them; his prose is wonderful, his control of his material masterly and the lid he lifts which exposes human motivations is illuminating. Nabokov is definitely one of my favourite authors and I think I’m going to feel the need to read another of his works soon…. 🙂

( I was prompted to read this owing to another attack of hopeless memory! Browsing in the Samaritans Book Cave, I came across this book and didn’t think I had it so purchased it, and read the first few chapters over a frothy coffee in town. However, when I got home of course I already had it 😦 – really I must find a sensible way to carry lists of books around! But having started it, I was so gripped I had to carry on – so the purchase wasn’t an entire waste!)

Irked Again!

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I know I’m not the only one in the book blogosphere who’s got an issue with the misdescription of second-hand books by online sellers – but I seem to have had a run of real back luck recently…

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The first problem came with a Gertrude Stein – I’d found a reasonably priced (though not *that* cheap) copy of one of her books I’d been after for a while on a big Online Auction Site and jumped at it. It was an ex-library book so I expected wear, stamps etc and was prepared for that. What I *wasn’t* prepared for was extensive foxing on the block and inner pages plus very dirty pages. That kind of thing *should* be described and it wasn’t. So I was irked and sent it back for a refund.

My Beverley book was not quite this nice....

My Beverley book was not quite this nice….

Next up was a Beverley Nichols – “No Place Like Home”. I blame Simon at Stuck-in-a-Book for this because he found a copy and mentioned it on his site and I hadn’t got a copy so searched online eagerly. I found one that was a little old and fragile, and again the Online Auction Site seller mentioned the fragility of the dustjacket and the oldness of the book. But neither picture nor description revealed even heavier foxing than the Stein – I was not impressed. However, as it was a first edition, I accepted a part refund after a bit of grumbling and decided to live with the foxing.

If only the Nabakovs had arrived in this lovely condition........

If only the Nabokovs had arrived in this lovely condition……..

I thought things might improve with my next attempt at online purchase: as I was having a bit of a Nabokov binge, I decided to pick up a couple of titles I don’t have (well, four actually) and had a bit of a browse on an Awe-inspiring bookselling website. Four titles popped into my basket and I waited eagerly – I’ve bought from this site a lot over the years, and although I’ve had a few stinkers, mostly their books are ok (and very cheap as they include postage). Alas, when they arrived there was again more dirt, foxing and even torn covers – plus one edition was paperback and not hardback as described. I grumbled and got another 50% refund, but confess to getting Pretty Fed Up by now.

I'm particularly keen on this era of Penguins

I’m particularly keen on this era of Penguins

Readers of the Ramblings will know I’ve been muttering about The Forsyte Saga, and at the suggestion of OH I sent off for penny copies of each of the three large volumes from various resellers on a certain Big River retailer. They turned up today – *sigh*. I have found a trend recently on Big River – a particular seller, who sends out tat described as “very good” and has a Worldly name, has now started trading under a variety of other names. So I had inadvertently ordered one of my Forstyes from them (as normally I avoid them like the plague) and the sticker on the back says “Very Good” and the book has – you’ve guessed it! – heavy foxing!!! I haven’t decided what to do yet, as the Big River really don’t care, and the three books are a sort of matching set of a particular era of Penguins.

I don’t expect a second-hand book to be pristine – that’s why it’s second-hand and I’m not paying a lot for it – but I expect it to be clean and accurately described. Frankly, this is enough to put me off the Big River and the Online Auction for a long time – and I can’t even switch safely to Abe as a lot of resellers on the other two places list here as well.

Anyone have any suggestions of safe places to buy online??? :s

Leaden circles dissolve in the air

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Re-reading “Mrs. Dalloway” by Virginia Woolf

As I’ve mentioned before, way back in the early 1980s, in my early days of exploratory reading, I stumbled across the book “Literary Women” by Ellen Moers. It became a book that shaped my life in many ways, because it sent me off in pursuit of a number of women writers including Colette, Simone de Beauvoir (and then Sartre) and of course Virginia Woolf. The first book of Woolf’s that I read was “Mrs. Dalloway”, simply I think because it was the only one in the bookshop. It was pivotal to my reading, however, as it set me off down a road of reading and loving Woolf, including all her published diaries and letters; a love which has remained with me to this day.

So approaching “Mrs. Dalloway” for a re-read was always going to be a tense business, particularly bearing how many books I’d read in the interim years. I’m not the same reader I was then, so I did wonder what my reaction would be. But I needn’t have worried….

dalloway

On the surface, the plot of the book is quite simple – a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, as she prepares for an evening party at her home. She buys flowers, mends a dress, meets an old flame and gets ready for the evening. Around her is the ebb and flow of her life, but also of London. But it’s soon clear to the reader that this book will focus on much more than just the narrow confines of Clarissa’s existence, as the story starts to range over all those people she meets, the individuals whose lives are touched by hers. Running parallel to her story is that of Septimus Warren Smith, a shell-shocked war veteran whose life is unravelling around him. Watched over and cared for by his wife Lucrezia, Septimus is losing his grip on reality by the minute, and as the couple visit a Harley Street specialist, it seems as if this will be their last hope of finding help for him.

The two strands of the story run together and then apart as the book goes on, ending up with both reaching a climax. Although the connections are not obvious they become clearer as the end approaches and the fates of the two protagonists meet finally and impact.

Published in 1924 at height of modernism, comparisons are often made between “Mrs. Dalloway” and Joyce’s “Ulysses”, particularly as both books concern a day in the life of a person in a great city – Leopold Bloom in Dublin and Clarissa Dalloway in London. Having not (yet) read “Ulysses”, I would still argue that Woolf’s achievement is greater in that she compresses so much of her protagonist’s lives so brilliantly into a short book, which nevertheless covers all the people and places Clarissa’s life touches during that day. Comparisons are odious, however, as they say – and “Ulysses” can also be read as something of a quest I believe, so it’s probably best to move away from such resemblances.

Man Ray, Virginia Woolf, Museum Ludwig, ML/F 1977/0618

I’ve heard it said that Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus Smith represent the two flipsides of Woolf’s personality; the social animal, enjoying mixing with the friends and family members that made up her circle and with an intense relationship with London around which she constantly walked; and the struggling human being, touched by madness and failed by the medical profession. Their lives touch, as the two parts of her personality met, but one side is lost in the book and the other reborn. The detached Clarissa, with a strange coldness about her, is shown gathering the threads of her past around her, as one part of her dies and the shell continues to take part in the social whirl. During the book her past is gradually revealed, particularly moments of her youth when she was fascinated by the unconventional Sally Seton, and refused Peter Walsh’s proposal, instead marrying the duller, steadier Richard Dalloway. It’s clear that her nature could not handle the reality of life which would have existed if she’d married Walsh, and he’s never really recovered from loving her.

“As a cloud crosses the sun, silence falls on London; and falls on the mind. Effort ceases. Time flaps on the mast. There we stop; there we stand. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame. Where there is nothing, Peter Walsh said to himself; feeling hollowed out, utterly empty within. Clarissa refused me, he thought. He stood there thinking, Clarissa refused me.”

The party brings a kind of resolution for Clarissa, meeting figures from her past and trying to come to terms with it. She’s a strange, somewhat remote figure, alienated in many ways from her husband and daughter (who are portrayed as having a close relationship which almost doesn’t involve her); but the thing that matters most to her, the bringing off of a successful party, is not denied to her.

The portrait of the suffering Septimus Smith is moving and heartfelt, leading to quite an attack on the medical profession – portrayed here as bumbling GPs who don’t understand that Septimus is ill, or detached uncaring specialists who have no real understanding of his needs. As poor Septimus worsens and looses his grip on reality, it is clear that there is no-one in that particular world who can save him.

“Mrs. Dalloway” is in my mind a work of genius. On my first read I was simply dazzled, but second time around the book is just as stunning but I can appreciate her artistry more. She captures brilliantly that heightened state of reality when you have a sudden surge of wonder at the world, that feeling of the intensity of living, the very dance of live. Woolf brilliantly intertwines her protagonists’ lives and actions, showing just how many other people’s lives we touch during one day without even knowing it, and all in the most intoxicating prose.

“In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June.”

Re-reading “Mrs.Dalloway” reconfirms for me what a magnificent and important writer Virginia Woolf. Knowing of her struggles with her health (physical and mental) we can only wonder that she managed to wrest so many amazing pieces of work out of her psyche during her too-short life. This book is where Woolf’s writing really took flight and it has just the same spine-tingling effect on me as it did all those years ago!

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