Virginia Woolf has been on my list of authors to read since May of 1746. (I had to wait for her to be born in 1882 before I could read anything she had written.) Recently, I borrowed Mrs. Dalloway from the library.
I never expected to be so impressed since I had trouble reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. Both Ulysses and Mrs. Dalloway take place on a day in June and rely on stream of consciousness—flow with the characters’ thoughts—to tell the story. I had trouble getting through Ulysses and abandoned it after 300 pages. I was afraid the same would happen with Mrs. Dalloway. It did not. I flowed with the story. What a work of genius!
I loved Woolf’s style. I loved the poetry of her prose. I had no problem understanding what was taking place inside and outside of the characters’ heads.
I wish I could have been with Virginia Woolf on March 28, 1941. That was the day she filled her pockets with rocks and walked into a river. She felt that she could not get through another bout of mental illness.
Bouts of mental illness plagued her all of her life. Her half-brothers sexually abused her from the time she was six until she was 23. She had been institutionalized several times and had attempted suicide twice. Such a brilliant mind! Such a tortured soul.
If I were with her on that day in March, I would have told her how her life was not worthless. I would have told her about the great pleasures she brought to people through her books. Perhaps this would have given her some perspective and the courage to carry on. Who knows?
I am no longer afraid of Virginia Woolf. I look forward to reading her other books.