Mrs Dalloway’s Party is a forgotten classic, and an enchanting piece of work by one of our most acclaimed twentieth century writers. A sequence of seven short stories that were written by Woolf in the same period as Mrs Dalloway — the opening story in the collection was originally intended to be the first chapter of the novel – they beautifully showcase the author’s fascination with parties and with all the emotions and anxieties which surround these social occasions. In ‘The New Dress’ a nervous young woman frets that her fellow guests are laughing at her yellow silk dress while ‘Together and Apart’ explores what happens to two people meeting for the first time in Clarissa Dalloway’s drawing room.
In this collection of stories Virginia Woolf created a microcosm of society out of the excitement, the fluctuations of mood and temper and the heightened emotions of the party.
Those who have read my blog for a while will know that I have an on again, off again relationship with Virginia Woolf. Sometimes I love her, sometimes I want to go back in time to break all her fingers so she could never write again. Yeah, it’s that mercurial…
This set of short stories is tiny, and in such a cute cover that I couldn’t resist… seriously! Look at it! It’s adorable!
However, apart from the cover… I didn’t particularly like these short stories. It’s not the style- the style was fine, being Mrs Dalloway-ish, which is (in my opinion) her best work, It’s that I really didn’t feel like they were actually finished. I’m not sure that Virginia herself would have been pleased for them to be published as they are. They didn’t feel up to her normal standard- more like scrapped chapters of the larger work, that she’d decided didn’t make the cut.
I did like the fact that the guests at Mrs Dalloway’s parties all had their issues, fears and prejudices. They did feel like perfect vignettes, but some were more two dimensional than others.
As a scholar of Woolf, I found this interesting from a writing perspective- I felt like I could see the cogs of her mind spinning as I read a few of these. Her work is an interesting beast, to be sure, but I really feel like these were just the draft stage scribblings of the larger work of Mrs Dalloway.
Overall, this is good for an hour or so worth of entertainment, and interesting if you’re really into Virginia Woolf’s work. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who hasn’t already read Mrs Dalloway, as I feel like that should be read first to give you a better feel for where these stories are placed within the novel. As I think this is a mediocre effort and probably not something Virginia intended to be published, I don’t think I can say this is an overly great book.