My original copy of this book was bought by my cousin at a book store in Tokyo. I immediately read it as soon as I got it. But a few years later, termites destroyed it. Maybe those pests are into Japanese cuisine?
Anyway, ever since this book started to appear in secondhand book stores, I developed this urge to buy each copy. I bought a number and gave them all to my friends. And they wouldn’t disappear from those book stores. I had the sense to control my urge.
I don’t know, but I really like this book. It’s a short, smart, and sensible book. Always the love, always the years, always the hours.
Bam! I think I am quoting from the movie, but what the hey, it’s one of my favorites.
We have three women to worry about: Mrs. Woolf, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Dalloway. The writer, the reader, and the character, respectively. The distant past, the not so distant past, and the present. And yes, we are talking about Virginia Woolf the writer here. And her novel Mrs. Dalloway.
So there’s this one fine day in Mrs. Dalloway’s life where she’s out buying flowers and preparing things for a party. Simple huh? Mixing in Mrs. Woolf who’s writing the novel of Mrs. Dalloway’s life adds some interest. Then adding Mrs. Brown reading the novel years after its publication sort of complicates things.
Synchronicity? Yes. Whatever happens to each woman happens to the other two. Each of the women receives a bunch of yellow flowers. Each of the women kisses with another woman. And other stuff in between that I cannot recall.
One is prone to think that this is a pretentious work, but I found it to be poignant and easy to understand. One is not required to read Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway first before getting his hands on it. But I assure you that you will have an interest to do so right after.
And then there’s the poet. I am always fascinated with characters in a novel who are poets. I am more or less drawn to them for an unexplained reason. I am no poet in the sense that I am wordy. I guess I am substantially a poet. But I am digressing.
Mrs. Woolf doesn’t know what to do with the poet. She decides to kill him. The poet will die.
Mrs. Dalloway’s friend for whom she is throwing a party jumps off his window. No party for everyone. The poet is dead.
Mrs. Brown appears to Mrs. Dalloway just after his friend’s death. She is the mother who abandoned him when he was still a child. The poet has been dying all along.
Argh! Really smart. Not too connived, yet very surprising at times that you might catch yourself backtracking the pages just to make sure that you read things right.
I also watched the movie adaptation of this novel with the same title, which won Nicole Kidman her first Academy Award for playing the role of Virginia Woolf. I was not disappointed with the film, but I just felt that the screen time is too short, that things were rushed, that emotions were not allowed to settle firmly on the viewer.
And that is one big advantage that books have over movies. In fact, I don’t think there will ever be a movie that could substitute for a book. Some people might say that it’s the same banana.
But those people are dumb. It isn’t the same banana. I pity them, but is it still my problem if they are incapable of appreciating each hour spent in reading?
My advice to them? Learn to read.