Mrs Dalloway is my very first Virginia Woolf read and I read it as part of The Woolf in Winter (or Summer as the case is for me!) Read Along. You can see other comments and posts about this book being collected by Sarah here.
This being my first venture into Woolf territory I must admit I wasn't really sure what to expect. Although I know a lot about Woolf's life I am ashamed to say that I didn't really know all that much about her actual writing. I am now VERY glad I have rectified that as based on what I have read in Mrs Dalloway I think Woolf will turn out to be one of my favourite authors.
The "stream of consciousness" writing style that Woolf adopts in this book took me by surprise - I felt captured by the characters thoughts and feelings and I found myself rushing along in my reading - I felt I was reading too fast to really appreciate the writing itself but I certainly didn't feel as though I was missing the essence of the story. I think this is the type of book that will need to be read again and again, each time concentrating on a different aspect.
I loved the setting of London in the 1920's - descriptions of the city streets detailing a world possibly about to slip from existence;
Gliding down Piccadilly, the car turned down St James's Street. Tall men, men of robust physique, well-dressed men with their tail-coats and their white slips and their hair raked back who, for reasons difficult to discriminate, were standing in the bow window of White's with their hands behind the tails of their coats, looking out, perceived instinctively that greatness was passing, and the pale light of the immortal presence fell upon them as it had fallen upon Clarissa Dalloway.
Clarissa, Mrs Dalloway, is preparing for a formal party that she will host at her home that evening and in the course of the day we see her reflect on her youth and her past and prepare for her current and future life. In contrast to Clarissa there is the character of Septimus Warren Smith - a returned soldier suffering the effects of post traumatic stress (or shell shock as it was described as then). The way Woolf overlaps these two seemingly very different characters and their worlds is very clever and effecting.
My edition of the book contained a quite lengthy introduction which I went back and read after I had read the book - I was glad that I saved it until the end as it would have given away so much about the story but it has also helped my reflections on my reading in giving me more insight into Woolf's personal life at the time she was writing Mrs Dalloway and the process she went through in completing the book.
I think I am possibly a little overwhelmed by the power of Woolf's writing to say much more about Mrs Dalloway itself at the moment except that it will be a book I go back to - and I can't wait to read more Woolf!