#thisbook | Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

I recently read about the Baileys Prize project called #thisbook on A Little Blog of Books. The idea is to nominate a book written by a woman that has had the most impact on you and vote for it by using the hashtag on Twitter. You can find out more about the project here and see the books chosen by celebrities such as Jennifer Saunders, Caitlin Moran, and Dawn O’Porter to name a few.

With this in mind, I thought I’d share with you the book that has had the most impact on me: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

Mrs Dalloway review

Mrs Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
First published, 1925
This edition – Oxford University Press, 2000

Mrs Dalloway follows Clarissa Dalloway during the course of one day, as she prepares for a party she is giving that evening. We also see snippets of Septimus’ view, a soldier who has returned from World War I and is suffering from, what we now know as, post-traumatic stress. Woolf delicately weaves the tales of these two unconnected people throughout the novel. Travelling backwards and forwards in time, Mrs Dalloway covers many topics: war, feminism, homosexuality, and mental illness, among others.

I first read this novel a short while before I started University, borrowing a copy from my local library. I distinctly remember thinking that I’d never read a book like it and that, one day, I wanted to be able to write like this. I loved what was my first experience of the stream of consciousness technique that so brilliantly depicted the thoughts of, not just Mrs Dalloway, but others living in London, too. I loved the city of London as described by Woolf – the opening passage when Mrs Dalloway is on her way to buy flowers for her party is one of the most memorable in the book for me; the bustling streets, the joy of “this moment of June” (p.4), the noise from a parked car and the mystery of who could be inside. I loved the fluidity of the prose, Mrs Dalloway’s thoughts slipping into Septimus’ then to his wife’s and then back again. I loved Woolf’s delicate descriptions which so perfectly describe a moment or sentiment.

I encountered Mrs Dalloway again in my second year of University where I studied it briefly for a Modernism course. This time around I uncovered new aspects to the novel and found that different passages had an impact on me – Septimus’ story, for example, seemed to affect me more this time around. I ended up writing about the novel in one of my final essays for the course and it was a joy to study and explore the novel in more depth. Studying it for University also meant that I now had my own copy, which now sits on my bookshelf, the pages covered in scribbled notes in the margin and underlined passages. At one time, there were an array of brightly coloured post-it notes sticking out of the pages.

Mrs Dalloway is one of those books that I’ll read time and time again, discovering something new with each experience.

There were other contenders for my choice for #thisbook – Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott was one of the books that I read countless times as a child and it was one of the first books where I remember being able to see myself in the characters (the creativity and love for writing in Jo and the shyness in Beth). Another could have been the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, a series of books that again I’ve read countless times and was one of the first books where I knew I wanted to be a writer too. To Kill A Mockingird by Harper Lee is another contender, as is A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf.

Which book has had the most impact on you? Let me know in the comments below! And you can let Baileys know on Twitter too!


9 thoughts on “#thisbook | Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

  1. I haven’t seen this hashtag, but I wish I had so thank you for sharing it – it’s definitely got me thinking. I also enjoyed learning about a new classic, Mrs Dalloway is a novel I have yet to read.

  2. Great choice!! Mrs Dalloway is my favourite novel. I think Woolf is just the greatest writer, and I was too blown away by how eloquent and poetic her style is when I first read her. For me she captures the thoughts and emotions of her characters like nobody else, especially in this book.

    I also read this desperately wishing I was clever enough to have written it.

    • Thanks, it’s one of my favourite novels too! Have you read many of Woolf’s other novels? I’m determined to make my way through all her books at some point. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

      • I’ve read Orlando, To The Lighthouse and A Room of One’s Own (a few I studied as part of my literature degree at university) and I’m reading The Waves at the moment. I have really enjoyed them all but Mrs Dalloway is still my favourite 🙂 I’d also like to read them all at some point but I’m also really interested in reading her letters and diaries as they’re meant to be brilliant so I might dip into those next.

      • I studied To the Lighthouse and A Room of One’s Own for my lit degree too! I’ve heard her letters and diaries are really interesting – I’ve got a copy of her Selected Diaries so I might have to read those soon 🙂

  3. Ah, love how you express how much you enjoy Mrs. Dalloway! I’ve been hesitant to pick up another story of Woolf’s – I loved A Room of One’s Own, but I was disappointed by To The Lighthouse. I felt that the latter was beautifully written but little emotional depth, or maybe it’s just that I couldn’t connect with it. However, your description of Mrs. Dalloway defies that preconception of Woolf for sure so I feel much more motivated to try this one.

    My professor for the American Lit class I’m taking next semester posted the syllabus early, and I saw that it included Little Women. Knowing that you would recommend it makes me even more excited to read it. Wonderful post!

    • Thank you Thomas! I’m so glad that it’s motivated you to try the novel 🙂 Glad you’ll be reading and studying Little Women too, it’s a lovely book. I studied it in one of my classes for uni too and it was so interesting reading it from that perspective and reading it so many years after I’d first read it as a child. I’d be interested to hear what you think of it! Thanks for reading 🙂

  4. Pingback: Rereading Books – Part 1 | The Perfectionist Pen

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