Bookish Christmas Memory: Mrs Dalloway

This post is my contribution to the Virtual Advent Tour. A big “Thank you” to Kailana from The Written World and Marg from Adventures of an Intrepid Reader for organising it. It is already day 22 and many interesting, touching and informative posts have been written so far. Mostly family memories, but also a few of another kind.

Christmas has always been a special and a very quiet holiday  for me. When I was very little, we spent the Christmas season in Paris, with my father’s family. My mother’s side is dispersed all over Europe, there was never a possibility or a will for a big gathering. Later, when I grew older, and family politics made it impossible to have one joint meeting, we mostly stayed at home. Due to these circumstances Christmas was always a time of intensified reading and watching of old movies on TV.

Books that I have read during a certain season, on a holiday, somewhere abroad, a special period of my life, have always seemed to stay more intensely in my mind than others. I have a mental treasure trunk full of cherished book memories of this kind.

The last Christmas I spent with my parents, when still living with them, at age 19, is, in retrospect, one of the most enchanted ones. I already studied at the university but had no worries, lived in great comfort and was looked after. No illness, no precarious financial situation, no major burn-out, nothing of the kind, that all happened later. All I had to do, is come out of my room and join my parents for lunch and dinner. With hindsight, that Christmas seems like frozen in time, like a scenery in a snow globe and when I look at it, I see a young girl, curled up in an old wicker chair, holding a book with a greenish cover and reading it with utter enchantment.

That year, someone had offered me my first Virginia Woolf novel. It was Mrs. Dalloway. I will never forget that novel and especially not my favourite scene in it. This scene comes to my mind the very instant when I think of Christmas. Invariably since that time my mind wanders spontaneously along the following trail: Christmas, Mrs. Dalloway and off into a string of associations that are all tied to one particular episode in the book: Mrs Dalloway buying flowers at a flower shop. My memory of this scene is intense and sensual. I remember Mrs Dalloway entering a cool shop, an intense green scent of freshly cut flowers pervades the air and the odor of some sweet smelling blossoms seems to linger all over the place. I cannot remember what flowers she bought, I remember semi-darkness and this almost sparkling scent.

I often remember one particular scene from the novels I liked best. Everything else slowly sinks into oblivion but that one scene, with all the associations and meanings it represents to me, stays ingrained in my mind. I don’t know if others feel like this about books.

I have never read Mrs Dalloway again, I am afraid of what I might find. Maybe my memory has adorned it over the years with elements entirely my own. I fear disenchantment. I have read Michael Cunningham’s The Hours, the novel that is dedicated entirely to Virginia Woolf and Mrs Dalloway, and have seen the movie that is based on it. The novel is wonderful and the movie is one of the best I know, especially because of Philip Glass’ music. It has acoustic qualities that are corresponding to the flower shop scene’s visual ones; they are light, fresh and green.

It may be odd to tie Christmas to one distant reading experience but I love the memory.

I haven’t made many Christmas plans for this year apart from dinner with friends. I was toying with the idea to read Elizabeth Gaskell’ s Cranford or maybe Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys. I have seen the movie during another Christmas season and found it wonderful. I like books and movies about writers and it is the only movie in which I liked Michael Douglas.

Does anyone else have any speacial Christmas reading memories or plans?

Don’t forget to visit the other stops today.


25 thoughts on “Bookish Christmas Memory: Mrs Dalloway

  1. Nice post. Je te souhaite de joyeuses fêtes de Noël.
    I liked Mrs Dalloways and The Hours (the book and the movie)
    I’ve read “A Room of One’s Own” twice, it’s very interesting.

    My memory of a bookish Christmas is me, 15 or 16, sitting on a couch at my aunt’s, near a huge pile of books, with family members staring at me with incredulous eyes and enquiring “Are books the only gifts you’ve wanted for Christmas?” And indeed, they were.

    • Merci. Je te souhaite également de très joyeuses fêtes.
      They are both such wonderful books.
      Thanks for sharing your memory… I was so like that as well. Nowadays no one offers me books anymore… “You already got enough…” Pfft… It’s by far what I like most in terms of presents..

  2. This is a very interesting read…Holy-days are always fun. I don’t do Christmas but I can relate it to my own Holy-day.

    I was planning to join this Advent tour but I was too busy to do my research so i canceled it 😦 My plan was to meet my Christian friend and asked how her village celebrate Christmas in traditional way, it was going to be cross with my Indonesia Banget post. I guess I’ll reserve it for next year then.

    • I thought I had seen you on the list at first. Would have been interesting to read what your friend says and how you would have crossed it with the Indonesia Banget.
      I was amazed how many countries celebrate Christmas where it isn’t even part of the culture… They add their own elements, like in Japan.

      • The plan was changed because both me and my friend couldn’t find the perfect time to meet and I don’t like writing something without a source.

        Ah yes, japan is really something…even if they are not Christian,they still celebrate Christmas…it is like new year celebration to them

          • You read Nat’s post right? I saw your name in her blog. Christmas means sex 😉

            My boss is a Japanese, she claimed to be Christian but on Christmas eve she forved us to work overtime 😦 tho I don’t do Christmas I still want to go home on time it was a holiday afterall.

            Merry Christmas and Happy holiday to you 🙂

            • Thanks. A Happy Holiday to you as well (bit late now :)) Sure, I read Nat’s post. So funny. So it is a holiday in Inonesia too, just not a religious one? Not fair to not let you go in time. Maybe she has no family? I will be off work until the 6th… I am soo glad.

  3. A very interesting post – I have never read Virginia Woolf – a gap in my reading I need to rectify at some point

    I’ve added you to my blogroll – you have a fascinating site here

    • Thanks for visiting and the kind words. I thinh when younger I read all the “stream-of-consciousness” authors, like Proust, Joyce and Virginia Woolf… I liked them all ver much and would still love to read them… lack of time plays into my choice of books lately. To the Lighthouse is by far her most accomplished novel. Funny enough I liked Flush a lot. Her writing abilities show incredibly well in it.

  4. I love Mrs. Dalloway! I haven’t seen The Hours, but I’m curious about it – especially now that you mention Philip Glass did the score. Lovely.

    My family are all readers, so when I go home for Christmas there is without a doubt some point during the long days of celebration when we’re all somewhere in the house, reading at the same time. 🙂

  5. What a lovely post and a lovely memory. I think Christmas is almost best enjoyed when you are really young with no big worries. The season seems so hectic now, though one thing I do love is getting back in touch with friends I don’t get to see most of the year–if only through exchanged cards. I recall one Christmas when I was reading some hefty book (nothing as highbrow as Virginia Woolf, I’m afraid) and I spent hours laying on my parent’s bed almost all day entranced with the story I was reading. I don’t often get reading times like that anymore.

    • Thanks, Danielle. That is exactly what I meant, the leisure to read, the intensity of it because it is not overshadowed… That’s what I look back on… It cetrainly did intensify this reading experience. And because Mrs Dalloway is special indeed. Imagine, back then, I even had the time to read all the other Virginia Woolf books right after… I think I missed only one or two. I always read like that at that time, by author, trying to read them all.

  6. My family used to live in New York state and we would make a 27 hour trek to Louisiana to spend Christmas with my grandparents each year. I remember one X-mas vacation, my history teacher made us read “Anatomy of a Revolution” by Crane Briton. (Don’t look for the movie) I can recall sitting on that long car ride wading through that book. I do not remember anything about the book, but I proudly recall being the only one in my class that read the whole thing. (A fact I kept to myself.) I learned from that experience that I was truly a nerd and that I could finish any book, no matter how boring.

      • It actually is cherished. I did not mind the trips because of what was at the end. At least I was not having to drive with five kids who did not get along well in a station wagon. I do appreciate the fact that I can read in a vehicle. I would hate just sitting with nothing to do. BTW I do not read while I am driving.

        • I am sorry I didn’t get it. I actually looked up the book and it does sound intriguing.
          “An analysis of the English, American, French, and Russian revolutions as they exhibit universally applicable patterns of revolutionary thought and action.” Maybe you should read it again. I was always interested in the Russian Revolution. I am VERY familiar with the French one as you may have guessed.

          • I remember the experience fondly – not the book! How heartless can you be to refresh my memory about the content? LOL I will read it again after you post on it (how is that?) There, I have thrown down the gauntlet!

  7. I’m just getting caught up with the final Virtual Advent Tour stops. How magical you make Mrs Dalloway sound! I have visceral reactions with certain books but I’m not sure I associate any with Christmas so thoroughly as you do.

  8. Wonderful post. I also associate books with special memories. And I just finished Mrs. Dalloway last week. I stayed up until midnight since I couldn’t put the book down. Such a lovely novel. Are her other books just as good do you know?

    • I have read everything she wrote with the exception of Voyage Out.
      Thanks, TBM.
      I loved some and some not so much. Orlando that most people rave about was one I almost hated.
      I loved To the Lighthouse, I guess it’s my favourite together with Mrs Dalloway and Flush.
      The Waves is challenging but interesting. Between the Acts is equally challenging but I cannot remember it so well anymore.
      The years is a bit blurred too. I need to re-read her… Time where are you when I need you most. I think The Voyage out is the most traditional. The Waves is the most interior monologue… I’m sure I forgot some.

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