Reading anything by Virginia Woolf is an experience. I think she is probably one of the most difficult writers to understand and like for people who have never been exposed to her. She has a unique style that is almost off-putting the first time you read her writing. I think that throws many people off and they never return to her work.
I first read Virginia Woolf way back in high school. For fun, I decided to pick up a copy of The Waves since it was one of the favorite books of one of my English teachers. She raved about the language and the beauty of Woolf's writing (I feel I should also point out that this teacher also introduced me to Walt Whitman, who is my favorite poet, ever).
I ended up reading The Waves over the course of a few weeks. I found it difficult, confusing, frustrating, and beautiful. Even though I was probably only 15 or so when I read it, I knew that I was reading something truly powerful. I loved her narrative voice and the power of her story. I have reread The Waves numerous times since then and I have loved it every time. I think, no matter what, it will always remain my favorite piece of Woolf.
In college, none of my English classes required us to read any more of her longer work. I picked up a few here and there on my own to get some more exposure, but I always felt like I was missing something. I know that for many first-time Woolf readers, her works appear to be confusing and all over the place. I was just missing a piece of perspective.
In order to graduate, I had to take a class in the 480 level range. Since I had a lot of classes that conflicted, I was left taking a literary theory class my last semester in college. It was quite honestly the HARDEST class I have ever taken. We had this monster of a book filled with columns and columns of critiques. We read everything from Plato and Aristotle to Nietzsche and Emerson. I always left class with a throbbing headache.
Somewhere in the middle we read a few of Woolf's essays and everything clicked into perspective for me. Why she writes the way she does, the power of what she was trying to accomplish in her work. It was inspiring and is the reason I remain a huge fan of Virginia Woolf.
One of the things I also learned is that you learn to love her even more with each reading of her work. This will be my third reading of Mrs. Dalloway and I hope to take even more away this time about this marvelous author.