Daughter Dalloway

Written by Emily France
Review by Joanne Vickers

Although Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway provides an intriguing frame for Daughter Dalloway, France’s novel stands quite well on its own.

Daughter Dalloway does not have Woolf’s narrative sophistication in manipulating time and place, nor does it have Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness finesse. However, Woolf would appreciate France’s novel because it, like Mrs. Dalloway, explores the same existential question: how should we live our life? And it analyzes this question in the persons of two immensely interesting young women in what British history has labeled “the bright generation”: Elizabeth Dalloway and Octavia Smith, Septimus Warren Smith’s younger sister who comes to London to find her brother.

The plot action moves between December 8, 1952, and summer 1923, fragile times in the history of the British, as they are still trying to recover from the aftermath of two major world wars and build a stable society where personal goals like meaningful careers and domestic happiness are achievable.

Elizabeth is a young innocent who represents the sophisticated political London gentry. Octavia is likewise a young innocent who represents the rural lower class. They are the major narrators of this novel, and their voices and experiences are complicated and compelling. On the periphery of her plot, France resurrects some of Woolf’s memorable people like Peter Walsh, Sally Seton, Miss Kilman, and, of course, Clarissa Dalloway and Septimus and his Italian wife, Lucrezia. In so doing, France provides subtle texture to these characters. She even leavens her novel with a mystery that the reader will find satisfying.