Publisher W.W. Norton's long and excellent line of annotated editions (highlights of which include Annie Gauger's edition of “The Wind in the Willows” and Leslie Klinger's edition of “Dracula”) continues with this slim, abundantly-packed edition of Virginia Woolf's 1925 masterpiece, “Mrs. Dalloway.” The novel, tracking the oddly parallel stories of wealthy hostess Clarissa Dalloway and traumatized ex-soldier Septimus Warren Smith, came two years before “To the Lighthouse,” years before “Orlando” or “The Waves” or “Between the Acts, and almost two full decades before Woolf's suicide in 1941, and yet, as Emre notes, it's a toweringly assured work. “What made ‘Mrs. Dalloway’ a modern novel was its capacity to melt away the distinction between the inner and the outer worlds,” she writes, “and leave hanging between them an extraordinary mist of beauty, a language whose radiance could be perceived by all.”

Annotated editions can be tricky, and this one is no exception. As Emre's own Introduction makes clear, “Mrs. Dalloway” is easily capable of casting its spell on the reader without the help of any annotations. And in this case, with huge amounts of margin notes, maps, and period photos, Woolf's actual text sometimes gets crowded right off the page. For first-time readers, this may get distracting. But for long-time fans of Virginia Woolf's life and art, the bounty here is endless.


The Annotated Mrs. Dalloway

by Virginia Woolf, edited by Merve Emre

Liveright, 2021,

242 pages