A review of this — 5 years ago
For a summary, Wikipedia covers it pretty well:
The book concerns three generations of women affected by a Virginia Woolf novel.
The first is Woolf herself writing Mrs. Dalloway in 1923 and struggling with her own mental illness. The second is Mrs. Brown, wife of a World War II veteran, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway in 1949 as she plans her husband’s birthday party. The third is Clarissa Vaughn, a lesbian, who plans a party in 1998 to celebrate a major literary award received by her good friend and former lover, the poet Richard, who is dying of AIDS.
I loved the layers to this. It starts out with quite a strong imitation of Virginia Woolf’s writing style. This gets diluted further in, as it mixes with a more conventional style and in particular dialogue. But in the characters and the themes, it had great echoes of Mrs Dalloway, often twisted a bit to form something new and unique. Its examination of mental illness is quite a powerful one, looking as it does at three different manifestations and combined with the wonderful interiority Virginia Woolf was so good at.
This is a book with wonderful depth and I enjoyed it immensely.