The Novel Cure: Literary prescriptions for Monday morning feeling


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Ailment: Monday morning feeling

Cure: Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

If Monday mornings fill you with gloom, dose yourself on waking with the first page (or two, or three – you may find you can't put it down), of Mrs Dalloway. With this novel, Woolf invented a new way of writing: of capturing thoughts in constant flux, and the vitality coursing through the veins of a woman experiencing, moment by moment, a day in June, in the London she loves, just after the Second World War. Let the rhythms of the prose get inside you, and soon you'll be having Mrs Dalloway's day – a Wednesday, with a party to prepare for – instead.

She starts it with a radical decision: to fetch some flowers for the party herself, rather than send a servant. Monday-haters take note: you, too, might like to confound your usual routine and do something pleasant today – something sensual. The thought of this will help you out of bed. As you eat your breakfast, let Clarissa's exuberance ("What a lark! What a plunge!") replace your stagnant thoughts, and when she finds herself recalling another morning in the past, travel with her through time and space: "For so it had always seemed to her when, with a squeak of the hinges... she had burst open the French windows and plunged... into the open air." What a sentence! What an invitation! Can't you just hear that squeak, feel the little shove as the doors give way, taste that clean, cold air?

When it's time to leave for work, inhabit Clarissa's neat, bird-like figure as she stands on the kerb, listening to the hush that precedes the chimes of Big Ben. Heighten your sense of being alive by reminding yourself, with her, that all these people scurrying past will be bones and dust one day. And then, looking left and right first (we don't want all your Mondays to end here and hopefully now you won't either) – step out. And... why not? Go and buy some flowers yourself.