Prologue: the details of Virginia Woolf’s death are narrated.
Clarissa Vaughn(late 20° century)
Early morning: Clarissa leaves her apartment to buy flowers for the party she’s organizing for her old friend Richard, a poet and novelist who has received an important prize, but is now dying of AIDS. Late morning: Clarissa visits Richard and tries to reassure him, as he claims he did not deserve the prize. Clarissa goes home and learns her partner Sally is having lunch with a movie star. She is disappointed not to have been invited and thinks to the happy summer she spent with Richard, realizing it was the only perfect time in her life. She is visited by Louis, Richard’s former lover, the young man Richard chose after that perfect summer. Clarissa’s daughter Julia arrives with her friend Mary Krull.
Clarissa disapproves the friendship and has a clash with Mary. Julia and Mary leave to go shopping. Clarissa goes to Richard’s flat to pick him up for the party. She finds him seated on a window sill. He tells her he loves her, then jumps out. Before going to bed, Clarissa welcomes Laura Brown, Richard’s mother, who has come for her son’s funeral.
Early morning: Laura, who is pregnant, is lying in bed and reading Mrs. Dalloway. She does not feel like going downstairs, wish her husband Dan happy birthday and share breakfast with him and their young son Richie. She finally goes downstairs and, after her husband has left, decides to bake a cake for him, with Richie’s help. When the cake is made, Laura is disappointed with it. A friend of hers, Kitty, drops in to tell her she will have to go to hospital for some days. They share a kiss and Laura is moved. She throws away the first cake and bakes another one. She leaves the house, entrusts her son to a neighbor and checks into a hotel. She reads Mrs. Dalloway for two hours and contemplates the idea of suicide, then realizes she could never commit it. Back home, the family has Laura’s husband birthday party, while she thinks how dissatisfied she is with her perfect life. After dinner,while she is brushing her teeth, she thinks Dan will want to have sex and tries to postpone the moment.
In the final chapter she turns up at Clarissa’s house and we learn she has abandoned her husband, Richard and her new-born daughter to flee to Canada. She’s the only survivor of her family.
Virginia Woolf (1925)
Virginia wakes up thinking how to begin her new novel, which will focus on a day in the life of a woman named Clarissa Dalloway. She manages to skip breakfast and sits down to write. When she feels a headache is coming, she takes a walk and thinks to her novel. She decides Clarissa will have loved a woman and will kill herself. Back home, she has an argument with the cook, who is angry because Virginia has not given orders for lunch, and gets even angrier when she learns she will have to go to London to buy a special treat for Virginia’s sister Vanessa, who is coming at tea time.
Virginia thinks to the kiss she has exchanged with Vanessa and decides Mrs. Dalloway will have had a similar experience when she was young. She also determines that, even if Clarissa will not commit suicide, someone else will.