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Orlando (20th Century Fiction)

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“The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.” Nigel Nicolson


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“The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her.” Nigel Nicolson

30 review for Orlando (20th Century Fiction)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    My mom made me clean my room this weekend. No, not a teenage pain-in-the-ass cleaning of the room, this was THE cleaning of the room. As in, it was finally time to take apart the room I’d had in that house since we moved there somewhere around my thirteenth birthday. Look you guys, I get it. I’m twenty-four. That’s another one of those Facts of Life that just happens to you, and most people would say I was far past time for this. And you know what? I was doing okay with it. It went slowly, but i My mom made me clean my room this weekend. No, not a teenage pain-in-the-ass cleaning of the room, this was THE cleaning of the room. As in, it was finally time to take apart the room I’d had in that house since we moved there somewhere around my thirteenth birthday. Look you guys, I get it. I’m twenty-four. That’s another one of those Facts of Life that just happens to you, and most people would say I was far past time for this. And you know what? I was doing okay with it. It went slowly, but it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be- I went through old clothes, trophies from various sporting events (yeah, I spent sometime laughing about the fact that I used to do sports, too), old pictures of friends and even boyfriends, and the major breakdown I was waiting for happily stayed away. Yessir, I was a-okay. Then I got to The Wall. It was the last thing to be done, and I just couldn’t bring myself to do more than look at it and then utterly lose my shit. Why that, when nothing else managed to get to me? Well, here’s why: I started building that wall when I was thirteen years old. It’s full of every person I was, thought I was, or hoped that I would become. It started on the back of the door which was plastered all over with quotes in ridiculous fonts from my favorite books (I can tell you the exactly the path I followed putting things up on that door by where the quotes are from) and three pages of plastered quotes describing my personality at sixteen that a friend gave me for Christmas. There’s the label from my junior year birthday present from my friends that says “The flamboyant actress’ box of stuff,” which is right next to two posters of illustrated Shakespearean quotes I got in Stratford and over Glinda the Good Witch sitting on top of the lightswitch saying, “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas” (I didn’t put that there, and to this day I have no idea who did). This gives way to black and white posters showing scenes of Paris, cutouts from about a bazillion travel magazines, pictures I took in Ireland and England (including a prominently placed one on top of Glastonbury Tor), a speculative geneology chart out of the Arthurian legends, a painting by Magritte, a huge section of black and white glamour shots of old Hollywood stars (Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Errol Flynn, a photo of Bogey looking down a totally unaware Marilyn Monroe’s dress, a drunk Orson Welles bombasting to Tony Curtis), my headshots and professional photos from the various productions I was in, cast photos, and a picture of the voice teacher who was my second mother for many years. In other words, it’s the most fucking ridiculous part of the room! You’d think I’d be glad to get rid of the the embarrassing evidence of my bad taste, failed dreams, and terrible role models. And yet, that part was the only thing I gave a shit about. I really felt like crap about it, until I read Orlando and saw this: “For she had a great variety of selves to call upon, far more than we have been able to find room for, since a biography is considered complete if it merely accounts for six or seven selves, whereas a person may have many thousand…and these selves of which we are built up, one on top of the other, as plates are piled on a waiter’s hand, have attachments elsewhere, sympathies, little constitutions and rights of their own… so that one will only come if it is raining, another in a room with green cutrains, another when Mrs. Jones is not there… and some are too wildly ridiculous to be mentioned in print at all.” and this: “nature…has further complicated her task and added to our confusion by providing a perfect rag-bag of odds and ends within us-a piece of a policeman’s trousers lying cheek by jowl with Queen Alexandra’s wedding veil….Instead of being a single, downright, bluff piece of work of which no man need feel ashamed, our commonest deeds are set about with a fluttering and flickering of wings, a rising and falling of lights.” I wrote in an earlier Vita review about my envy of coherence and life stories that make sense, and how frustrated I was that I couldn’t make my own follow a similar pattern. Woolf understands this frustration (“a single downright piece of work of which no man need feel ashamed”), and tells me why it isn’t ever going to happen- the thousands of selves, and Queen Alexandra’s wedding veil and the policeman’s trousers- what sort of goddess thinks of that?- and then, gift of all gifts, she seems both to understand it and even sympathize with it (in her way)! And this isn’t some poet off the street we’re talking about, this is Virginia Woolf! She’s okay with inconsistencies? Someone that smart is fascinated with absurdities, flights of fancy, illogical trains of thought, even slowness in someone that she loves this deeply? She’s willing to write 300 pages celebrating it, even? Screw bodice rippers, that thought is the best porn that literary devising could give me. She gave me back Glinda and Bogey, and made me feel proud to take them. Orlando is many things, but it is above all a story that tries to make a dozen fantasies seem possible, or even the inevitable result of a life that is lived with all those thousand selves really getting in their say. While Woolf’s tone in this book is often light, mocking, wry, or even cutting, I don’t think that this detracted from the sublime quality of the story that she’s telling. If anything, her wry asides made the telling of Orlando that much more meaningful. By engaging with prosaic reality every so often- reminding us about the Nick Greenes of the world, the merchants, the couples walking two by Victorian two- she shows us why Orlando should be celebrated, if only for making it through the day, never mind the years on top of years, intact. There’s nobody like Virginia Woolf for getting the most out of the heroic efforts of every last moment, and just why it tortures us so much: “The present participle is the Devil,” she says here, and speaks lovingly of the past and future that shield us from the terrifying fact that we are here and now and we’re supposed to be someone doing something. Time is the enabler of the novel, the vehicle through which all this exploration takes place, the administrative assistant that dispenses elfish magic when needed and sends out stern reminders of the rules when they are being ignored, but it’s one of Time’s children that’s both the demon and the anti-hero of the whole thing: Memory. Memory is the both the cocoon that protects Orlando from the ravages of ‘growing up’ too much, and the beast that tries to tear her fragile defenses into shreds the second he isn’t looking (don’t get me for pronoun confusion, I know what I did there). It’s a dangerous drug to pull out regularly. Because no, actually, you can’t stop whenever you want to: “… it has contrived that the whole assortment shall be stitched together by a single thread. Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus the most ordinary movment in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind…” And no, there’s no way of safely taking it, either: “Every single thing, once he tried to dislodge it from its place in his mind, he found thus cumbered with other matter like the lump of glass which, after a year at the bottom of the sea, is grown about with bones and dragon-flies and coins and the tresses of drowned women.” There was a period in my life after a particularly traumatic experience that I would stop in the street sometimes, muttering, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” My terrible therapist called me “weird”, my mother decided I was talking to her, my friends made a nervous joke out of it. But Woolf understands the freakish intersection of memory and the present moment your body is in. It’s guerilla warfare out there- the even scarier modern kind where there are even less decent barriers as to when and where it is okay for the enemy to try and fuck you up. It’s not just running into an old friend, hearing a song with certain associations that’ll do it. And don’t think you can go searching the banks for something useful to you without paying compounded interest- there’s no such thing as a free lunch, especially not in the Memory banks. One memory is part of another memory, and unless you are far better at compartmentalizing than me, even reaching for a good memory is going to involve pushing through the muck to get to it. It’s sad to think that Woolf probably understood this due to her own troubles with the state of her sanity. She uses words like “assault,” when talking about time, imagery of rushing waves when showing Orlando’s memories intruding upon her again and again- you don’t do that unless you know what the hell you’re talking about. I can see why she went on to write a book called The Waves right after this. It’s actually a pretty funny book, though. I feel like I’m giving you the wrong idea of it. It’s lighthearted most of the time, there are excellent jokes in the style of Wodehouse in an archly amused tone that I just loved. It comments on gender, women in society, the industry of writing, writers themselves, historians, the Victorian age, Romantic sensibilities, and does it in a style that’s the most accessible I’ve ever seen her write. She openly invites you to be in on the joke and comment all you like as the Vanity Fair passes you by. I felt quite worldly observing things from her perch. It feels like her contribution to all the genres of literature that happened to be popular at the time- making use of all of them, getting trapped by the conventions of none. Parts of it just happened to give me some words I’ve been desperately searching for, so I did the fall on my knees and worship thing instead of attending the tea party afterwards. But don’t worry, she still found time to help Bertie Wooster out of his latest engagement.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    "I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another." Orlando to me is a dream come true in literature. Being able to move in time and space and to change my gender with my moods is a deeply satisfying idea. It is the quintessence of what reading means in my life - the opportunity to leave my own life behind and step into the body and soul of other people, only to move on again when I feel like it. I can be intensely engaged for a week, and then put the adventure safely into my memory and "I'm sick to death of this particular self. I want another." Orlando to me is a dream come true in literature. Being able to move in time and space and to change my gender with my moods is a deeply satisfying idea. It is the quintessence of what reading means in my life - the opportunity to leave my own life behind and step into the body and soul of other people, only to move on again when I feel like it. I can be intensely engaged for a week, and then put the adventure safely into my memory and try something different. Orlando is a hymn to reading and imagination and love. It is a break from conventions, and a story heavy as a heart and light as a feather. Love it!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sean Barrs the Bookdragon

    Woolf did not write this book for her readers; she specifically wrote it for her close “friend” and fellow writer Vita Sackville-West. As such Woolf does things she would not normally do in her writing; it is not at all serious but instead takes on the form of a literary homage, homage to reading and writing. My case in point: “For it would seem - her case proved it - that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre o Woolf did not write this book for her readers; she specifically wrote it for her close “friend” and fellow writer Vita Sackville-West. As such Woolf does things she would not normally do in her writing; it is not at all serious but instead takes on the form of a literary homage, homage to reading and writing. My case in point: “For it would seem - her case proved it - that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” “The taste for books was an early one. As a child he was sometimes found at midnight by a page still reading. They took his taper away, and he bred glow-worms to serve his purpose. They took the glow-worms away and he almost burnt the house down with a tinder.” -Tilda Swinton as Orlando in the 1992 film adaptation More significantly, it was also homage to someone she loved quite dearly. I do wonder if originally she intended for this to be published; it is clearly a piece of writing that is very personal and addressed to one person. There are just so many emotions in this novel. The story begins with Orlando, a young man living in the Elizabethan age who is about to be transformed. The story also ends with Orlando, a woman writer living in the 20th century. The entire novel is a fictionalised history of Vita Sackville-West, of an imagined past life she lived under the guise of Orlando several centuries before she met Woolf. Orlando had his heart broken at a very young age; it is shattered beyond repair as he is abandoned and left in ruins. Life must go on. He finds solace in reading and writing, tools he uses to escape from the horrors of reality. He begins with poetry; thus, finding an appropriate channel for his self-pity and woe begotten thoughts. He strives for fame, for literary acknowledgment, by perfecting his craft. If he fails, if the idealised writer fails, the thoughts of suicide and inferiority begin to dog his steps. I need not mention how Woolf met her own end, but this read like an early foreshadowing. It was haunting. “By the truth we are undone. Life is a dream. 'Tis the waking that kills us. He who robs us of our dreams robs us of our life.” And as such he attempts to push forward. Indeed, that much so he goes into womanhood. On a plot level it didn’t really make sense; it just kind of happened, though it did give Woolf a perfect opportunity to critique the nuances of gender roles within society. And it was described so beautifully. I can’t fault her for it. I can’t really fault the novel, only to say it lost a considerable amount of passion, energy and momentum once Orlando had changed his sex. This is the weirdest, most imaginative, novel I’ve read in months. Despite the bizarreness of the plot, the wackiest thing about it is the fact that Virginia Woolf wrote it. I hated Mrs Dalloway. I count it among my least favourite novels in existence. I hate the way Woolf wrote it, why she wrote it and the literary style she tried to produce. Orlando made me rethink my opinion of Woolf entirely. I’ve read a lot of her non-fictional essays along with her literary criticisms of other 20th century writers. This, oddly, goes against much of what she advocated. She was a staunch supporter of realism within her writing, that much so she took efforts to make her plots less constructed so they mirrored real life: this is something else entirely. So I’ve come to the conclusion that I didn’t really understand Woolf (perhaps I still don’t.) The pathway forward remains an obvious one: I simply must read everything she ever wrote in order to understand her better. Time to get busy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Renato Magalhães Rocha

    This was my first time reading Orlando. It was also my second time. I like to think that everything happens for a reason - not that I believe it was planned or decided by a powerful creature for me - but because the idea that everything effects what surrounds it sounds about right to me. So I see a purpose in this reading experience that Virginia Woolf provided me and take it as an important lesson to carry with me from now on - and how appropriate that it came just at the beginning of a new and This was my first time reading Orlando. It was also my second time. I like to think that everything happens for a reason - not that I believe it was planned or decided by a powerful creature for me - but because the idea that everything effects what surrounds it sounds about right to me. So I see a purpose in this reading experience that Virginia Woolf provided me and take it as an important lesson to carry with me from now on - and how appropriate that it came just at the beginning of a new and exciting year. I’ve always liked to plan things to the last detail in my life. With reading, unfortunately - and I say that because sometimes it becomes too much to follow-up on - it is the same. I had a strict schedule to read Orlando and I wanted to finish it by January 9th. The day arrived and I only had twenty pages or so left to finish the book, so great, another thing was on the right track. And then I realized nothing was on the right track. I had been racing through the book to comply with a deadline that I stipulated - for no authentic reason, really - in my head and I wasn’t enjoying it at all. Yes, I saw glimpses of brilliance here and there, and I loved the idea of the book since the beginning, plus the fact that I’ve always admired both Woolf and her writing style, so it surprised (and bothered) me that I wasn’t actually having a great time with it. I put it down and analyzed the situation for two minutes - it was a no brainer, I know, but when you’re caught up in it, it may take a while to realize things - and then decided to start over. To read everything once again, including the Introduction that I skipped the first time. Oh my! What about my schedule? It would have to give in. So I went back to the beginning, with hopes of a better read this time and without a deadline. After thirty pages or so, I realized the blur I had read for racing through the words felt really different and so much better now, as if I had just put on my reading glasses. Forget mostly everything you know from Woolf and expect to find here based on previous works - it’s a departure from them, almost completely. Mrs. Dalloway became famous for being an account of a single day of a person’s life; to counter that, we read in this book more than three hundred years of Orlando’s life. To the Lighthouse is known for its stream of consciousness style that is intertwined with the plot and characters' lines and actions, making it a complex read; this novel is straightforward and presented in the format of a biography of the character Orlando - one would say the novel is actually semi-biographical as it’s been widely known that the protagonist is based on Vita Sackville-West, an English writer who’s been romantically involved with Woolf; because of that, the novel is seen as a love-letter to Vita. More than that, it is a love letter to literature, to the exercise of writing and to writers. It takes us on a grand literary journey throughout the centuries - kind of an expanded Oxen of the Sun from Ulysses - where Virginia emulates some styles and eras in her writing - although still making her book easily accessible as opposed to what Joyce did in the specified episode. This biography tells us the story of Orlando, an individual born as a biological male who lives for more than three hundred years. Seems interesting enough, right? There’s more: at around thirty years of age, he wakes up to find out a change has occurred: he’s mysteriously been transformed into a woman; he (she) is now biologically female. This is the basic frame of the novel. But truly, what I most admired and enjoyed in this work was Woolf. I love how she comprehended and created her protagonist as someone constituted of dissimilarities and paradoxes all throughout the times. If we, inside of one year, change our minds so often, imagine someone living for three centuries. Not only did this gave a touch of realism to this distinct story, but it also kept Orlando’s character as being fresh, not determined from beginning to end and, above all, unpredictable. What I mostly got from Orlando’s character was the sense of solitude and constant search. Despite being surrounded by people throughout centuries, Orlando was really in search of herself, of who he was, of what she was - really, in search of a meaning, of a purpose, of her individuality. It didn’t help, of course, that on the times he opened up and trusted people, she ended up being betrayed by them, only renewing his sense of loneliness. Notwithstanding, she still seemed to worry so much about people’s opinions and conceptions about him, for she was longing to fit somewhere. Orlando’s freedom - for so to speak - came from an epiphany he had while struggling about his writings, when she realized that in need to be true to himself, she needed to write first and foremost for herself, leaving all glory aside that for a moment she considered seeking for herself - again proving his need to fit, to be accepted. Following this moment, Orlando found the necessity of taking care of his house, which I interpreted as a clear metaphor that she, from that moment on, wanted to value himself, his story, her lineage, the foundation: he was, for once, proud of being who she was. "He stretched himself. He rose. He stood upright in complete nakedness before us, and while the trumpets pealed Truth! Truth! Truth! we have no choice left but confess — he was a woman." Although Virginia made a decision to not explain or address too much the sex change - and I applaud her for that, for it was treated naturally (despite the amazing scene, one of the best in the novel, where the three sisters Chastity, Purity and Modesty tried to cover the beautiful transformation) as all gender issues should be, for they’re not, in my opinion, much more than a simple detail that constitutes us such as our height and weight -, I wanted to at least acknowledge here on my humble review how brilliant she was for writing so bravely - and yet with a much admirable lightness - on a subject that still, in 2015, is such a taboo to our society. Virginia wrote as if the sexually defined roles were no more than fantasies that could easily be stripped off for the benefit of another that better suited the individual. Still on Woolf’s levity in addressing the change, the reflections made by Orlando right after becoming a woman were really fun and interesting to read. His comparisons between the genders and her efforts in learning how to act, be and think had a subtle but undeniable touch of sarcasm. Orlando trying to readjust her behavior after becoming a woman, to comply to what was expected of her - and this was a constant for him because, outside the gender issue, the character goes through a lot of different eras and times, each one with silly defined roles by society - , felt like someone who needed to learn to walk again, or rather someone who’s been through a short period of blindness and regains sight, only to find out, this time, that the world is under different lights and colors, as if the sun had been changed to blue, or pink. "Memory is the seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind." Other aspect that was surely to please me was Woolf’s addressing to memory, time and consciousness - topics I’ve been reading about for quite some time. Still, she was able to add her own twist to those and seemingly inverted Proust’s approach: instead of showing the moment that the past resurfaces through an involuntary memory, she shows us the present fighting back to regain the mind’s control, mostly through sounds that awake Orlando again, as if the present was actually screaming for attention. Back to the first time I attempted to read this book, and also one of the changes I made that contributed to my new-found enjoyment of it was about reading the notes included in my edition. I seem to have a love/hate relationship with notes; while they’re completely essential in some books, practically part of the narrative and elucidative to the comprehension of the work, in others they are simply too distracting without adding much to the experience. My edition has 262 notes (for a book that has about 240 pages.) Most were about the parallels between Vita’s life and Orlando’s, and those I found to be unnecessary. After I stopped reading all of them and only payed attention to the ones that promised to add to my understanding, my reading flow also improved. Film adaptation: although it hasn’t been acclaimed either by critics nor the public, I was very much curious to watch the film from 1992, directed by Sally Potter, to see how Woolf’s narrative would de adapted into the screen. While it had some nice moments, and most of them provided by Tilda Swinton’s talents who plays Orlando greatly, others were a great disappointment: to justify Orlando’s longer than usual life by making it a gift from the Queen is completely unnecessary; after that, I was scared they would also try to justify the sex change - gladly, that wasn’t the case. Having Orlando constantly looking at the camera in attempts to connect to the viewer felt forced and became very predictable and - what I think must have been the sole reason the director decided on using those - also didn’t match the wit that Woolf achieved by having the biographer addressing the reader in several occasions. It was a fun time watching the film, but it doesn’t stand on its own like the novel gracefully does. Rating: for a book that, under 300 pages, packed not only a great story, with wonderful wit and humor, written brilliantly, but also taught me an important lesson: 5 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Violet wells

    My second reading of Orlando bore out my overriding impression the first time I read it – that this is a brilliant comic performance until Woolf, before finishing, runs out of steam. Towards the end it becomes apparent she’s no longer in the same spirit with which she began the book. What begins as pure parody ends up a serious attempt to understand her subject. The delicious light skip of her lyrical irony no longer seems at the beck and call of her wit towards the end. You can sense, even see My second reading of Orlando bore out my overriding impression the first time I read it – that this is a brilliant comic performance until Woolf, before finishing, runs out of steam. Towards the end it becomes apparent she’s no longer in the same spirit with which she began the book. What begins as pure parody ends up a serious attempt to understand her subject. The delicious light skip of her lyrical irony no longer seems at the beck and call of her wit towards the end. You can sense, even see that she’s already beginning to formulate both A Room of one’s Own and The Waves. Her lightly handled mischievous mockery of the conventional historian and biographer is replaced by a more heavy handed feminist polemic and awkward, overly lyrical philosophical musings on the nature of fame and multiple incarnations of self. She’s lost the original spirit. It’s as if a children’s play about pirates and mermaids ends with a religious sermon. As Shakespeare demonstrated, if you start off silly, you should probably end silly. Imagine if at the end of As You Like It all the characters held forth on the psychological and philosophical connotations of why they changed sex during the play. Basically, Virginia tries to force a resolution on this novel that is completely at odds with its spirit. And for that reason all the tension goes out of it in the last fifty pages. The first half of Orlando pastiches the traditional historian/biographer as mischievously and hilariously as Nabokov’s brilliant Pale Fire pastiches establishment’s literary critic. It’s the work of a writer inspired, on a roll and thank heavens we have this evidence of Woolf’s comic genius. Anyone who thinks of Woolf as a rather pretentious humourless prig clearly hasn’t read Orlando. Of all her books it’s the one which most gives you an idea of what she was like at a dinner table. Thus, ironically, the most biographical in terms of giving us some essence of the social Virginia – offhand, witty, versatile, self-deprecating, a show off, intellectual, silly, indignant, giggling. Orlando is like a guided tour through VW’s likes and dislikes. We learn what pleases her and what angers her - and of course she writes beautifully of her love of England, its countryside, its history and its capital. There’s also a sense that she’s sometimes showing off with certain friends in mind – you realise while reading this book that there’s a subtle but hugely significant difference between genius in full stride and showing off: even though genius in full stride can seem like showing off it never quite does. You don’t see the performance. Here you sometimes can see the performance. You can see the anatomy of the dance steps rather than one continuous fluid motion. So who was she showing off to? I don’t think it was Vita at all. It might have started as a bit of fun with Vita in mind but to my mind it’s Lytton Strachey she’s often thinking about while writing this. He was the writer who sought to revolutionise biography as a form and probably the male intellect among her brother’s formally educated friends she was most intimidated by. It’s like she’s now found the confidence to feel herself his equal, which she didn’t feel as a young woman. While he was receiving his Cambridge education she was compelled to read many of the countless biographies in her father’s library. No wonder she hates conventional biography so much. Orlando was her revenge on all those dull male minds who believed identity was constructed from dates, battles, rank and official documents. The same kind of men who believed women were better seen and not heard. What does all this have to do with Vita? For me far too much has been made of her relationship with Vita. Nearly all my female friends have had lesbian crushes at some point in their lives. It’s something we laugh about; not something that history should use to define who we are. The idea that had Woolf lived in more tolerant times she would have lived happily in a lesbian relationship to my mind is just daft, as daft in its way as the convictions held by the historians and biographers she mocks in this book. In relation to VW's other books I'd give this four stars but because it's clearly better than 99% of the books on Goodreads it has to get five.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    I knew for sure I wasn't expecting anything like 'To the Lighthouse' with Orlando, but what I didn't know is just how much sheer pleasure Orlando would end up giving me, as this went right beyond my expectations, the days reading it seemed invigorated somehow. Woolf has broken with tradition and convention and has set out to explore a kind of fourth dimensional approach to writing. Not that she has abandoned the stream of consciousness method which she used with such conspicuous success in her p I knew for sure I wasn't expecting anything like 'To the Lighthouse' with Orlando, but what I didn't know is just how much sheer pleasure Orlando would end up giving me, as this went right beyond my expectations, the days reading it seemed invigorated somehow. Woolf has broken with tradition and convention and has set out to explore a kind of fourth dimensional approach to writing. Not that she has abandoned the stream of consciousness method which she used with such conspicuous success in her previous novels, but with it she has combined what, for lack of a better term, we might describe as an application to writing of the theory of relativity. In this novel, or biography, however one chooses to see it, she is largely preoccupied with the time element in character and human relationships, and with a statement of the exact complexion of that intangible moment, a combination of past and future, of objective reality and subjective awareness, which we refer to as the present. Woolf’s hero-heroine, man-woman, he-she, is hundreds of years old, lucky him/her! At the beginning of the book Orlando is an adolescent male, melancholic, indolent, loving solitude and given to writing poetry; the age is the Elizabethan; the book ends on the 11th of October, 1928, and Orlando is a thoroughly modern matron of 36, who has published a successful book of poems and has evolved a hard-earned philosophy of life. Thus, to express her very modern fourth-dimensional concepts, Woolf has fallen back upon one of the most ancient of literary forms, the allegory. In doing so she has left the novel perhaps more confusing than was strictly necessary. However, I personally think nothing should have been any different. Woolf knocked me for six, here, there, and everywhere. Ultimately she written a book of genius. Starting around the time of The Great Frost of 1608/09 where birds froze whilst flying and hurtled to the ground, Orlando moves on to languorous sunny afternoons spent in the shade of oak trees and the hot sun of Turkey. Even so, this could be classed as a winter read. As Orlando never leaves the ice entirely, since he, and then she, is simply frozen in time. Even hundreds of years later there remains the same person who fell in love on those winter days in the 17th century, and those heady days breathe their cold magic throughout this strange, sometimes bewildering but generally wonderful novel. Plus, Woolf can't resist returning to the cold now and again, most notably in her description of the permanent winter damp and black cloud that hung over the 19th century. After Orlando’s attempts to adjust herself to the conventions of nineteenth century England. Woolf excels with by far the most stimulating section of the book, describing Orlando at the present moment, and traces with breath-taking delicacy the influence of her past upon her present. It is deep in the book when suddenly Orlando springs startlingly to life, not that there was anything wrong previously, but up to a point it had seemed a pleasant narrative made notable by a number of passages of great beauty, love and attention, and by occasional bits of vivid description, but marred slightly by a rather self-conscious mischievousness on the part of the author. Having said that, even it's worst bits were still seriously good. In the closing pages she welds compactly what had seemed to be a series of loosely connected episodes. In them she seems to reach down into the rabbit hole for the whole superstructure of life and to lay bare a new, or at least a hitherto unperceived, arrangement of those ephemeral flashes of memory of perception that makes up consciousness. But she has carried the stream of consciousness technique a step further. Not being satisfied to present a succession of thoughts and sensations passing through the mind, she shows what is behind those thoughts and sensations, whence they spring, and how great their relative value. In attempting to describe such subtle and elusive qualities, Woolf has faced squarely one of the most puzzling technical and esthetic problems that plague contemporary novelists. The mere fact that she has stated the problem as succinctly as she does in the course of this book is immensely stimulating, whether or not one feels that she has achieved the final solution to it. I have to say, I could read all the writings of Virginia Woolf under the sun (which is unlikely, but you never know) and nothing else would be as rousing as this. She clearly put a lot of passion into writing this book, and in the case of the reader, me, I was completely won over. A dizzy and captivating reading experience. Just hope I don't wake up in the morning and find I am now Stephanie.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    Totally new review (replacing ancient, short, less favourable one). Orlando. or-LAN-do. Wrap your tongue around it, and whisper it. There’s a luscious, syrupy, sensual, mysterious feel. Much like the eponymous hero(ine), and the sumptuously described natural and man-made world Orlando inhabits. The name conjures cross-dressing disguises in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a Marmalade Cat, maybe Tilda Swinton or Legolas, and, for Google, theme parks in Florida. If you know the novel’s USP and Greek my Totally new review (replacing ancient, short, less favourable one). Orlando. or-LAN-do. Wrap your tongue around it, and whisper it. There’s a luscious, syrupy, sensual, mysterious feel. Much like the eponymous hero(ine), and the sumptuously described natural and man-made world Orlando inhabits. The name conjures cross-dressing disguises in Shakespeare’s As You Like It, a Marmalade Cat, maybe Tilda Swinton or Legolas, and, for Google, theme parks in Florida. If you know the novel’s USP and Greek mythology, you may also think of Tiresias and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Image: Tilda Swinton as Orlando, leaning against an oak tree, the title of Orlando’s lifelong poem (Source.) My first encounters with Woolf were not positive. I didn’t “get” To the Lighthouse in 2008. Orlando fared a little better shortly after. Last year, I read Night and Day (see my review HERE) and gained confidence to read more Woolf. The Sex Thing - is not the only thing I reread Orlando because in recent years, I’ve been dabbling in books that explore gender (see my shelf HERE). That reflects shifts in society as well as my own family. But despite the famous and definite opening line, “He - for there could be no doubt about his sex”, readers shouldn’t obsess about it. One aspect I love about Orlando, and also Jeffrey Eugenides’ Middlesex, is that the switch of sex, though vital, is just one of many facets. In Middlesex, there are a dozen other types of transition (listed in my review HERE). Orlando’s diversity comes from genre and content. It is a pre-postmodern magical-realist mashup that slips effortlessly between fictionalised biography (with the biographer reporting their frustrations to the reader); pontifciations on high society; homage to, quotes from, and satire of famous writers and critics; queer feminist tract; numerous parallels with the detailed history of Vita Sackville-West's family and home (Knole); the pains of love sought and lost; streams of consciousness; comical wooing; the inspiration, methods, and frustrations of writing, especially for women; the emptiness of wealth (shades of Gatsby, which I reviewed HERE); sensuous descriptions of nature, clothes, and furnishings; and it’s all wrapped up with an almost trippy ending. The Plot “Time passed… and nothing whatever happened.” This is not primarily a plot-driven novel, and for Orlando, time is as flexible as sex/gender. "He would go out after breakfast a man of thirty and come home to dinner a man of fifty five at least. Some weeks added a century to his age, others no more than three seconds." Orlando is a teenage nobleman in the court of Elizabeth I. He communes with nature and writes prolifically. He has lovers of both/ambiguous sexes, and adventures with Russians, Turks, and gypsies. Decades later, but only around 30 years old, Orlando awakes as a woman. This is barely mentioend by her or others, nor the fact she lives for another 300 years without aging noticeably. No explanation is sought or suggested. Its relevance is limited to observing the differing constraints on women through the ages, and offstage legal battles to inherit what only a man can inherit. “She need neither fight her age, nor submit to it. She was of it, yet remained herself.” (Here, “age” refers to historical period, rather than number of birthdays.) If it’s not about Orlando’s sex or the plot, what IS it about? Orlando’s core character and interests are consistent: nature, literature, and later, a quest for “life and a lover”. In terms of sex, Orlando is the essence of fluidity, embracing all aspects of both (Woolf takes a binary view) in herself and her lovers: the differences are simultaneously profound and unremarked. When Orlando first realises he is now she, “she showed no surprise”. “His form combined in one the strength of a man and a woman’s grace… Orlando had become a woman… But in every other respect, Orlando remained precisely as he had been. The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity.” Image: One from the series "Human Metamorphosis" by Taylor James (Source.) For me, that’s the essential message of Orlando: be true to yourself, regardless of externally defined labels. That applies as much to the genre-defying book, as to Orlando the person. Labels can be useful, but they should only ever be descriptive, not prescriptive. “Different though the sexes are, they intermix. In every human being a vacillation from one sex to the other takes place, and often it is only the clothes that keep the male or female likeness.” Orlando changes outwardly, but before and after, over the centuries, Orlando is always a colourful, fluid mix. Image: A violet marbled end paper from a Folio Society book. (Short video of it being made here.) “He had eyes like drenched violets.” This book is famously a love-letter to Vita, but it’s suffused with violets: Orlando’s eyes; flowers, obviously; but also clouds of autumn; shades; shadows, and (unstated) Trefusis - Vita’s previous lover. Quotes “Illusions are to the soul what atmosphere is to the earth.” “Russia where the sunsets are longer, the dawns less sudden, and sentences often left unfinished.” “Memory is a seamstress, and a capricious one at that.” “Society is everything and society is nothing.” (Sounds like Wilde.) Quotes about Literature • “Now all young writers were in the pay of the booksellers and poured out any trash that would sell.” In the 16th/17th century. • “While fame impedes and constricts, obscurity wraps about a man like a mist.” • "Material luxury evaporated like so much sea mist under the miasma. So it was, and Orlando would sit by himself, reading, a naked man." • “Surely, since she is a woman, and a beautiful woman, and a woman in the prime of life, she will soon give over this pretence of writing and thinking and begin at least to think of a gamekeeper.” Quotes about Love • “As he looked the thickness in his blood melted; the ice turned to wine in his veins; he heard the waters flowing and birds singing.” Suddenly lovestruck. Then bathos: he merely asks her to pass the salt. • “Orlando heard… far off the beating of Love’s wings. The distant stir of that soft plumage roused in him a thousand memories of rushing waters, of loveliness in the snow and faithlessness in the flood.” • “Love… has two faces; one white, the other black; two bodies; one smooth, the other hairy… each one is the exact opposite of the other. Yet, so strictly are they joined together that you cannot separate them.” • “Nothing.. is more heavenly than to resist and to yield; to yield and to resist.” • “She was married, true; but if one's husband was always sailing round Cape Horn, was it marriage? If one liked him, was it marriage? If one liked other people, was it marriage? And finally, if one still wished, more than anything in the whole world, to write poetry, was it marriage?” • “But love - as the male novelists define it - and who, after all, speak with greater authority? - has nothing whatever to do with kindness, fidelity, generosity, or poetry. Love is slipping off one's petticoat and - But we all know what love is.” Quotes about Weather/Seasons Significant changes are marked by dramatic weather: • “Everything was different. The weather itself... of another temper altogether. The brilliant amorous day was divided as sheerly from the night as land from water. Sunsets were redder and more intense; dawns were whiter and more auroral. Of our crepuscular half-lights lingering twilights they knew nothing. The rain fell vehemently, or not at all.” • “The equable but confused light of a summer’s morning in which everything is seen but nothing is seen distinctly.” • “The sun… was so girt about with clouds and the air was so saturated with water, that its beams were discolored and purples, oranges, and reds of a dull sort took the place of the more positive landscapes… Under this bruised and sullen canopy the green of the cabbages was less intense, and the white of the snow was muddied.” Quotes about Clothes • “She fell to thinking what an odd pass we have come to when all a woman’s beauty has to be kept covered lest a sailor may fall from a mast-head.” Relevant today for debates about burqas, victim-blaming, and rape culture. • “Clothes… change our view of the world and the world’s view of us.” • “It is clothes that wear us and not we them.” • “Clothes are but a symbol of something hid deep beneath.” The very definition of a sacrament.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dolors

    Orlando might have been devised as a mere divertimento, as a playful attempt to challenge the established views on sexuality or as a fantastical tale to confront the history of East and West by questioning the boundaries of space and time, but to this reader this novella meant much more. It meant a universe of fluctuating moods, characters and sweeping poetry that gives reason to be through the act of reading. How to describe the nuanced melody of finely threaded irony prodigiously in tune with t Orlando might have been devised as a mere divertimento, as a playful attempt to challenge the established views on sexuality or as a fantastical tale to confront the history of East and West by questioning the boundaries of space and time, but to this reader this novella meant much more. It meant a universe of fluctuating moods, characters and sweeping poetry that gives reason to be through the act of reading. How to describe the nuanced melody of finely threaded irony prodigiously in tune with the most sophisticated sense of humor that entertains and prickles and urges to see the world without the limiting lenses of gender, class or social convention? One can evolve unhindered when he suspends judgement and allows the flow of writing to give way to a solid account that sparkles because undeniable reality is better understood through the theatrical fiction of its form. How to account for centuries expanding and contracting beyond human comprehension, decades that amount to the fall of a rose leaf on the ground, years that disappear in a flash? The passage of time is of no consequence when love for the written word equals the all-consuming passion for the person who knows us best regardless of clothing or hair style, manners or social rituals that distract us from the true essence of our beings. How to explain the ache spanning countless generations, eras and customs that is nestled in the heart of the artist who relishes the young, supple body, pure as driven snow; the fleeting grass under a blanket of blue or the stars reflected in pools of stagnant water both in London and Turkey? Emily Dickinson says in her poem #466: For Occupation – This – The spreading wide my narrow Hands To gather Paradise - For Occupation – Writing – Orlando claims a “room of her own” to write her life, a task that will also define her love, and infuse wholeness into the swelling tides that toss her multiple beings, her male and female groundings. The result, be it an experimental biography, an unorthodox love declaration or a thought-provoking roman à clef to defy categorization at all levels, goes beyond its original purpose and becomes a fluid, ever-changing tapestry of voices answering other voices, speaking the universal language of poetry.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    675. Orlando = Orlando: A Biography, Virginia Woolf Orlando: A Biography is a novel by Virginia Woolf, first published on 11 October 1928. A high-spirited romp inspired by the tumultuous family history of Woolf's lover and close friend, the aristocratic poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, it is arguably one of Woolf's most popular novels: a history of English literature in satiric form. The book describes the adventures of a poet who changes sex from man to woman and lives for centuries, meeti 675. Orlando = Orlando: A Biography, Virginia Woolf Orlando: A Biography is a novel by Virginia Woolf, first published on 11 October 1928. A high-spirited romp inspired by the tumultuous family history of Woolf's lover and close friend, the aristocratic poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, it is arguably one of Woolf's most popular novels: a history of English literature in satiric form. The book describes the adventures of a poet who changes sex from man to woman and lives for centuries, meeting the key figures of English literary history. Considered a feminist classic, the book has been written about extensively by scholars of women's writing and gender and transgender studies. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوازدهم ماه می سال 2009 میلادی عنوان: ارلاندو : حقیقت چهار قرن زندگی - اثری ادبی عرفانی انتقادی؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: محمد نادری؛ تهران، امیرکبیر، 1370، در 279 ص، چاپ بعدی 1381؛ چاپ چهارم: 1388؛ شابک: 9789640007709؛ چاپ دیگر: 1395؛ در 343 ص؛ شابک: 9789640018897؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 20 م عنوان: ارلاندو؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: فریده مهدوی دامغانی؛ تهران، تیر، 1379؛ در 250 ص؛ شابک: 9646581382؛ عنوان: ارلاندو؛ نویسنده: ویرجینیا وولف؛ مترجم: فرزانه قوجلو؛ تهران، نشر قطره، 1386؛ در 310 ص؛ چاپ دوم 1388؛ چاپ سوم 1395؛ شابک: 9789643416782؛ بیهوده است که بخواهم داستان ارلاندو را تعریف کنم، در این رمان داستانی به داستان دیگر میآمیزد. گویی در هزارتویی از قصه، گرفتار آمده باشیم، شخصیت اصلی، در زمان ملکه الیزابت به دنیا میآید، هرگز نمیمیرد، بلکه در هر دوره، و در هر سده، پوست عوض میکند. کس دیگر میشود، تا به عصر خوانشگر برسد. رمان، دگرگونی در هر لحظه زیستن را، به نمایش میگذارد، ارلاندو، دم به دم، چهره دیگر میکند، زمانی مرد است، و سفیر، گاه دیگر زن است، و همراه کولیان، گوسفند میچراند، زمانی لرد است، و سرای او محفل بزرگان، و دولتمردان، و زمانی دیگر شاعر و گوشه نشین است. اما آنچه او همیشه میجوید: زندگی است، و همیشه شیفته ی نوشتن است، در اوج ناامیدی، و در قله های شادی، همچنان مینویسد. ا. شربیانی

  10. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    The most prudent way to review a Virginia Woolf book, perhaps, would be to write 'THIS IS STUPENDOUS. GENIUS. AMAZING. WHY HAVEN'T YOU READ THIS YET?' and leave it at that. Because not only does this relieve you of the responsibility of casting about for appropriate words to serenade Woolf but also because you know no review in the world does justice to the sheer magic that she is capable of creating with words. But since I have a thing for self-flagellation(not really), I wish to undertake preci The most prudent way to review a Virginia Woolf book, perhaps, would be to write 'THIS IS STUPENDOUS. GENIUS. AMAZING. WHY HAVEN'T YOU READ THIS YET?' and leave it at that. Because not only does this relieve you of the responsibility of casting about for appropriate words to serenade Woolf but also because you know no review in the world does justice to the sheer magic that she is capable of creating with words. But since I have a thing for self-flagellation(not really), I wish to undertake precisely this mammoth task of writing about Orlando. After having closed the book and put it aside, the first predominant emotions are that of being overwhelmed by the all-encompassing nature of its inherent themes, then awestruck, then of being very close to tears. One is compelled to sit quietly in a corner, still under the heady influence of Orlando's poetic prose, and brood over all the discrete human sentiments, actions and events that make up life as we know it, letting precious minutes trickle by. Our hero-heroine, Orlando, seems not only to be a representation of the human spirit, a union of yin and yang in all its imperfect glory, but also a lasting testament to the perpetual flow of time. His-her pronouncements sound almost like a chorus of voices, echoing all the dichotomies that characterize our existence and the transience of our emotions. Orlando begins the journey of life as a man of wealth and social standing in Elizabethan era England, comfortable in the skin of his vanity, amorous in his dalliances with women. And the book ends on 11th of October, 1928, in modern England where Orlando is a married woman, a mother, an accomplished writer and finally at peace with life's many ironies and caprices. I will refrain from going into all that takes place between these two distant points in time because for that one can always read the book. It will suffice to say that Orlando swings back and forth between craving and shunning love, between pursuing his-her literary interests and trivializing the urge to write, between seeking the august company of men of letters like Pope, Addison and Swift and then belittling them. And even though hundreds of years pass by as Orlando goes through the many myriad experiences that life had in store for him-her, it seems like everything has remained essentially the same. The reader is struck by a sense of passivity in motion, of an enduring constancy even though the sights and sounds and scenarios, that Orlando flits through, keep varying. Thus in a way Orlando is not different from Woolf's other works just because of the noticeable absence of a stream of consciousness(which, again, is not totally absent here) but because here, she attempts to grasp at an amorphous entity like time and enclose it within a few pages. And I am mightily pleased to say that she pulls off this feat with an elan, one associates only with her. What makes Orlando really stand out among other VW works is the dual gender of its protagonist. Orlando keeps oscillating between his-her manly and womanly bearings and towards the very end, what nullifies the differences between the sexes is his-her humanity, his-her detachment from the material world and a crossover into the realm of the spiritual. "The whole of her darkened and settled, as when some foil whose addition makes the round and solidity of a surface is added to it, and the shallow becomes deep and the near distant; and all is contained as water is contained by the sides of a well. So she was now darkened, stilled, and become, with the addition of this Orlando, what is called, rightly or wrongly, a single self, a real self." The narrative does seem a bit disjointed at certain points, especially when Woolf foregoes conventions and goes into intricate detailing of events which seem of little importance in the greater scheme of things or inserts her witty observations on society's prejudices concerning women, chastity and more. "Orlando, who was a passionate lover of animals, now noticed that her teeth were crooked and the two front turned inward, which, he said, is a sure sign of a perverse and cruel disposition in women, and so broke the engagement that very night for ever." "I am she that men call Modesty. Virgin I am and ever shall be. Not for me the fruitful fields and the fertile vineyard. Increase is odious to me; and when the apples burgeon or the flocks breed, I run, I run, I let my mantle fall. My hair covers my eyes, I do not see. Spare, O spare!" "Truth come not out from your horrid den. Hide deeper, fearful Truth. For you flaunt in the brutal gaze of the sun things that were better unknown and undone; you unveil the shameful; the dark you make clear, Hide! Hide! Hide!" See what I mean? This is probably Woolf at her funniest and wittiest. So not a single sentence or passage can be devalued even though it may appear a little out of place or slow down the progress of the narrative. In essence, Orlando is a summation of all the irrepressible instincts of both the man and woman - their quest for love and true wisdom, their search for meaning in chaos, their feelings of inferiority aroused by the vastness of the universe and their desire to find an eternity trapped within their brief lifetimes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Published in 1928, toward the end of the most productive stage of Woolf's career as a writer, Orlando doubles as national history and romance: the playful and ironic novel famously centers on the transformation of its protagonist's gender, near the start of the 18th century, but most of the story deals with Orlando's different loves and England's changing social norms over the course of three centuries. The gender change and kaleidoscopic setting afford Woolf the chance to examine themes especia Published in 1928, toward the end of the most productive stage of Woolf's career as a writer, Orlando doubles as national history and romance: the playful and ironic novel famously centers on the transformation of its protagonist's gender, near the start of the 18th century, but most of the story deals with Orlando's different loves and England's changing social norms over the course of three centuries. The gender change and kaleidoscopic setting afford Woolf the chance to examine themes especially relevant to women in the 1920s, such as bodily autonomy or marriage, from several historical and social vantage points. In contrast to Woolf's other works of fiction, the novel is rather fun to read as well as written in an accessible style, making Orlando the ideal introduction to her later work.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    I first read this many years ago; before I knew very much about Virginia Woolf and her relationship with Vita Sackville-West, to whom this is dedicated. The background is vital because it adds so much and because it helps the reader to reach an understanding of Woolf’s generosity. It is as ever, beautifully written and drifts splendidly through the centuries and the key is Vita and their circle. As Woolf was writing this her affair with Vita was beginning to wane as Vita was moving on to other l I first read this many years ago; before I knew very much about Virginia Woolf and her relationship with Vita Sackville-West, to whom this is dedicated. The background is vital because it adds so much and because it helps the reader to reach an understanding of Woolf’s generosity. It is as ever, beautifully written and drifts splendidly through the centuries and the key is Vita and their circle. As Woolf was writing this her affair with Vita was beginning to wane as Vita was moving on to other lovers. The two women were very different and Vita was much more sexually active and interested in a variety of people. For Vita the thrill of the new was important. Woolf recognised this. One of the keys to the book is Vita’s ancestral home, Knole. It is faithfully represented as Orlando’s home estate in the book, down to the heraldic leopards and the visit of Queen Elizabeth the First. Vita had lost Knole because a woman could not inherit; here Woolf gives her it back. Many of the characters represent people both knew. The Russian princess Sasha is Violet Trefusis, Nicholas Greene is Gosse, Archduchess Harriet/Archduke Henry was Lord Lascelles (one of Vita’s many admirers), Shelmerdine is Vita’s husband Harold Nicholson. Orlando’s poetic work The Oak Tree is equivalent to Vita’s poetic work The Land. There is a great deal of imagery here; some of it in the form of private jokes/codes. The “porpoise in a fishmonger’s shop” is one such (no idea what that one means). The imagery around the goose that crops up a couple of times even confused Vita (Vita was much more literal than Woolf)! It is interesting to consider that originally Woolf had conceived it as an illustrated book with photographs and pictures. Woolf’s portrayal was an accurate one. Harold Nicholson found it difficult to conceive that anyone else could know the private Vita that he knew and thought it was a lucky accident (it wasn’t, Woolf was very perceptive). Mary Campbell (another of Vita’s lovers) was also surprised how accurately the private Vita was portrayed. On top of this being a love letter to Vita, it is so much more besides. The nature of gender and biography are explored. It is also interesting to note that Woolf was also writing the lectures that became A Room of One’s Own. Orlando is part of the train of thought Woolf had about the revolutionary potential of women’s friendship. A new world opens when like each other and are no longer seen as rival’s for men’s affection/approval. It is a tender and humorous love story/letter, almost a faitytale, not meant to be taken in the same vein as more serious work (To The Lighthouse), but it captures the imagination and sold much more than anything Woolf had written previously. It is a work of brilliance with a lightness of touch.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rowena

    I absolutely adored this book. The style is definitely different from the other Woolf books I've read so far. What stood out for me was the beautiful use of the language, maybe more than the story. The novel had an almost fairytale-like feel to it, and I was definitely enchanted from the start. I don't think the following is a spoiler as it is included in the book's blurb : this book is about a 16 year old boy, Orlando, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, who one day wakes up to find that he has be I absolutely adored this book. The style is definitely different from the other Woolf books I've read so far. What stood out for me was the beautiful use of the language, maybe more than the story. The novel had an almost fairytale-like feel to it, and I was definitely enchanted from the start. I don't think the following is a spoiler as it is included in the book's blurb : this book is about a 16 year old boy, Orlando, a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, who one day wakes up to find that he has become a woman! The investigation of gender following Orlando’s metamorphosis is especially amazing as now it is widely accepted that gender is a societal construct. I really feel Woolf was way ahead of her time. The book was written in an experimental biographical style, and the biographer threw in a lot of humour and wit that caused me to burst out laughing more than once. It is also satirical which I loved, especially the part where Orlando shows her calf to a sailor, who almost falls to his death!Also, the challenges and insight of writing a biography are included, things I had never really considered previously. The book was so surreal at times especially as it wasn’t restricted by either gender or time. I feel that, as straight-forward as the story is to read, there are so many issues incorporated that I think there are also as many different approaches for reading this book. Now I'm in the mood for more Woolf and I think a re-read of Mrs. Dalloway is in order.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    What's the connection between Virginia Woolf and the Russian mafia? Easy - in 1991 Sally Potter decided to film Orlando, one of the loveliest, most ravishing novels in the English language. Somewheres in the middle of the story there, you have a truly extraordinary sequence about the remarkable Frost Fair of 1654, which was when the River Thames itself froze over and they erected a fair with stalls and games and rides and greased pigs and whatnot on it, a carnival of the utmost brilliancy right What's the connection between Virginia Woolf and the Russian mafia? Easy - in 1991 Sally Potter decided to film Orlando, one of the loveliest, most ravishing novels in the English language. Somewheres in the middle of the story there, you have a truly extraordinary sequence about the remarkable Frost Fair of 1654, which was when the River Thames itself froze over and they erected a fair with stalls and games and rides and greased pigs and whatnot on it, a carnival of the utmost brilliancy right on the river itself, and there was skating and flirting and people built fires, right on the river itself, and Orlando cut a dash amongst the Elizabethans and many curious and longing glances were thrown. So Sally Potter needed a frozen river. Where do rivers freeze these days, what with global warming? Kiev. The Dneiper. So they went to Kiev and got permission to film from the newly elected Ukrainian local government. Signed all the forms in triplicate, paid their taxes. Great. But then the hotel door banged open and some big guys came in and said to Sally Potter and her pals We know you have made arrangement with the politicians. Now you must make arrangement with us. Who? Just the boys who really run Kiev, is who. So they paid some more taxes. And didn't ask for a receipt. I remember Sally potter telling this story with great gusto when I saw her introduce this movie at Nottingham's arthouse. In retrospect, she thought it was hilarious. Not while it was happening. Orlando is a lucent multicoloured gleam of a novel, bending the gending a few decades before we even realised that trannies weren't little radios anymore, before we realised that boys will be girls will be boys and that it's a mixed up muddled up shook up world. Except for Orlando.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    I like nothing better than when two books I happen to be reading overlap, even if briefly, so I was really pleased when Virginia Woolf’s fictional character, Orlando, suddenly mentioned Jonathan Swift, whose Journal to Stella I’ve been reading recently. Orlando, who in some sections of Woolf’s book uses the title Lady Orlando, has just been receiving a visit from Joseph Addison, Swift’s one-time bosom pal and fellow political essayist, when there's an interruption: ..and when Mr Addison has had I like nothing better than when two books I happen to be reading overlap, even if briefly, so I was really pleased when Virginia Woolf’s fictional character, Orlando, suddenly mentioned Jonathan Swift, whose Journal to Stella I’ve been reading recently. Orlando, who in some sections of Woolf’s book uses the title Lady Orlando, has just been receiving a visit from Joseph Addison, Swift’s one-time bosom pal and fellow political essayist, when there's an interruption: ..and when Mr Addison has had his say, there is a terrific rap at the door, and Mr Swift, who had these arbitrary ways about him, walks in unannounced...Nothing can be plainer than that violent man. He is so coarse and yet so clean; so brutal, yet so kind; scorns the whole world, yet talks baby language to a girl, and will die, can we doubt it? in a mad house. The 'talks baby language to a girl' remark is a direct reference to the letters Swift wrote to his young friend, Esther Johnson, whom he called Stella. Those letters have been incorporated into his Journal to Stella which I've just been reading. Esther/Stella lived at Swift's house in Ireland with a companion, Mrs Dingley, while Swift spent time in London engaged in politics, pamphleteering, political satire, and visiting Lords and Ladies such as Orlando. Whenever Swift was in Ireland, Esther moved to lodgings nearby for the sake of propriety. There was a rumour that Swift and Esther were secretly married but it is still a rumour, three hundred years later. Esther suffered from ill health, which Swift worried about constantly, and he, though fifteen years older, outlived her by nearly twenty years, suffering from a form of what we now know as Alzheimer's in the end. So not quite, but almost, as Lady Orlando foretold. Swift addressed the letters in the Journal to both Esther and her companion Mrs Dingley, again for the sake of propriety, although neither Esther not Swift could have envisaged them being published. That Woolf's fictional Lady Orlando knew of the contents of the letters even while Swift was writing them should not surprise us; Orlando is a most exotic creation, the ability to see the future only one more surprising trait. But to return to that brief conversation which these two books have had: I felt that Swift should have an opportunity to comment in his turn on Lady Orlando, a kind of quid pro quo as it were, so I couldn't resist creating a semi -fictional letter from Swift’s Journal to Stella. And it serves as a review of Woolf’s Orlando at the same time though more in satire than in conventional review form. London, Dec. 23, 1710 I have sent my 11th letter tonight as usual and begin the dozenth. I told you I dined at the Lady Orlando’s, and I will tell you no more at present, guess for why; because I am writing the text of a Proposal I mean to publish, a new theory on the problem of overpopulation and poverty. So sit still a while just by me, while I am writing, and don’t say a word, I charge you, and when I am going to bed, I will take you along, and talk a little while, so there, sit there.......................................................................... Come then, let us see what we have to say to these saucy brats, that will not let us go sleep at past eleven, and must have news of the famous Lady Orlando. The last letter was so written over and under and sideways and crossways, that there was no room for the Lady, she being exceedingly tall and in need of more space about her than most. I had told you that Addison had made me an introduction to her before our friendship ended, indeed I met him coming out as I was going to call on her t'other day, and he never spake a word as if I was but the under-butler, and all because I've chosen a different political direction. How cross it made me! But enough of that, you know I never write politics to you. Turn over the leaf. To return to the Lady Orlando: 'tis true as you've heard that she is curious company, but still there is in her a happy conjunction of civility, freedom, easiness, and sincerity that I have met but once before; indeed I think that the Lady Orlando and Madam Stella would go on famously together, 'tho perhaps not, and you shall tell me your impressions in your next letter, Stellakins. What is certain, in any case, is that the Lady can talk on every subject, seemly or otherwise, and the list of her acquaintances is as long as---the last century, and maybe the next one too. ‘Twere as if she breakfasted but yesterday with Old Bess and supped with Shakespeare the same evening. And though she simpers and smiles enough, she has a sharp eye and a sharper tongue. And when she crosses a room, she leaves a wind in her wake. If it weren’t for the simpers and the skirts, I would say I was nekatsim in the xes, and ‘tis a nam. There now, that’s out, enough to shock the saucy sauce boxes for a month of Satiredays. But thinking about the Lady Orlando has set my mind, nonetheless, on the modest proposal I mentioned above, a proposal that would shew how to keep the population under better control than at present. And the meat of it would be that we breed an entire race of Orlandos as would live forever without need of further propagation. Are you bit, or are you not, sirrahs? These wo-men would be capable of switching from one sex to t’other according as the times required - men for battle, women when we’d no need of soldiers. Nay, I hear Stella’s voice, chiding me, saying there’d be no little children in such a world. But then there’d be no lying-in, and no dying of it, and a pox of other ills besides that are not for little rogues’ ears, sirrahs ! And think on the accumulation of knowledge there would be in such an age, where nothing was forgotten but everything known at the same time by the same minds. For these wo-men’s minds would be all of the same cast, as I’m inclined to think they are already, though ‘tis little acknowledged. They’d all read Latin and Greek and all write verses as a pastime. And there would be no need for governance since they would all be equally educated and wise; what a saving in scribes and sealing wax! So there you have it, my modest proposal, though some will say 'tis more immodest than any I’ve made before! Paaast twelve o’clock and so good-night, myownlittledearsaucyinsolentrogues. Well, but this is a long one? No, sirrahs, I warrant you: too long for naughty girls. Go, sauceboxes, good-night. ……………………………………………………………… Swift did write A Modest Proposal: for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland from being a burden on their parents and the country, and for making them beneficial to the publick. That proposal was much more outrageous than the one I've invented here! (view spoiler)[He proposed that the children be sold at one year old to the wealthy to be served up, cooked, at the table, providing a profitable deal for their parents since babies under a year don't even require solid feeding. (hide spoiler)]

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mir

    Orlando was much funnier than I expected, and much less fantastical. Since I was familiar with the plot before beginning the book and had heard much literary criticism concerning the famed transformation, I was expecting the focus to be on gender issues. While these were certainly present, Woolf presents them fairly gently. Orlando is so strongly an individual that his/her sex hardly matters from a readerly standpoint. Indeed, I found it harder to believe that he was a successful ambassador than Orlando was much funnier than I expected, and much less fantastical. Since I was familiar with the plot before beginning the book and had heard much literary criticism concerning the famed transformation, I was expecting the focus to be on gender issues. While these were certainly present, Woolf presents them fairly gently. Orlando is so strongly an individual that his/her sex hardly matters from a readerly standpoint. Indeed, I found it harder to believe that he was a successful ambassador than that he became a woman. But we don't see Orlando being an ambassador, and hardly more do we see her being a literary hostess. Despite the pretense at biography, we are really inside Orlando's head, experiencing a thought process and a personality rather than actions. To be sure, many people probably seem quite different inside their heads than in our workaday experience of them. My favorite aspect of this novel was the commentary on writing, most of which is simply hilarious. The depictions of Orlando's struggles with creativity showcase Woolf's talent for combining painfully astute mockery with personal sympathy, and the snippets she uses to illustrate the styles of various periods are perfect. The scene where Orlando finds herself helplessly writing missish verse is a side-splitter. She was so changed, the soft carnation cloud Once mantling o'er her cheek like that which eve Hangs o'er the sky, glowing with roseate hue, Had faded into paleness, broken by Bright burning blushes, torches of the tomb, but here, by an abrupt movement she spilt the ink over the page and blotted it from human sight she hoped for ever.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Introduction, by Peter Ackroyd Introduction, by Margaret Reynolds List of Illustrations Preface, by Virginia Woolf --Orlando Index

  18. 4 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity." - Virginia Woolf, Orlando A beautiful, poetic look at gender, sex, poetry, time, love, living, etc. This gender-studies masterpiece was inspired by Woolf's reltionship with Vita Sackville-West. According to Vita's son: "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries "The change of sex, though it altered their future, did nothing whatever to alter their identity." - Virginia Woolf, Orlando A beautiful, poetic look at gender, sex, poetry, time, love, living, etc. This gender-studies masterpiece was inspired by Woolf's reltionship with Vita Sackville-West. According to Vita's son: "The effect of Vita on Virginia is all contained in Orlando, the longest and most charming love letter in literature, in which she explores Vita, weaves her in and out of the centuries, tosses her from one sex to the other, plays with her, dresses her in furs, lace and emeralds, teases her, flirts with her, drops a veil of mist around her." This is one of the easier Woolf novels to read. Toward the end it gets a bit stream-of-consious (as Modern writers were wont to do), but the narrative of this novel floats and folds through time and gender easily. It was an amazing way of looking at the female experience because Orlando's experience was first fundamentally experienced by Orlando regardless of their gender. So, the novel as biography allowed Woolf to mine the experience from the inside instead of the outside. It also allowed the fluidity of gender to be explored in a way that a less fanciful novel might not have been able to. It is wild to think this book was published in 1928 AND here we are 90-years-later still working our britches into Puritanical bunches over gender and bathrooms. What a bunch of nonsense. One area of hope does exist. In my lifetime, I have seen a huge increase in the attention paid to the difficulties faced by those who don't fit into the gender norms. Things ARE SLOWLY getting better for my friends and the children of my friends who might not fit easily into the pants or skirts society wants to drop them in. Hopefully, it doesn't take 400 years.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rakhi Dalal

    As always, Woolf has stunned me with the magic of her prose here. Telling this isn’t important, neither that it is a biography; that it informs us about the affair of Vita and Violet. I guess much has been said about that. When I started reading, I had no idea about the references to people, places, their characters or their lives as are known to be mentioned in this work. In fact, as the novel proceeded from Orlando’s gender change for the first time, I had a notion about the invisible layer of As always, Woolf has stunned me with the magic of her prose here. Telling this isn’t important, neither that it is a biography; that it informs us about the affair of Vita and Violet. I guess much has been said about that. When I started reading, I had no idea about the references to people, places, their characters or their lives as are known to be mentioned in this work. In fact, as the novel proceeded from Orlando’s gender change for the first time, I had a notion about the invisible layer of narrative which Virginia had experimented with, in this work. And as the work moved through centuries, I realized that the notion was making sense. I didn’t even read it as something related to gender issues, though they might as well have been mentioned or portrayed deliberately, specially with reference to Pope, Addison and Swift. To me, Orlando, in its truest sense renders the spirit of literature of the respective times it refers to, as it proceeds in time. The different centuries starting from Elizabethan and Jacobean to Restoration, Augustan, to Age of Sensibility, Romanticism and finally to Victorian, have been depicted in the form of exploration of the human mind. In any age, as it holds true, the people are influenced by the spirit of the age, which in turn reflects in the literature of the respective age, so Orlando is one finest description of Zeitgeist. Orlando’s love affair with Sasha symbolizes the passionate extremism of Elizabethan period, while his engagement with reading and writing poetry attributes to characteristics of Jacobean period. During Restoration period, Orlando is sent as an ambassador to Constantinople, whereas the Age of Enlightenment or Augustan lets her see right through the poets like Pope, Addison and Swift and makes her wonder at their foibles. In nineteenth century or the age of realism, Orlando, as a woman, realizes that she needs to marry to secure her social standing. Her marriage to Shelmerdine might actually be a depiction of the European Romantic movement reaching America in early nineteenth century. The Victorian age, witness the coming of Orlando in terms of herself as a woman or a writer and thus represents the increased role of women as a reader as well as a writer during that age. And the present time i.e. 11th October 1928, when the novel is published, we observe that Orlando is happy with the changing times, that she has finally arrived there, which cannot be neglected for the fact that the work was published when Woolf’s writing was at its height in terms of its popularity. I am in awe of Woolf for her eagerness and will to experiment with the style of prose and her aversion to the well accepted norms of written word during her times. A profound expression of her ideas about how to write, what to write and for whom to write i.e. the relationship between a writer and a reader, can be witnessed in her essay Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    I finished this book about a week ago, and have been trying ever since to figure out how I'm supposed to review it. I honestly can't think of anything to say except this: Every single emotion I've ever felt and every thought I've ever had, had already been felt and thought and written down by Virginia Woolf decades before I was even born. There is not a single concept or feeling in any of her books that isn't already intimately familiar to me. Reading her books is like having someone look into my I finished this book about a week ago, and have been trying ever since to figure out how I'm supposed to review it. I honestly can't think of anything to say except this: Every single emotion I've ever felt and every thought I've ever had, had already been felt and thought and written down by Virginia Woolf decades before I was even born. There is not a single concept or feeling in any of her books that isn't already intimately familiar to me. Reading her books is like having someone look into my own mind, deeper than I ever looked, and discovering something that is simultaneously unheard of and completely recognizable.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Vita Sackville-West's son may have called Orlando “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature”, but let me tell you: if someone wrote me a love letter like this, their ass would be getting dumped shortly thereafter. This book was like the song that wouldn't end- it just goes on and on (yet it isn't particularly lengthy) without saying very much of interest. Despite the fact that reading it was a serious chore, for whatever reason I couldn't just give up and toss it aside (much like Vita Sackville-West's son may have called Orlando “the longest and most charming love-letter in literature”, but let me tell you: if someone wrote me a love letter like this, their ass would be getting dumped shortly thereafter. This book was like the song that wouldn't end- it just goes on and on (yet it isn't particularly lengthy) without saying very much of interest. Despite the fact that reading it was a serious chore, for whatever reason I couldn't just give up and toss it aside (much like being unable to look away from a flaming car wreck). I pushed through, even though I often couldn't bring myself to read more than a few pages at a time. It took me several weeks to finish. However odd the movie was (and in spite of the fact I have the distinct impression that Tilda Swinton wanted to eat my soul), I still enjoyed it more than the book (which is not a statement I make lightly- I almost never like a movie more than its source material). I think part of the problem was the fact that Orlando was a boring, whiny, immature character who took hundreds of years to grow up. Since the book is pretty much entirely about Orlando, if one is not a fan, the book is not exactly fun to read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Praveen

    My second Virginia Woolf book. This further improved my understanding of her work. I loved this one too ! AfterTo the Lighthouseand this one, I have decided to read Mrs. Dalloway in line to reach to a conclusion of my opinion about her books. Only after completing this third book of her, I'll write detailed reviews on her all three books !

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    You know how people say that some books are ahead of their time. I think Woolf's Orlando is a book which probably won't be understood for another decade or so. The sudden change of Orlando's sex and his several centuries old existence along with/her very easy acceptance of those things rings of magical realism. The fantastic bit that of Orlando's living through several centuries is used to develop the book into what looked like a poem on the spirit of Time. Through different ages, Orlando tastes You know how people say that some books are ahead of their time. I think Woolf's Orlando is a book which probably won't be understood for another decade or so. The sudden change of Orlando's sex and his several centuries old existence along with/her very easy acceptance of those things rings of magical realism. The fantastic bit that of Orlando's living through several centuries is used to develop the book into what looked like a poem on the spirit of Time. Through different ages, Orlando tastes the life and literary trends of each time, herself changing and maturing over tim, and all this is portrayed in Woolf's beautiful prose. This is also supposed to be a sort of tribute/love-letter to Woolf's friend, Vita, I don't know how. However what was hardest for me to digest (really hard) was that Orlando didn't notice the change of her sex for several days (really, really hard.) And (s)he only noticed it when (s)he started getting in touch with other people, and his/her further experiences to seem to validate the theory that gender behavior is induced by social expectations (rather than something inherent), a nurture thing rather than nature. I don't think such a theory existed at the time the novel was written. Even the best psychologists like Freud thought the gender differences are inherent in sex. Even now, we tend to use the words 'sex' and gender' interchangeably. Psychologists differentiate between two, sex is a biological characteristic determined by one's private parts while gender is a social construct includes all the attributes (stereotypes, roles, behavior etc) that society expects from people of each sex. Thus male and female are sexes, while masculinity and feminity are genders. Too technical, isn't it!.Woolf was pointing the difference between two and proposing that gender is a social construct (something society conditions us into though tools like clothes, language etc.), so loved by feminists, quarter a century before the term 'gender role' was coined. And she does it in subtle and, at times, hilarious manner. Still, I think it is too big an exaggeration to say Orlando won't notice the change for days. Any guy will smell a difference when he wakes up one day and .. lo, he has breasts ... I mean obviously ...

  24. 5 out of 5

    James

    Having read and not enjoyed or appreciated Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’ (1927) it was with expectation, due to it’s literary reputation, although some trepidation, due to my experience with ‘Lighthouse’, that I approached the markedly different ‘Orlando – A Biography’ (1928). The premise of the life of Orlando was always going to be a highly promising one – beginning as it does with Orlando as a boy at the time of Queen Elizabeth I and following his adventures across different lands, and Having read and not enjoyed or appreciated Virginia Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’ (1927) it was with expectation, due to it’s literary reputation, although some trepidation, due to my experience with ‘Lighthouse’, that I approached the markedly different ‘Orlando – A Biography’ (1928). The premise of the life of Orlando was always going to be a highly promising one – beginning as it does with Orlando as a boy at the time of Queen Elizabeth I and following his adventures across different lands, and life of over more than 300 years, during the course of which he awakens one day to find himself now having become a woman and ending in the year of publication 1928 – significantly the year of suffrage for women in the UK. This novel/quasi biography is also seen as Woolf’s long and beautiful love letter to Vita Sackville-West (photographs of whom, as Orlando are included). ‘Orlando’ raises, discusses and alludes to some highly important issues and especially considering the time of publication, has since quite rightly become an iconic feminist and transgender classic. Woolf is concerned here with gender politics, sexual stereotyping, gender identity, the institution of marriage, the subjugation of women, androgyny, sexual ambiguity, the restrictive and controlling nature of women’s clothing as well as the premise of primogeniture and much more. Woolf writes interestingly about life as very much a journey, the passing of time – the way that time passes in different ways, how each of us individually are different people at different times of our lives and live many lives in one – whilst also talking of having a ‘one true controlling self’. In some ways ‘Orlando’ could also perhaps be interpreted as in some sense a ghost story, a travel through time as well as time travelling perhaps? As with ‘Lighthouse’ though, ‘Orlando’ is a book that I wanted to and had hoped to like – but sadly that wasn’t quite the case. Despite its relatively short length, it still felt like a long novel, its stream of consciousness style of delivery (paragraphs often running for at least the length of a page). Whilst viewed by many as beautifully written bravura writing, for me that wasn’t so. Whilst it may seem sacrilege to those who appreciate ‘Orlando’ and the writing Woolf to say so – despite its brevity, ‘Orlando’ feels overlong and perhaps would have benefitted from some significant editing. I found ‘Orlando’ ultimately to be often wilfully obscure, self-indulgent and esoteric – its meaning sometimes shrouded in a mist of overt intellectualism and flights of fancy, rendering it often meaningless and impenetrable. ‘Orlando’ then is a book which is hugely important and influential (politically and culturally) in terms of its story and the issues it raises – ground breaking as it must have been in 1928. Sadly it now also feels very much a novel which is of its time and a product very much of the overt intellectualism of the Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. In summation – an important, ground breaking, worthy, thought provoking, sporadically compelling and influential novel, but paradoxically one which is self-indulgent, esoteric, often impenetrable and ultimately unsatisfying. There's much to like, but not enough.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Piyangie

    Orlando is a biography written about a fictitious character Orlando which was inspired by Virginia's real life friend and lover Vita Sackville-West. The story spans over 300 years where Orlando's life changes from man to woman, from century to century. Gender difference is the main focus of the story. Through Orlando's transformation from man to woman, Virginia subtly addresses gender difference or in her view "gender neutrality". Virginia believed in gender neutrality affirming that there is a Orlando is a biography written about a fictitious character Orlando which was inspired by Virginia's real life friend and lover Vita Sackville-West. The story spans over 300 years where Orlando's life changes from man to woman, from century to century. Gender difference is the main focus of the story. Through Orlando's transformation from man to woman, Virginia subtly addresses gender difference or in her view "gender neutrality". Virginia believed in gender neutrality affirming that there is a male and female side in every human being irrespective of the sex and varying in degree. When Orlando wakes up as a woman, she feels no difference or any awkwardness; but when she finally has to confront the society as a woman, Orlando understands there is a difference in self at least outwardly. Thus the author hints that the inward self of man and woman are more or less similar, and it is the society's rules of conduct that makes them different and categorizes them in to different genders. As a subplot Virginia dwells on the changes of literature and artists over the span of 300 years. Orlando could not publish his work in the early centuries but with social changes and the difference of style and forms of literature over the years makes once unpublished work finally see the publication light. Virginia is being satirical here, for she was a devotee of the great poets of the past and their strictly kept quality of writing. She points out how the quality is reduced and rules relaxed as the poets became the victims of publishing houses who wished to publish those that sell fast. She was quite sad over the plight of modern poets for she firmly believed that poetry should be "a voice answering a voice". Virginia has adopted a narrative style of writing for the most part of the story, but toward the end this style is slowly changed in to a conscious stream of writing. When I first attempted on Virginia Woolf, I shied away immediately as I couldn't get in to the rhythm of her conscious stream of writing. But in Orlando, since it was a gradual descent to conscious stream from the narrative style of writing, I was able to grasp and understand it better. And I was surprised to find that I like her conscious stream of writing. Overall, this was a fascinating read for me. Virginia truly surprises me with each book of hers.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    Let it be known that, despite seeming evidence to the contrary in the form of my reviews, I do indeed have a sense of humor. True, it is a small and desiccated thing, unusual in its feathering and tending towards the qualities of the morbid and the sadistic. However, it delights in incongruity to the extreme, and what makes it laugh will win its love forevermore. This book could have simply tickled my fancies to the bone and nothing else and would still have won me over in a complete state of ado Let it be known that, despite seeming evidence to the contrary in the form of my reviews, I do indeed have a sense of humor. True, it is a small and desiccated thing, unusual in its feathering and tending towards the qualities of the morbid and the sadistic. However, it delights in incongruity to the extreme, and what makes it laugh will win its love forevermore. This book could have simply tickled my fancies to the bone and nothing else and would still have won me over in a complete state of adoration. Instead, it made me cherish each moment of delicious hilarity ever the more by counterbalancing every one with insight of the deepest sincerity and resignation, to the point that if there had not been a humorous note to it all I would have been left as many of the more viciously truthful pieces of fiction have done: riotous, rumpled, and severely disturbed. That particular state is all very necessary to personal growth, but really, is it too much to ask to be able to laugh while painful pieces of existential clarity are being thrown at you pell-mell? I don't think so. What are these dreadful words of wisdom about, you ask? Gender, for one, that whole massive construct theorized by and for the dominant of the binary, one which we need not name but will simply point out that the majority of them would improve by sustained bouts in the shoes of the other side of the equation, preferably in a dress so as to take full advantage of that marvelous pursuit of 'cross-dressing'. The pettiness of power in the name of 'truth', the omnipresence and inclusive existence of many of said 'truths', the fickle tapestry of memory, the bendings and breakings that each and every time period wreaks on its inhabitants, the rapid interplay of opinion and perception and the brief and oh so few movements when the two coincide in empathetic harmony, the decriers of the current age whose ancestors bemoaned the invention of writing and whose descendants will frown on marvels that we modern denizens cannot even imagine. Most of all, majorly of all, that invention of writing and all that it truly entails. The chaos, the heartbreak, the absurdities, the ridiculous conceptions of meaning in every word and phrase, the overwhelming realities of making a living off of one's prose, the absolute demands that writing makes on the writer, the cutting up and laying out and stitching up of the soul in every slice and spot of ink, the exhilaration, the wonder, the joy. All of it, wrapped in some of the most gorgeous prose the world has ever known. For once the disease of reading has laid hold upon the system it weakens it so that it falls an easy prey to that other scourge which dwells in the ink pot and festers in the quill. The wretch takes to writing. Oh tragic day, that I ever took up a book and began to think. Oh rapturous pleasure, that I ever took up a pen and began to write. Oh unknown future, that I have yet to see unfold before my eyes and beyond my soul, if nothing else, let me laugh. Just a little.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    But what is the present moment?! What does it involve? More than we know, of course. It involves the self, we know. Is that all we know? Me here, writing on my couch, and you, you there. But there is more! Here in this room there is more! A table, its wood, the details, labored, toiled upon for many hours, furnished from carpenters in years past in the great state of Maryland, land of our Great Queen Mary!; a beer sitting on the table, on a book on the table, sweltering, a Mexican beer!; it sits But what is the present moment?! What does it involve? More than we know, of course. It involves the self, we know. Is that all we know? Me here, writing on my couch, and you, you there. But there is more! Here in this room there is more! A table, its wood, the details, labored, toiled upon for many hours, furnished from carpenters in years past in the great state of Maryland, land of our Great Queen Mary!; a beer sitting on the table, on a book on the table, sweltering, a Mexican beer!; it sits on Great Expectations, it (the beer) sweating onto Great Expectations, that novel from long ago, cherished in many hearts, comprising many things in its make-up, the trees for the wood, the wood for the paper!, the artwork on its cover, put fourth by a reliable but nervous young artist (it meant so much to him! and what a job he did!, it, his life's triumph, which to him was the world, was life made successful); the lives within that novel, the discernment, different for every reader, every line, every word a different experience, a different interpretation in each reader's mind; great expectations, we all have; the sun shining, the Corona, sweating, shining down upon the novel, and oh what the novel is comprised of!, no, no matter that I had to stop after its first five pages; no matter, no matter; in another life it breathed into me a new existence, a new life for which was already inside me; already governing me; one of many lives; many lives we all live, all in one moment, in less than a moment; what is a moment but a lifetime to some; what is in a moment but billions of moments all around the room (all around this room) all at once, all around the world, with the ants on the ground, scattering, they sing, they go about their business, and we think-- we think too much!; we think not enough!, and the molecules moving around on my fingernails; my fingernails! And here, here do I choose a comma, or a semicolon; or a question mark followed by an exclamation point?! What is in a moment? What is in a lifetime of moments? As the moments sing and the seasons change all the moments persist with their infinite moments within moments, that derive into other moments, into other moments, and we have to choose.... our choices! We take from this, and choose from that, and it affects the next choice and the next choice is affected by the choices before it, which affects the next range of choices and so on. And the times change, but they changed right now, so many times, just during this sentence they changed, everything changed, so many times!-- it is the '80s, gone past, it is the 1950s, here forever, it is 17th century Russia, and Christ, Christ is on the Cross!-- and I sit not on my couch, but at a desk; it is first grade, Mrs. Navy Hat's Class; I was so bad!-- so obnoxious I was!, running and throwing things, and not reading, and not knowing. Not ever knowing. The moments, they pass. They pass us all; and still we must choose....

  28. 4 out of 5

    MihaElla

    Maybe not the very first but still my very first seriously engaged meeting with Woolf V. is undoubtedly successful. I picked Orlando after dropping - temporarily and until I get a more senseful sense of her works - its Essays. I was charmed by the language and its expressions but, in parallel, I was aware that nothing of the content sticks with me, because whatever she was saying as for arguments, debating facts, extensive monologues, was really foreign language to me, although I was reading it Maybe not the very first but still my very first seriously engaged meeting with Woolf V. is undoubtedly successful. I picked Orlando after dropping - temporarily and until I get a more senseful sense of her works - its Essays. I was charmed by the language and its expressions but, in parallel, I was aware that nothing of the content sticks with me, because whatever she was saying as for arguments, debating facts, extensive monologues, was really foreign language to me, although I was reading it in Romanian translation. So, Orlando came by sequence, considering that other two of her works for which I own a paper copy, The Waves and To the Lighthouse, should be held for a later moment, more precisely when on my new summer vacation, which is actually due as for today onwards...not yet there, at destination, but it shall be completed during the present day. Orlando was a really joyful read. I wasn't familiar with the author, actually I wasn't having a sort of framework of expecting something, therefore I was having no scenarios of what could be about. I read, as usual, the back cover of the paper copy but the text was rendering some ideas that didn't ring any connection with something that I might have known about. For all the sparkles that came alongside the pages' turning, it made me clearly remember the joy of reading as if savouring with high gusto a most wanted food. It was like feeling that I do agree with whatever you write about, you really awesome writer. Whatever you write, say, feel, think, is enough by itself and surely something to be kept as a cherished gem. It didn't even count fiction/ non-fiction, theme/subject-wise, participants/non-participants, etc. Reading as such filled a piece of a little void somewhere inside my mind's chambers. Initially I wanted to write about my fuller impressions on Orlando immediately that I finished it. But late last evening my attention was more firmly caught by some information broadcasting on TV about an ongoing event in Bucharest. During the day and continuing until after mid night it was held a Diaspora meeting. Voices were spoken before that this event will not be peaceful and within law. It was not. But this is not what disturbed me. Around 23:00, when the gathering was already infused by street convulsions and some small groups of hooligans tried to attack and trigger into confrontation the police force, I saw plainly and straightfoward how this one group of hooligans managed to detach two gendarmes from their comrades, surrounded them and beat them like hell. One of them is a very young, 20 years, lady-gendarme. She was taken off her head protection and put on the ground and a mass of 20-30 hooligans was over her, almost killing her. She is now in the hospital fighting for her life, might remain paralyzed because of broken back bones. The words cannot render the horror of it. It chased me during the few hours I slept, I woke up with the same feeling. If it were a group of animals attacking other animals for food, might have been explained as life survival. But this was not the case. It were so called humans living in a so called civilized century, pretending to be so called civilized humans. Maybe as Orlando felt, nothing much changed during 300-400 years of existence. Will it ever change something? As it looks, chances are small, almost hard to grasp.

  29. 4 out of 5

    BrokenTune

    "Are we so made that we have to take death in small doses daily or we could not go on with the business of living? And then what strange powers are these that penetrate our most secret ways and change our most treasured possessions without our willing it ? Had Orlando, worn out by the extremity of his suffering, died for a week, and then come to life again? And if so, of what nature is death and of what nature life? Having waited well over half an hour for an answer to these questions, and none "Are we so made that we have to take death in small doses daily or we could not go on with the business of living? And then what strange powers are these that penetrate our most secret ways and change our most treasured possessions without our willing it ? Had Orlando, worn out by the extremity of his suffering, died for a week, and then come to life again? And if so, of what nature is death and of what nature life? Having waited well over half an hour for an answer to these questions, and none coming, let us get on with the story." What a ride! Virginia Woolf and I don't often get on. At all. I usually despair over her stream-of-consciousness style of writing and her characters. So, I approached Orlando with some trepidation. And what happens? Woolf pulls this masterpiece of a romp out of the hat which shows not only that she was a very clever writer but that she also had a delicious sense of humor. Of course, it may be that that side of hers does only show in Orlando because it is a mock biography of and a tribute to Vita Sackville-West. One review I read even described the book as one of the most marvelous of love letters ever written - though both Virginia and Vita might have disagreed. According to Nigel Nicolson, both Vita and Virginia denied rumors spread by Vita's mother that their liaison was a serious one: "She told me that everything was true except the part about Virginia endangering their marriage, but none of it mattered a hoot because the love they bore each other was so powerful that it could withstand anything. ‘My diary entry for Sunday, 28 May, three weeks later, reads: Virginia and Leonard came to lunch . Virginia looking well and happy after her Italian trip. She listened to the whole story of my visit to Brighton with her head bowed. Then she said: “The old woman ought to be shot”." (Nigel Nicolson - Portrait Of A Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson) Apart from the biographical aspect of Orlando being the fictionalised account of Vita's life, the book also amazes in that it dares to address the issues of identity and gender-bending or rather gender-switching - making it one of the most outspoken works of literature of its time to criticise a society that would condemn people to distinct roles based on their gender. "And she fell to thinking what an odd pass we have come to when all a woman’s beauty has to be kept covered lest a sailor may fall from a mast-head. ‘A pox on them!’ she said, realizing for the first time what, in other circumstances, she would have been taught as a child, that is to say, the sacred responsibilities of womanhood." Of course there are many other topics that Woolf takes up in Orlando, such as the nature of time, the vanity of poets, the nostalgia for things in the past which blinds us from an appreciation of the present, etc. but I have to admit that most of my admiration for Orlando is based on how Woolf reflects some of Vita's convictions in her fictionalised account and how to the point Orlando seems as a character who is at home in his/her identity. Having read Nigel Nicolson's biography of Vita, his mother, at the same time asOrlando, it was delightful to see the links between the two accounts of someone who possessed a rather unconventional outlook for her time: "I hold the conviction that as centuries go on, and the sexes become more nearly merged on account of their increasing resemblances, I hold the conviction that such connections will to a very large extent cease to be regarded as merely unnatural, and will be understood far better, at least in their intellectual if not in their physical aspect. (Such is already the case in Russia.) I believe that then the psychology of people like myself will be a matter of interest, and I believe it will be recognized that many more people of my type do exist than under the present-day system of hypocrisy is commonly admitted." (Nigel Nicolson - Portrait Of A Marriage: Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson)

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lynne King

    UPDATE - The origins of “Orlando” can be seen in the entry in Virginia Woolf’s diary of Tuesday, 20 September 1927: “One of these days, though, I shall sketch here, like a grand historical picture, the outlines of all my friends. I was thinking of this in bed last night, & for some reason I thought I would begin with a sketch of Gerald Brenan. There may be something in this idea. It might be a way of writing the memoirs of one’s own times during people’s lifetimes. It might be a most amusing UPDATE - The origins of “Orlando” can be seen in the entry in Virginia Woolf’s diary of Tuesday, 20 September 1927: “One of these days, though, I shall sketch here, like a grand historical picture, the outlines of all my friends. I was thinking of this in bed last night, & for some reason I thought I would begin with a sketch of Gerald Brenan. There may be something in this idea. It might be a way of writing the memoirs of one’s own times during people’s lifetimes. It might be a most amusing book. The question is how to do it. Vita should be Orlando, a young nobleman. There should be Lytton & it should be truthful; but fantastic. Roger. Duncan. Clive. Adrian. Their lives should be related.” And, in her entry on Tuesday, 20 December 1927: “I am still writing the 3rd Chap. of Orlando. I have had of course to give up the fancy of finishing by February & printing this spring. It is drawing out longer than I meant. I have just been thinking over the scene when O. meets a girl (Nella) in the Park & goes with her to a near room in Gerrard Street. There she will disclose herself. They will talk. This will lead to a diversion or two about women’s love. This will bring in O.’s night life; & her clients (that’s the word)…..So I shall get some effect of years passing; & the clouds of the 19th Century rising. Then on to the 19th. But I have not considered this. I want to write it all over hastily, & so keep unity of tone important. It has to be half laughing, half serious: with great splashes of exaggeration.” So I tried again to read this book. I think the problem for me is the writing style. It doesn’t sustain my interest even though the story in itself is rather unusual. Imagine Orlando, a nobleman born in the time of Elizabeth I (a distant cousin, who incidentally loves him), and who bestows property on Orlando’s father that had once belonged to a king. But the idea of a queen with “yellow eyes” really didn’t appeal to me. I wonder what VW meant by that? Orlando has various relationships, preferring girls such as the innkeeper’s daughter and a gamekeeper’s niece, as they were far more interesting than the girls at court. He could do so much more with them! Then he meets a Russian girl and it all happens, well for him anyway. “Princess Marousha Stanilovska Dagmar Natasha Iliana Romanovitch (known as Sasha), and she had come in the train of the Muscovite Ambassator.” Orlando was overcome by emotion when faced with her and did she lead him a merry dance. But then that is the fun of being young. He persuades her to run away with him but Sasha by this time is enjoying other “favours” and Orlando’s last memory of her is seeing the ship with members of the Muscovite Embassy setting out to sea. Then Orlando goes to Constantinople and falls into a coma for a week. Everything was tried to awaken him: noise, various applications of mustard plaster to his feet, etc. but all to no avail and then he happens to wake up as a woman. Well, it all gets terribly complicated and somewhat frantic after this and regrettably I began to skim read and we finally end up in the twentieth century in London. I have to say, however, that the descriptions generally are excellent, and I loved the sections on London but on the whole I found the book disappointing. Give me her Diaries and Letters to read any day. What is remarkable is that she lived in a time that by having the Hogarth Press and with the help of her husband Leonard, she could self-publish. But the internet was not around then and I wonder if she had lived today, would VW still have her amazing popularity? Food for thought. * * * * * * * * * * I have known about Virginia Woolf for many years and I have all of her novels but I confess I've only read one. I first came across her through Lytton Strachey, a member of the Bloomsbury Group, about twenty or so years ago. Every now and then I go through a literary stage and the Bloomsbury Group introduced me to all of its illustrious members. I believe that I have all of their biographies, the most unlikely being Lydia Lopokova, the Russian ballerina. I had studied the art of Vanessa Bell and her "partner" Duncan Grant and I love this but apart from reading the fascinating diaries and letters of Virginia Woolf, I found her literary style in her novels to be most uninspiring and I'm sure that many VW purists would hate me for that. They just appeared to lack any form of substance. Well Goodreads would appear to be going through a VW revival and I began to reread "Orlando" this evening, her most popular book and the one that she dedicated to Vita Sackville-West, her very dear friend. "Orlando" was first mentioned in Virginia's diary in 1927 and she knew then that it was going to be based on Vita. There are various interpretations on their relationship. Vita was very promiscuous and she trod very carefully with Virginia as she knew the "fragility" of her mind. What happened at Long Barn is open to conjecture... So I'm going to reread this work. Will I love it or hate it? I don't know but it is purely to satisfy my own literary aspirations...

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