Liked It2 of 2 members found this review helpful
“I am in love with Virginia Woolf. Orlando is absolutely fabulous; it's a witty literary joke that you can't help but sink into.”see full review » see other reviews »
Didn’t Like It1 of 1 members found this review helpful
“I do not wish to be unkind; mean no disrespect, but I did not care for it. Perhaps I was not in the right frame of mind to take it on. And, I did not follow how so much time elapsed. Just bizarre.”see full review » see other reviews »
“Virginia Woolf is brilliant in this book. She uses subtlety and wit to bypass any question of obscenity, not to mention the employment of French to disguise all the naughty bits. This book is so stunning in its imagery, so fantastic in it's poetry, that you will consider Orlando the most tragic of beauties to ever live by the end (if you start off liking Virginia Woolf, of course).”elizabeth wrote this review 3 weeks ago. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Orlando is subtitled "a biography" and for the most part that's how it's written. As if Woolf was writing the biography of this member of the English nobility--who is 36 years old after over 300 years--and who switches genders from a man to a woman about half way through. So this is part historical fiction and part fantasy. Although more magical realism. The book doesn't like ordinary fantasy flow along ordinary lines in a world where magic is real. Rather it's fantastical in ways it can be hard to wrap around if you insist on a straightforward reality.
I was shocked by how much I loved this book until (almost) the very end. I loved Woolf's essay, "A Room of One's Own" when I first encountered it in my early teens. It's a classic defense of women's abilities, and I revisited it recently after reading Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae, which reads almost like a refutation of it--I found myself sucked in and rereading almost the entire essay--it's not just a classic feminist work, it's a classic work about literature. Orlando hits a lot of its themes, and so brilliantly I thought this would be a book I'd return to again and I'd definitely give the highest possible rating--until anyway I hit the last half of the last part.
To understand my reservations, you'd have to understand my reaction to another work I was introduced to in my teens--Woolf's most famous novel, Mrs Dalloway. Reader, I detested it. It became my bete noire as I was assigned it again and again in high school and college, taking to Monarch and Cliff Notes to survive without having to actually complete the book. I have little tolerance for the stream-of-consciousness technique which dominates that novel. I hate James Joyce, William Faulkner and (almost) all their works. I've read that the technique can be valuable in rendering a chaotic mind, and in touches I can see it as effective, but for me pages of it marred Toni Morrison's Beloved, and a novel-full of it is more than I can stand. Mrs Dalloway I found tedious and incoherent. But not only did I want to love the author of "A Room of One's Own," a friend of mine who didn't care for Mrs Dalloway adored Orlando. Orlando for most of its length is free of a stream of consciousness narrative--until, I think not uncoincidentally, we reach the time around Woolf's birth and the beginning of the modern era, and suddenly I have Mrs Dalloway again.
Not that there is as large a break in styles as you might think from my comments. Woolf's style is easy to recognize. A single paragraph can take pages, and a single sentence, kept aloft by endless semi-colons... Well, let me give you an example:
Nature, who has played so many queer tricks upon us, making us so unequally of clay and diamonds, of rainbow and granite, and stuffed them into a case, often of the most incongruous, for the poet has a butcher’s face and the butcher a poet’s; nature, who delights in muddle and mystery, so that even now (the first of November, 1927) we know not why we go upstairs, or why we come down again, our most daily movements are like the passage of a ship on an unknown sea, and the sailors at the mast-head ask, pointing their glasses to the horizon: Is there land or is there none? to which, if we are prophets, we make answer “Yes”; if we are truthful we say “No”; nature, who has so much to answer for besides the perhaps unwieldy length of this sentence, has further complicated her task and added to our confusion by providing not only a perfect ragbag of odds and ends within us—a piece of a policeman’s trousers lying cheek by jowl with Queen Alexandra’s wedding veil—but has contrived that the whole assortment shall be lightly stitched together by a single thread.
Yes, that's one sentence. But it's wise and gorgeous--and it's something else--something that can be said about almost the entire book: it's hilarious. Notice her comment about her own sentence being unwieldy? Did I completely miss the sense of humor in Mrs Dalloway or was it just missing there? I did notice from time to time beautiful language and imagery even in that novel, and it's certainly present here. This is technically a dense read--little white space and very interior. There was not much dialogue and as I noted sentences and paragraphs that seemingly go on forever. And yet, yes, I did find this a page-turner, in the sense I was riveted and found it impossible to not speed through it even as I wanted to slow down and savor so much of the prose. It's the kind of book I can imagine returning to. So yes, even though my eyes rather glazed over because of the style of the last pages, I decided this is nothing short of amazing and for me worthy of five stars.”
“Virginia Woolf’s fantastical “biography” about a person of curious beginnings and magical endings, the story is part “Alice in Wonderland”, part “Tristram Shandy” and part “Forrest Gump”. This is the tale of a soul that begins life as a young boy in Elizabeth I’s court, who exists until 1928, eventually dying as a 36 year old woman. It is an adult fairy tale that explores the treatment and the fates of sexual gender over a span of approximately 300 years. Woolf’s curious, always entertaining Orlando, is the definition of androgyny. Orlando is a soul that moves through time unexplained yet eternally viable regardless of exterior appearance. Woolf’s writing is enchanting, her modernist style a piece of art filled with the mysteries of both natural and spiritual realms. We encounter royals, musicians, poets and artists as they come in and out of Orlando’s life. This wondrous tale, inspired by one of her most intimate friends Vita Sackville-West, is an exploration of the non-existence of time and it outwardly refuses to limit Orlando to the constraints of a conformed mind, attempting rather to expand the perimeters of a reader’s imagination. ”Vikki M wrote this review Wednesday, May 8, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I loved the book and the movie was actually rather good at capturing the spirit of the book. Plus it was beautifully shot.”KP wrote this review Wednesday, February 27, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I would have loved this book in uni...a funny enough romp...perhaps I am too content now??”Janelle Brin wrote this review Sunday, February 17, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I picked up this book for a couple of euros at a second-hand bookseller's and rather enjoyed it. The plot is ridiculous, and in fact the book is full of humour if you're in the mood to sense it. Orlando lives (without ageing beyond about 35) for over 400 years, and is still very much alive at the end. S/he starts life as a man (although "the fashion of the time did something to disguise it", 1st sentence), falls into a trance about a third of the way through the book and awakes as a woman, who later has a child as she is daydreaming by a window. The theme of the book, dedicated to a bisexual friend, is the nature of and the relations between the sexes, but "let other pens treat of sex and sexuality; we quit such odious subjects as soon as we can." It's all parody, self-mockery, and good fun. For example, where nothing happens in the plot for a year, for example, the 'biographer' simply lists the twelve months, apologizing to the reader who might regret "whatever sum the Hogarth Press may think proper to charge for this book". I didn't regret my two euros.”Lachlan wrote this review Saturday, January 26, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is an extremely detailed account of Orlando’s life from 1588 till 1928. During this span of time he managed to live life first as a rich young man beloved of the Queen and with as many accompanying adventures as want of a young man. Then 1 day in Turkey having fallen asleep for 7 long days woke up as a young woman. It is about living 500 years of constriction with society enforcement on class and gender issues. A most fascinating rambling read on the thoughts of the writer during the early 1900s about death and the daily going on.”tan c wrote this review Monday, December 17, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“only know i didn't realise i'd read it before till I went to add it to my list!! Thought I'd enjoyed it more the first time too!”sue c wrote this review Wednesday, December 12, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“This is a wild read. Virginia Wolf takes her character from the Victorian age to modern time. Her character begins as a man and is a woman at the end.”Sharon Porter Moxley wrote this review Wednesday, August 29, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No