Monday 7 March 2016

Review! (Classics Edition!) - Orlando by Virginia Woolf

Orlando book coverTitle: Orlando

Author: Virginia Woolf

Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction, LGBT*Q+

Amazon: UK - USA

A few starting notes:

This had been on my TBR list for so long that I honestly can't remember when or why I put it there.
I borrowed this from the ebook facilities that are offered by Welsh Libraries. You guys should see if your libraries have something similar - it saves me a lot of money on books from my TBR.


Orlando, our eponymous hero/heroine (yes, I do mean both,) lives his/her life through several centuries, spanning the time between the late Elizabethan age and the 'present' (which in the case of this novel is 1928.)

It's generally thought to be a novel-length love-letter to Virginia Woolf's female lover, Vita Sackville-West.

Best bits:

There's a lot of both discussion, and subtext, of gender roles and sexuality in this book - not least because Orlando transforms (fairly randomly) into a woman, about half-way through (this isn't a spoiler - it's a well-known feature of this book.)

It really is a surprisingly modern and bold book for something that was written in 1928 - and says a lot about the interaction between the sexes, as Orlando finds that her new gender is subject to different social restrictions than her old gender.

I love the way that Orlando suffers from the 'affliction' of literature - and the discussion of poets, writers, and writing, that this provokes at various points.

But then, I love it when books talk about books - reading, writing, whatever. It appeals to my inherent bookishness.

And the writing itself draws you on - this was one of those books where 'just one more page' became a meaningless mantra, because one page, more often than not, turns into ten, or twelve...

Not so great bits:

The seemingly rule-less, accepted-on-face-value, nature of the surreal aspects just won't appeal to everyone - but I liked it.

I do like the surreal aspects of this novel - Orlando's transformation, and the way s/he barely ages over the centuries (this extends (though to a lesser degree) to the people around her,) - but this is likely to put some people off.

There's also a dab of casual racism - acceptable in 1928, uncomfortable at best in 2016. It's not a huge amount - but it's there.

Occasionally Woolf just tries too damn hard, and ends up coming off as pretentious. This is rare, but annoying when it happens.


Basically, and for all it's weirdness, I loved this book. Hugely readable, and ginormously (it's a word now, shh!) thought-provoking.

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  1. I have been meaning to try one of Woolf's novels, so I was so happy to see that you had reviewed this one! I can't wait to try it myself. I'm interested to see how the discussions of those themes go and what they mean in the novel. Great review x

    1. well thank you :) and yeah, it was really interesting - I couldn't get over the fact that it was written in 1928!


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