by Virginia Woolf
Started: 13th March 2015
Finished: 16th March 2015
I have wanted to read Orlando for a while now, so I was happy to see it on my new Modernism reading list! I’ve heard lots of great things about the story and Woolf’s writing which made me really excited about getting a chance to read it.
Orlando starts with a young man, Orlando, who is in love with a beautiful Russian woman. After getting his heart broken he leaves England. It’s during this time where, after an incident, Orlando wakes to him he has turned into a woman. The whole novella spans around 300 years.
Although the novella spans around 300 years there aren’t a lot of characters in it, which I really liked. I also really liked the character of Orlando. They had a very distinct personality that shines through when Orlando is a man and when Orlando is a woman. Other than Orlando there was no other character that really stood out to me, but that may also be because they are the protagonist with a very interesting story and intriguing characteristics.
The idea of the protagonist changing sex halfway through the story interested me. It also wasn’t handled in the way I expected. Before starting the novella, I thought it would be approached in quite a serious way however it soon became clear this may not be the case. Orlando’s reaction to this change was exaggerated and funnier than what I originally thought it would be. There is a scene when Orlando is a woman and readjusting their clothes, whilst doing this they accidentally flash their ankle causing a man to nearly fall and die. It’s so exaggerated that it’s funny and made to seem ridiculous, making a indirect comment about Victorian society. Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the fact that no one seemed to comment on the change, they just accepted it. There also weren’t (from what I can remember) any comments about Orlando’s age either. However, if they did I feel the reader would have been too distracted by that to focus on the bigger picture.
I enjoyed reading this and seeing the way Orlando explored being a woman and the way they adapted to this change. I also loved seeing the thought processes Orlando goes through and it really highlights the idea about performing a gender. After reading Orlando, I’m really excited to read more of Virginia Woolf’s work on other modules. Her writing is really engaging and ideas were well executed. I’m somewhat conflicted on whether I wanted more of an explanation from this book and more of a plot – as not a great deal seemed to happen, making it feel more like a biography. Despite this, this is definitely a book I would recommend.