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on 10 May 2004
Between The Acts was completed just weeks before Woolf's suicide, and it shows. The novel is dark and brooding - throughout there is a dark undercurrent that the villagers refuse to acknowledge - the upcoming war. While perhaps not reaching the same heights as The Waves or To The Lighthouse, it remains a breathtaking work. Out of all her novels that I have read, it is the one in which her radical ideas are set out most firmly. She deals with madness, homosexuality, the class system and of course (as always) the transience and futility of life. In particular, the last monologue of Miss La Trobe is pointed and cutting - a final message from Woolf to the world where she in essence cuts through the illusion and points out the dark, sick heart of "civilisation". Irreverant to the past, plunging headfirst into the future, it is certainly not just for Woolf fanatics. I would certainly rate it amongst her best.
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Reading Between the Acts is a little like walking through an art gallery and seeing a succession of beautiful paintings, each of which catches a fleeting moment from life. Woolf was superb at creating a tapestry of 'impressions', moments caught in amber, all separate and yet all, when skillfully stitched together, forming part of one magnificent whole.

The novel catches the thoughts, memories, loves and fears of a group of people over one day in the summer of 1939. War looms, it's in the air, rumbling like an approaching storm, but while the sunshine remains the characters in Woolf's novel focus their attentions on more personal matters - they gossip, they moan, they present one emotion on the surface while feeling quite another deep down; they flirt while simultaneously being too afraid, or two restricted by the conventions of society, to admit their love. Summer blooms, butterflies rest in sunlight, flowers in vases catch the light.

There is a deep love of nature in this novel and, I would argue, a deep love of England. While Miss La Trobe hurries her actors and actresses into presenting their play - a series of scenes from various eras in English history - for the annual village pageant the movement of sunshine across hills and through the leaves of trees, along with the sights and sounds of nature, all merge together to form an exquisite rural backdrop to the lives of the village inhabitants. It is the descriptions, and the fashion in which Woolf catches the fleeting impressions of her characters as they watch the play, that bring the novel to life. Also some of the 'human' moments are beautifully handled: Mrs Swithin showing a visitor the nursery in Pointz Hall where she herself, many decades ago, used to play as a child is deeply moving because it catches beautifully the evanescence of life, the swift inexorable passage of the hours.

The fact the novel isn't quite as experimental as The Waves or To the Lighthouse counts in its favour. The relative lack of experimentation means the novel is perhaps more gentle as a result, more human somehow. This was Woolf's last novel, which adds a certain poignancy to the reflections she voices through her characters, but as a hymn to a way of life that was about to be torn apart, and as a meditation upon one last perfect summer, it is utterly beautiful.
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on 3 December 2001
'Between the Acts' is Woolf's last book, said to be, in her own words, 'the most quintessential' of her works. Published posthumously, its characters show many of the classic traits in her previous novels. In many ways, Lucy can be likened to Mrs Ramsay from 'To the Lighthouse' and William Dodge has the untapped intellect and shy arrogance of Mr Tansley. Somehow we see a very different Woolf, one contemplating mortality and the gift of life with nature and the violence of war. Its characters show no signs of realisation of the war which is about to tear them apart and the pageant or play within the novel, rolls on under the guidance of the frustrated artist, Miss La Trobe.
A mysterious and introspective book, perhaps also a little depressing as the reader can, with hindsight, see how prophetic Woolf was being about herself.
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on 6 April 2009
This is beautifully written about the English way of life, its history, its class systems, about the nonsense we all talk about all the time. It writes about nature and spaces and places, at the end the reader feels part of the village and its all reflected back! Well worth reading.
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on 19 June 2014
Woolf's writing style may not be everyone's cup of tea but if you can get her writers voice inside your head you will be transported to the imaginary world she creates. It's not a detective novel. It reflects rather than leads. Wonderful. The ending is profound.
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on 10 February 2014
This is a complex story which reflex the life of a well to do family over one day in 1939 It captures their inner thoughts, reminiscences and hopes with the backdrop of imminent war which is scarcely mentioned.The novel moves between the extended family and the local villagers, lead by Miss La Trobe, who are putting on a pageant. There is a deep love of nature in the novel and a poignancy when one is aware that this was Woolf's last novel. A complex novel but one worth reading.
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on 13 October 2013
I've always been an admirer of Virginia Woolf's talent for composing beautiful sentences. Her word selection is so accurate and pleasing and her modern approach refreshingly uninhibited by convention: the natural cadences of speech, ellipses, interuptions... the jumbling of thoughts with memory and the now, haunted by the spectre of others... the sometimes jolting lyricism... It's a heady mix.

'Between The Acts', I'm happy to say, does display much of these trademark skills, containing a handful of wonderfully astute vignettes showcasing Woolf's unique way with words. Funnily enough though, in my opinion, the intensity, grip and lyricism is rather muted in this, her last novel. In fact, it reads to me more like an early work, one hinting at latent greatness, a talent not quite honed or fully-formed. It reads parred down, less sure. This perhaps was a conscious decision of Woolf's, possibly warranted. For me, the prose of "Mrs Dalloway" is somewhat overwrought and convoluted for my taste - "To The Lighthouse" finding the happy balance. (But that's just me - I appreciate 'Mrs Dalloway' is very highly regarded.)

However, my key criticism of 'Between The Acts' is not so much the prose as the story. Woolf's stories, admittedly, make limited appeal to me even at their best - often stuck in the upper classes, lacking drama, and rather overly diffused with minor characters. So it's no surprise in this novel to be greeted by an assembly of well off types condescending to host a play in the grounds of their house, for the benefit of the village church. Welcoming a further cast of minor indiscriminate players of varying class status. Merely cyphers.

As the play begins to intrude on the beginnings of a genteel family drama of manners it becomes clear that the play itself is actually going to take centre stage in the novel and that the nascent drawing room tussle will form only a backdrop, to be glimpsed 'between the acts'. Well, in my opinion, both threads are significantly diluted by the meagre share rationed them. Surprisingly, I found they interlaced poorly, jarringly, in fact. And the hotch-potch of thinly drawn characters? Dissatisfyingly disconnected and unsympathetic. Smug, pointless, dim even.

A strange finale of a novel. Hauntingly disjointed and broken up. The characters faint and fading. The point disappearing meekly into the night, if there was indeed a point.

"The great square of the open window showed only sky now. It was drained of light, severe, stone cold. Shadows fell."

You can feel the chill.
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on 17 October 2014
Good quality, really good book.
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on 20 July 2015
Nice Product & Good Service
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on 7 October 2015
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