Customer Reviews


41 Reviews
5 star:
 (18)
4 star:
 (12)
3 star:
 (7)
2 star:
 (2)
1 star:
 (2)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The very fabric of life was magic."
In her most playful and exuberant novel, Virginia Woolf writes the "historical biography" of Orlando, a young boy of nobility during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. A wild ride through four centuries, the novel shows Orlando aging, magically, only thirty-six years between 1588 and 1928. Even more magically, he also changes from a man to a woman. As she explores...
Published on 12 Mar 2006 by Mary Whipple

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical then dull.
I don't know much about VW but I imagine she was probably quite good company. The type of person you don't mind bumping into but wouldn't make a special effort to meet. This story, although sprawling in places is punctuated by some beautiful phrasing and the occasional funny, witty line. But for me it just never got going...

The first third of the book is...
Published on 1 Aug 2008 by Mr. P. Rigby


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "The very fabric of life was magic.", 12 Mar 2006
By 
Mary Whipple (New England) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
In her most playful and exuberant novel, Virginia Woolf writes the "historical biography" of Orlando, a young boy of nobility during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. A wild ride through four centuries, the novel shows Orlando aging, magically, only thirty-six years between 1588 and 1928. Even more magically, he also changes from a man to a woman. As she explores Orlando's life, Woolf also explores the differing roles of men and women in society during various periods, ultimately concluding that one's role as a man or woman is determined by society, rather than by birth.
From the Elizabethan period, during which Orlando works as a steward for the queen and also serves as her lover, he progresses to the reign of James I, experiencing a profound love for a Russian princess, Sasha, who is herself exploring the role of a man. When Sasha departs for Russia without him, he retreats, devastated, to his estate, with its 365 rooms and 52 staircases, which he redecorates over the next few years. An interlude in which he is wooed by the Archduchess Harriet, who is also the Archduke Harry, leads to his ambassadorship to Constantinople, a period spent with the gypsies, and his eventual return to England--as a woman. New experiences and observations await her.
Throughout the novel, Woolf matches her prose style to the literary style of the period in which Orlando lives, creating always-changing moods and sheer delight for the reader. Some constants continue throughout the four centuries of Orlando's life. Orlando is always a writer, always recording his thoughts, and always adding to a poem he has begun as a child entitled "The Oak Tree." He is always returning to his 365-room house whenever he needs to recuperate from his experiences, and some characters repeat through time. (Orlando is betrayed by Nick Greene during the reign of James I, but he is encouraged by Nicholas Greene in the Victorian period.)
Literary historians make much of the fact that Woolf modeled Orlando on Vita Sackville-West, Woolf's lover, and that this study of gender roles was an early exploration of lesbianism, cross-dressing, and transgender identities. The novel is pure fun to read, however, and though it raises serious and thoughtful questions about sexuality and the ways that it controls our lives, there is no sense that Woolf wrote the novel specifically to make a public statement or prove a point. Her themes of gender and its relation to social expectations, of creativity and its relation to reality, of the importance of history in our lives, and of the unlimited potential of all humans, regardless of their sex, transcend the specific circumstances under which Woolf may have written the book. This is one of the most playful and delightful novels of the twentieth century. n Mary Whipple
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


60 of 64 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Woolf gets weird and wonderful...again!, 4 July 2001
Written as a gift to her close friend, Vita Sackville-West, this is a firm favourite amongst initiated Woolf fans. For those who know little about Woolf, it is also a good starting point. Whilst "Orlando" carries much of Woolf's trademark stream of conciousness style and dry feminist wit, it never seems over indulgent or inaccessible. The mock biographical format makes for an interesting and more structured read, but it is worth noting that there is little or no explanation for some of the more fantastic events. For instance (and if you don't want to know the spoilers, turn away now!) it is never made clear why Orlando lives for so long, nor are we enlightened as to the cause of his unexpected change in gender. Unbelievable though the plot is at times, it is quite good fun, and the freedom allowed to Woolf by the weird and wonderful nature of the protagonist is well tempered by the more sober and considered style. The prose is wonderful, as you would expect with Woolf, flowing easily and, at times, lyrically. As we follow the twists and turns of our hero's life, so we are compelled on not just by the absorbing plot, but also by the excellent narrative style. Woolf balances the factual, dry voice of a biographer with the omniscience of a third person viewpoint. This allows her to make many interesting points about historical figures and gender roles alike. Not just a novel about life and a lover, or a thinly concealed feminist tirade, Orlando is full of dry comments to raise a smile and is worth a read if only for the diversity of imagery and characters. It stands as one of the most enjoyable Woolf novels for old fans and new alike.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A writer's holiday, 6 Dec 2002
A writer's holiday is what Virginia Woolf called this novel. It was more fun and less compulsive writing for her than her previous and later novels. Orlando is a fantastical novel which begins somewhere in 1500 and ends in 1928. The main character is Orlando who lives for this long period of time and also morphs from man into women. Woolf wrote this novel for her friend (lover) Vita Sackville-West and is one of the best love letters ever. it's written as a biography and the author often directs herself at the readers. There are also a lot of gender issues which are touched upon in the book and it's great to read the subtility with which she handels these things.
Although Orlando is one big fantasy I think it's the most accesible novel Woolf has written. It still has her distinct style. But the changes of scenery and times are very entertaining. It's such a nice idea to have a couple of centuries encapsulated in one book.
A must read (even if you think Woolf is to difficult.or boring!..she isn't!!)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars clever and thought provoking, 27 Sep 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Orlando: A Biography (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
This novel is a wonderful, clever piece of writing by virginia woolf. The titular characters' life spans a number of centuries, transforming from male into female at one point and so able to see the world from a different gender perspective. Its both a charming and disarming way of reflecting on how men and women behave towards each other. Orlando as a female realises it is for her 'to refuse and then to yield' in the romantic encounters - as opposed to the male 'pursue and conquer' approach that Orlando had known as a male. Its a unique take on a well known situation and all wrapped up in such a lyrical way with words, descriptions and stream of consciousness that it is like someone reading you a fable on a cold winters day in the comfort of a wood panelled room complete with a blazing fire crackling in a fireplace.
Among the many insightful passages in this story, one that lingers describes the problematic nature of being witty in a social gathering. Reflecting on the many parties Orlando goes to (through the centuries) she realises there is only an illusion of witty conversation from the urbane erudite people who are members of this social scene, an illusion which keeps the notion of having fun well oiled until the evening when someone really is profoundly witty - and this tremendous moment provokes only silence and the break up of the whole social scene! I think about this often now when I watch QI - its great to watch on TV at a distance - but would that amount of wit bouncing around your home at a party actually be the end of any fun - I have a hunch that virginia woolf is right and that it would.
This is the first Woolf book I have read and its a great introduction; looking forward now to reading her other works.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A funny fictional biography, 23 Jun 2008
I had to study this book in the first year of my degree. I am very glad of this, as I might not have encountered this amusing and original work of Woolf's otherwise. The tone of 'Orlando' is quite different to that of her other well-known novels such as 'To The Lighthouse' and 'Mrs Dalloway' - I would say that it is more 'accessible'. Despite its somewhat surreal plot (a sixteenth-century nobleman ends up as a twentieth-century female writer), the historical periods are described with realistic detail, and the reader's perceptions are challenged throughout. The themes of gender, race, truth, art and freedom, which are prevalent in the book, are still as relevant today as they were in 1928.

The Oxford World's Classics edition is well worth buying over cheaper ones; not only is the cover pleasant to look at, but there is a wealth of extra material in the form of notes, a pictorial insert, a lengthy bibliography, and an interesting and useful introduction. Highly recommended!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars virginia Woolf, 26 April 2011
Virginia Wool's biography of Orlando is a superbly written page turner of a book. Freer and more humorous than some of her other works, it's an enjoyable read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Playful and accessible Woolf, 17 July 2006
By 
Roman Clodia (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This is probably Virginia's Woolf's most accessible novel. It tells the story of Orlando, who starts life as a charming boy in Elizabethan England and then lives through the remaining centuries till Woolf's own time (early 20th century England) after changing sex halfway through the novel. It sounds weird but it works fabulously.

Witty, lyrical and playful, with Woolf's distinctive prose this is definitely the place to start if you've never read one of the best novelists/writers of the 20th century.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lyrical then dull., 1 Aug 2008
By 
Mr. P. Rigby "sharkgun" (wigan, england) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I don't know much about VW but I imagine she was probably quite good company. The type of person you don't mind bumping into but wouldn't make a special effort to meet. This story, although sprawling in places is punctuated by some beautiful phrasing and the occasional funny, witty line. But for me it just never got going...

The first third of the book is enjoyable enough but it seemed to lose a sense of pacing to me around halfway. I also felt that the more political/historical/gender points that she was trying to make where both obvious and heavy handed or so abstract that I was left feeling none the wiser.

I'm no stranger to stream of consciousness prose but this book could lose a chunk in editing and be better for it. More wistful than deep and I rarely felt sympathy for any of the characters in the story.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A hymn to being an author, 28 July 2010
A treatise on what it takes to be an author disguised as a tribute to a bi-sexual friend. Told as a fable covering 400 years of history this is beautifully written but without an obvious narrative so that at times it is slightly laboured.

This work is generally described as a tribute to Woolf's bisexual friend, Vita Sackville-West and it's true that Orlando starts the book as a boy and changes into a woman during its course and there are other points of reference as well but in truth it is a hymn to being an author, and all that it takes and entails to become a real writer.

The book is written as a biography of Orlando but comes across as more of a biography of an author or perhaps even autobiography. It is written in a very simple style like a fable or fairy tale with straightforward language used in layers to produce penetrating descriptions of scenes and emotions. An object under scrutiny is described in four, five, or perhaps a dozen different ways to build a convincing picture. The setting at England's royal court, the strangeness of much of what happens and the enormous timescale enhance the feeling of reading a myth.

Orlando is born into a noble English family in the last days of the reign of Elisabeth I and dies in 1928 some 400 years later and the book follows his (later her) story. This covers a variety of extraordinary adventures and experiences most notably changing sex, but including various types of love and intercourse with different kinds of society and the artistic world and importantly Orlando writes and loves literature.

This last is a constant thread through the book as Orlando right from the start is a would-be writer and may even have seen Shakespeare at work. Although she is stung by the cruel opinions of the poet Nicholas Green into burning most of her work, she keeps one poem - the Oak Tree - which is worked on and over for four hundred years until, meeting Green again in the Victorian age, it is published.

At the end, the reader is asked to look back over all that Orlando has experienced as man and woman, and felt and done and the huge time span over which she has done it; to understand that only armed with these experiences, and with endless revision of the work, can an author be created. This is finally expressed as being a multitude of people inside all of whom have a voice (Woolf suffered from mental illness so this may have been a resonant image for her).

The cleverness of the writing is hidden by the use of simple words and phrases but this does create a very emotional and evocative picture of a life and world. However, the book drags, because it never becomes clear where it is going - it's like modern maths, you are just supposed to discover it - and that puts a lot of weight on simply enjoying the writing.

This was one of Woolf's most popular books during her lifetime but I suspect that most modern readers will prefer her other works.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orlando, 14 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Orlando: A Biography (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
I had no idea what was going on in this novel but I loved it anyway. The prose is delicious and should be read for that alone. I also appreciate the introduction which helped to explain a lot of things. Recommended, just for the prose.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 25 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

Orlando: A Biography (Wordsworth Classics)
Orlando: A Biography (Wordsworth Classics) by Virginia Woolf (Paperback - 5 Feb 1995)
£1.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews