Saturday, 29 September 2012

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf (4/5)

GoodReads says: In Woolf’s last novel, the action takes place on one summer’s day at a country house in the heart of England, where the villagers are presenting their annual pageant. A lyrical, moving valedictory.

I say: Between the Acts was Woolf’s last novel, and although the novel is complete, according my edition, she never got the chance to do a final revision before she died. I could go on and on about how much I love Woolf’s writing, but after a couple of reviews it tends to feel a tad repetitive. Therefore I am going to make it easy on myself by saying

I love everything about Virginia Woolf’s writing.


Anyway, throughout the novel we are introduced to quite a group of villagers who have all gathered at the Olivers’ house to witness the annual pageant put on by Miss La Trobe. I find it extremely hard to write about any of the characters without mentioning them all as their lives intertwine so much. But, as in most villages, everyone is slightly miserable in their own little ways and merely trying to get through the day as smoothly as possible.  Usually the pageant is a celebration of English history, and since they all know how it goes, they don’t really care that much about it.

This year, however, Miss La Trobe has decided to put on something quite different.

We follow the villagers throughout the day, getting a hum about who they are and how they feel about life and their neighbours. As always, Woolf does a great job of getting inside the heads of the different characters and giving hints at their emotional state. One thing that I love about her is that nothing is ever spelled out completely, but we get little bits and pieces here and there.

What we do get in full, though, is the pageant in all its tediousness and glory. Actually, that’s a lie; we don’t get the entire pageant because the wind is blowing so hard that we, and the villagers, miss a lot of the words. But I loved being inside of their heads reading their different reactions to the scenes that were being plaid out. I sometimes get a bit dubious about books/plays within a book, but this pageant didn’t take away anything from the plot of the novel.

It all flowed along naturally.

I am not going to explain what the pageant was about, but some of it was hilarious. And since the novel is set right before the Second World War, I liked some of the historical references in there (though I’m not big on British history).

All in all I loved the way Woolf made me feel like an eavesdropper in this little village, and the realistic way she portrayed all the characters. The reason it doesn’t get a full 5/5 is because of the predictability of the characters (and also because there’s always so much allusion in Woolf’s work that I have to read it again to maybe get the full grasp). Still, I am in love with her and looking forward to reading more of her work.

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