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Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

Between the Acts (original 1941; edition 1970)

by Virginia Woolf

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1,303136,002 (3.64)67
Title:Between the Acts
Authors:Virginia Woolf
Info:Harvest Books (1970), Paperback, 228 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:01, fiction, uk, 20 c

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Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf (1941)



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I thought this was really excellent - a short novel written and set just before the second world war, published shortly after the author's death by her own hand; on the surface, it's a story of manners about a village pageant for Empire Day, but in fact there are deep currents of violence, both sexual and colonial, running through it and colouring everything that happens for the attentive reader. A really disturbing book in some ways. I'm becoming a bit of a fan. ( )
  nwhyte | Dec 31, 2015 |
This, Woolf's last novel (published posthumously after her death), seemed much more complex than To the Lighthouse, with a lot more layers and perspectives to think about, but still it was an amazing reading experience.

The novel unfolds over a single day in June, just weeks before the outbreak of WWII. A local village pageant is taking place in the grounds of a country house, and the narrative of the play itself is interplayed with the narrative of the audience and the players themselves.

There are so many themes at play that it's impossible to do them justice without reading the book. Most interestingly, the amateurish play - which gallops through key periods in English history - forces the villagers to look starkly at themselves as they are that day and asks what they represent - do they stand together as a community or are they more caught up in the business of idle gossip and ill will towards each other'? Most of the audience don't understand the play, or if they do indignantly choose to turn the spotlight away from themselves and back onto the failures of the play itself.

Intertwined in this are the different streams of consciousness of many interesting characters, heavily interspersed with references to other great works of literature, including Shakespeare, Keats and Wordsworth. They watch the play as one, but inside their minds are battling lonely, personal demons.

Having read the introductory notes after I finished the book, I don't for a minute think I'll ever be able to fully understand and appreciate the myriad of layers and influences Woolf weaved into her writing. But again, like with To the Lighthouse, she conveyed so sharply both the physical and psychological mood of that day it was like stepping into the garden and becoming part of the audience.

This is definitely not a plot-driven book, but the very rare talent of Virginia Woolf and her brilliant mind shines bright once again.

I'm dropping half a star as parts of the narrative of the play itself were a little dull, but still a sterling 4.5 stars for me. ( )
1 vote AlisonY | Mar 29, 2015 |
I really, really don't like Virginia Woolf's fiction. There's a nice flow to the writing, a nice lyrical feeling, but the way she chooses to write about things seems to me pretentious and boring, and sort of... scatterbrained. I'd like to love Woolf's writing, as my favourite writer Ursula Le Guin does, but I just can't seem to connect with or get anything out of her writing. I didn't see the "point" in it, I suppose. There were bits I liked about it -- the play, for example, at the part where they hold the mirrors up to show the audience themselves, and the concept of 'between the acts', which can be taken to mean so many things.

I'm hoping studying this novel and hearing lectures on it will make it a bit less impenetrable. If it does, I swear I'll give To The Lighthouse another chance, too. I just feel like you shouldn't require one hundred and thirty-one footnotes to understand a one-hundred and thirty page long story published in the nineteen forties... ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
This book had both good and some not so good qualities to it, but as always, I found myself reading on due to Woolf's writing style and writing style alone.

I loved the writing in the book - although with Virginia Woolf, how can you not love her writing. I always find I can lose myself in her style and narrative no matter what book of hers I pick up, and this one was no exception. This particular story was both good and bad. I like the main idea behind the story, the characters were well done, especially when examining their inner thoughts and emotions. Woolf managed to create a very eclectic cast of characters and managed to get a close look at some of their inner turmoil, emotions, and thought process all while coming together to the pageant - and managed to tie these characters and their development and their personal journeys, into the side story of the pageant.

Where the author lost me was the pageant. While I didn't mind reading how they created and planned for the pageant, I thought the parts about the mini little acts of the pageant to be boring. There were many times I found myself zoning out and having to go back and read those passages over again, just to find out what was happening in the story. Perhaps it's because I don't know a lot about English history and all the background information on it and how it would have affected the character, hence why they decided to re-create it as entertainment, but I just found it impossible to read through it all at times. The between the acts part of the book was well done, which's where the book gets its name. The characterization and examination of them was excellent, but the focus of that felt chopped up due to the pageant.

Overall it was a enjoyable read, but there were a lot of parts throughout the book, that made it hard to read through.

Also found on my book review blog My Review ( )
  bookwormjules | Feb 9, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (31 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Virginia Woolfprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bell, VanessaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cuddy-Keane, MelbaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a summer's night and they were talking, in the big room with the windows open to the garden, about the cesspool.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 015611870X, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:17 -0400)

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A lyrical, moving valedicotry that takes place at a country house in England, where the villagers are presenting their annual pageant.

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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