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Between the Acts Paperback – October 21, 1970

3.6 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Here, in her last book, is Virginia Woolf at her most tenuous, elusive, unreal. The various terms which have been applied to her art seem all to apply - "evocative", "fragile", "unsubstantial", "eclectic". The scene and the compass of this book is a pageant in a small English village, alternating with the actors of the local pageant are the figures in a private pageant of spectators:- Giles, stockbroker, at odds with his wife, Mrs. Manress, hearty, blowsy woman of forty who assumes the role of child of nature; Giles' father, withered, dry, his sister a vague old lady, etc. There is no action, save in the pageant which is reproduced now in poetry, now in prose. The quality of the book lies in its nuance, its shadows, its reflections, its aestheticism. There is an ethereal, haunting, beauty, strangely distant. Sharply limited market. (Kirkus Reviews)

'Together these ten volumes make an attractive and reasonably priced (the volumes vary between L3.99 and L4.99) working edition of Virginia Woolf's best-known writing. One can only hope that their success will prompt World's Classics to add her other essays to the series in due course.' 

(Elisabeth Jay, Westminster College, Oxford)

Book Description

Unlike most previous editions, the Cambridge edition returns to the final version of the novel as Woolf left it. With detailed explanatory notes, a chronology and an informative critical introduction, this volume will allow scholars to develop a fuller understanding of Woolf's last work. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 21, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015611870X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156118705
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #110,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
"Between the Acts" was the last novel Virginia Woolf wrote, and it appropriately feels like a swansong; a sorrowful farewell to a country on the eve of a war that very well might have spelled its devastation. While it uses the modernist experimentation that characterized "To the Lighthouse," it is very easy to follow, but still invites several rereadings to explore its depths more fully.
The novel takes place on a single day in June of 1939 at an English country manor called Pointz Hall, owned by the Olivers, a family with such sentimental ties to its ancestry that a watch that stopped a bullet on an ancient battlefield is deemed worthy of preservation and exhibition. Every year about this time, the Olivers allow their gardens to be used by the local villagers to put on a pageant for raising money for the church. This year, the pageant is supposed to be a series of tableaux celebrating England's history from Chaucerian times up to the present.
The Olivers themselves are tableaux of sorts, each a silent representation of some emotion separated from the others by a wall of miscommunication. Old Bartholomew Oliver and his sister, Lucy Swithin, both widowed, are now living together again with much the same hesitant relationship they had as children. Oliver's son Giles is a stockbroker who commutes to London and considers the pageant a nuisance he has no choice but to suffer. Isa, his discontented wife, feels she has to hide her poetry from him and contemplates an extramarital affair with a village farmer.
Attending the pageant is a garrulous woman named Mrs. Manresa, who is either having or pursuing an affair with Giles. She has brought with her a companion named William Dodge, whose effeminate sexual ambiguity is noticed with reprehension by Giles and with curiosity by Isa.
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By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
Between the Acts (BtA) was Woolf's last novel, finished but not yet revised before her death in 1941. It is, like Woolf's other novels, experimental. She takes some of her already established techniques and adds new things. She sets it in the span of a single day (i.e. Mrs Dalloway), depicts and parodies historical events (i.e. Orlando). Woolf centers the action around a village play (a bad play, but that is part of the fun). The social commentary on Britain is there, but BtA is far from the "usual British stuff." In the course of the novel the reader should look at the actors and the audience, drawing parallels to our own daily acting. Woolf includes a number of literary allusions. See if you can find the use of Gerard Manley Hopkins in the narrative, for example. As with Woolf's other writings, plot is not the focus. Even though she died thinking it was unsuitable for publication (she was mistaken), BtA is a fine novel from a master writer.
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Format: Paperback
There is something about Virginia Woolf's writing that lends itself to introspection, meditation, and sometimes confusion. She was prone to drift in various directions and switch character perspective willy nilly. This is often the case in "Between the Acts" her final novel that was published after her suicide without any revisions made by the author. Perhaps there would have been changes, but the central story certainly would have remained the same, a gauzy examination of a married couple experiencing difficulties.

The novel focuses on one household and its guests for the summer pageant, a recap of English history through the ages that serves as counterpoint to the characters. It is often difficult to separate the actors in the play from the acts that the central characters are putting on for one another. The main character is Isa, the wife of a stockbroker. She finds that she loves and hates her husband, and finds herself drawn to another man, but she would never act on those feelings. Her husband, Giles, meanwhile, is willing to act on such feelings, especially when he becomes captivated by a guest at the house, Mrs. Manresa, a supposedly free spirited woman, whose "freeness" feels very much like an act. As these characters watch the pageant unfold, their emotions surface and they are forced to confront this array of feelings that all of this playacting has brought up.

"Between the Acts" is an elusive story, one that is hard to sum up and one that can be even harder to follow. This last work of Woolf's is truly more like elegiac poetry than prose. The beauty is in the rhythm and sounds of the words on the page, floating around like the cabbage white butterflies the author describes.
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Format: Paperback
This under-appreciated work is slowly gaining the recognition it deserves from Woolf critics... but I would say that, since I wrote my dissertation on it! Woolf's fiction is never light reading, but Woolf lovers will here find a masterful synthesis of descriptive power, her exhaustive knowledge of English history and literature, her feminism, her passionate hatred of war and her conviction that only aesthetic experience can enable humanity to question the status quo and *perhaps* create a better world... interested readers might consider reading it alongside The Years, Three Guineas, Moments of Being, the last volumes of the diary, or such Woolf essays as "Thoughts on Peace During an Air Raid," as well as Shakespeare's Tempest. This slim novel speaks volumes; it is a work of mature genius by one of the 20th century's greatest writers.
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