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Orlando: A Biography Paperback – October 24, 1973


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Product Details

  • Series: A Harvest Book, Hb 266
  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 24, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015670160X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156701600
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (100 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1928, way before everyone else was talking about gender-bending and way, way before the terrific movie with Tilda Swinton, Virginia Woolf wrote her comic masterpiece, a fantastic, fanciful love letter disguised as a biography, to Vita Sackville-West. Orlando enters the book as an Elizabethan nobleman and leaves the book three centuries and one change of gender later as a liberated woman of the 1920s. Along the way this most rambunctious of Woolf's characters engages in sword fights, trades barbs with 18th century wits, has a baby, and drives a car. This is a deliriously written, breathless-making book and a classic both of lesbian literature and the Western canon.

Review

'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, Review of English Studies, Volume XLV, No. 178, May '94 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Just saw the movie with Tilda Swinton for the 4th time, for my Gender and Sexuality in Film class.
fiona_maria@hotmail.com
I cherish the book as a love-gift from Virginia Woolf, the narrator, to Vita Sackville-West, whom she dearly loved and here has caught in her net of words as Orlando.
Owl
My mother had been reading the book while she was pregnant with him and loved the book so much that she named him after the main character.
Amy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 80 people found the following review helpful By A.J. on December 29, 2003
Format: Paperback
"Orlando" is a fictional biography whose subject in the beginning is a sixteen-year-old boy in the Elizabethan era and in the end -- three hundred years later -- is a thirty-six-year-old woman. This is not a novel about transsexuality, as such a premise would indicate, but it is a statement about sexual identity and gender roles in English society as only an author like Virginia Woolf could make, territory not even the brazen D.H. Lawrence could traverse with much confidence. It is a lyrical tour de force in which Woolf displays her considerable talent for subtly describing moods and scenery, but most surprisingly, it demonstrates her sly sense of humor and satire.
Orlando's gender alteration is naturally the central event of his preternaturally long life, but his aging only twenty years over a course of three centuries is certainly no less bizarre. To describe the circumstances under which he becomes a woman or explain the logic by which he ages so slowly would be giving away too much in this review, nor would it really help to recommend the novel to one who is not yet persuaded to read it, so I will be silent on that account, saying only that these outrageous devices fully succeed as vehicles to explore Woolf's theme of femininity with respect to English cultural and historical frames of reference.
The novel examines the effect of gender alteration on Orlando's amorous and professional capacities. As a young nobleman in the Elizabethan court whose interests are swordsmanship and poetry, he is engaged to an aristocratic Irish girl, has a torrid affair with a Russian princess, and meets a silly woman who, resembling nothing so much as a hare, calls herself the Archduchess Harriet.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1999
Format: Paperback
Orlando is simply wonderful. In the novel, Woolf uses the character of Orlando, a person who lives through four centuries as man sometimes and woman sometimes. The term biography might throw you, since Orlando is no normal biography. Woolf personifies literary thought as a person (hence the timelessness and gender changing capability). She depicts Elizabethan times through the early twentieth century with wit and sarcasm. The more that you've read of English literature from Shakespeare forward the more you will catch the little jokes and the reason for why certain things happen. A very enjoyable read. The film version is not exactly the same, so I recommend sticking to the book.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 1996
Format: Paperback
John Irving ("World According to Garp") wrote an essay on
Charles Dickens book "Great Expectations" in which he said
that that book was the first book he had ever read that he
wished he had written. For me the first book that I had read that I wished
I had written is "Orlando" by Virgina Woolf. It blew me
away. I had seen the movie version a few years ago, and
recently found it in a bookstore, so I decided to check it out.
It's subtitle is "A Biography" and although it is based (very
loosely, I'm sure) on someone's actual life, it becomes clear
to the reader that this is definitely a work of fiction.
The reason that I enjoyed it so much is, well, let me put it
this way...Charles Dickens and John Irving were and are storytellers,
very wonderful, brilliant storytellers, but Virgina Woolf is (well, was)
an amazing artist. I don't go for poetry that much, I'm a prose
kind of guy, but "Orlando" for me, was the very best kind of poetry but
written as a narrative. Read this book. And let me know what you think...
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robertuccio on December 13, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There probaly isn't very much that hasn't been already said and written about this masterpiece of literature. I was very keen on chapter 5, where Ms. Wolf simply rips Victorian morality to shreds. Superb read.

Oh the Glawr!

A note on the Kindle editions: I purchased this one for $.99 though I also saw another one with the same cover but for approximately $3.99.
There wasn't enough information for me to be able to tell if there was any difference however, there is so much critique and commentary written on "Orlando" that I don't see the need to pay for something I can simply Google rather than have it added onto to the book for 10 times what I paid for this book.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bob Newman VINE VOICE on April 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
For all dyed-in-the-wool Virginia Woolf fans, my review will be anathema. People who review books often review the ones they love especially, but I review each one, good or bad. I started this novel in high hopes. I had never read the famous British author and I looked forward to a special treat. The background to the rich and handsome Orlando seemed promising, his adventures interesting, but then weirdness grew and became overpowering. I didn't mind that he turned into a woman, but even so, whatever the sex of the protagonist, we need a plot in the novel. The descriptions of his doings seemed less and less relevant, his/her gender fluctuations assumed more and more importance, and I finally decided that I just didn't care. What I really didn't like about ORLANDO is that there is a sub-text, closed to those of us of this day and age, who are not privy to the intimate doings of the Bloomsbury set, who did not sit together with V. Woolf and listen to her read her latest chapters, chuckling knowingly as they recognized the models for the various characters. I felt excluded. And why would I read a novel from which I was excluded ? Well, the answer, dear reader, is that I wouldn't. And I don't recommend that you do either.

People tell me that Woolf's other novels are much better and of a different type. So, I am not condemning the writer, only the book. And, OK, maybe you will like it. But don't say I didn't warn you.
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More About the Author

VIRGINIA WOOLF (1882-1941) was one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century. An admired literary critic, she authored many essays, letters, journals, and short stories in addition to her groundbreaking novels.

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