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Orlando: A Biography (Harvest Book, Hb 266) Paperback – Bargain Price, October 24, 1973

4.2 out of 5 stars 131 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, October 24, 1973
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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

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.
(Amazon.com 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 (Elisabeth Jay, Westminster College, Oxford )
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Product Details

  • Series: Harvest Book, Hb 266
  • Paperback: 333 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (October 24, 1973)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 015670160X
  • ASIN: B0058M8BGA
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (131 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,822,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Paperback
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This Guy. I'm probably going to have to turn in my English Lit Major membership card over this, but man. I slogged through this, and didn't enjoy it at all. I'm not sure when I was last so bored by a book whose core concept intrigued me so much. Orlando is virtually immortal, changes gender mid-book, has a group of core household personnel who also seem to be immortal. The story starts in Elizabethan times and moves to the early 1900's. So much of that is fodder for great storytelling, not to mention the ability to comment on societal norms, gender reversals, etc. I won't deny that Woolf manages to pack a lot of social commentary into the book. I won't deny that she experiments with form in a way that makes most students and professors of English literature salivate. But in a book that is over 300 pages long ... nothing happens! Sure, there's the sudden deep freeze and equally sudden thaw of England that provides a momentary rush, but other than that, the protagonist spends pretty much the entire book sitting around depressed over the slights he receives from a woman, a fellow poet, and other varied personalities. I'll say it again: I was bored. And based on my reaction to this, which is supposed to be the most accessible of Woolf's works ... I can honestly say I don't think I'll be trying to read anything else by her.

Also, It is interesting to me that when I looked on Amazon, BN and Goodreads, none of the product descriptions I read attempt to describe the plot of ORLANDO. These are product descriptions now, not reader reviews. They all talk about how original and influential the book is and what a great movie Tilda Swinton was in a few years back. But none of them even attempt to describe the plot beyond what's quoted in the premise above. Maybe I just looked in the wrong place, or maybe it's just become accepted that ORLANDO is one of those things you read because "it's a classic."
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