Read Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf Online

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In Woolf's final novel, villagers present their annual pageant, made up of scenes from the history of England, at a house in the heart of the country as personal dramas simmer.Between the Acts is also a striking evocation of English experience in the months leading up to the Second World War. Through dialogue, humour and the passionate musings of the characters, Virginia WIn Woolf's final novel, villagers present their annual pageant, made up of scenes from the history of England, at a house in the heart of the country as personal dramas simmer.Between the Acts is also a striking evocation of English experience in the months leading up to the Second World War. Through dialogue, humour and the passionate musings of the characters, Virginia Woolf explores how a community is formed (and scattered) over time. The tableau, a series of scenes from English history, and the private dramas that go on between the acts are closely interlinked. Through the figure of Miss La Trobe, author of the pageant, Virginia Woolf questions imperialist assumptions and, at the same time, re-creates the elusive role of the artist.Annotated and with an introduction by Melba Cuddy-Keane....

Title : Between the Acts
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ISBN : 9780141184524
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 190 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Between the Acts Reviews

  • Fionnuala
    2018-09-21 10:16

    The last act.This is the tenth and last of Virginia Woolf’s novels. Of the other nine, I read the two most famous ones some years ago; the rest I’ve read in the last three months, which makes eight in a row, non-stop. I feel as if I’ve attended a series of plays, each with a differently decorated set and its own cast of characters but each sharing themes, locations and character types with the others. There are even characters who appear in more than one of the works: Clarissa Dalloway and her husband Richard have roles in the very first book, The Voyage Out, as well as being central to Mrs. Dalloway. I mention them because there is a character in Between the Acts called Giles who resembles Richard Dalloway and who highlights a theme that occurs in the first book, the middle book, Orlando, and the last book. It is a theme that is more or less absent from all of the other books, but in this final book, written just before Woolf gave in to the powerful death drive she'd struggled against all her life, she makes the most direct references to the theme that is death’s shadow partner: the sex drive. Sex pervades all the crucial scenes in Between the Acts.Between the Acts is an enormous pageant: the reader watches a play in which the characters watch a pageant in which the players watch a play about the death of the bawdy Restoration Period. But the characters watching the pageant are themselves engaged in a titillating drama behind the scenes, and are themselves facing the death of an age: the summer day on which the pageant takes place is in 1939 not long before the outbreak of the war. On that day, an uninvited guest arrives at Pointz Hall where the pageant is about to take place, a guest who might well be Lady Wishfort from William Congreve’s Restoration comedy, The Way of the World vulgar as she was, in her gestures, in her whole person, over-sexed, over-dressed for a pageant.And so Mrs Manresa ogles her way though the household at Pointz Hall, from Candish, the butler, to Giles, the man of the house, to his elderly father, Bartholomew. And the reader is not passive either in the face of her pageantry: She took the little silver cream jug and let the smooth fluid curl luxuriously into her coffee, to which she added a shovelful of brown sugar candy. Sensuously, rhythmically, she stirred the mixture round and round….she looked over her coffee cup at Giles. She looked before she drank. Looking was part of drinking. Why waste sensation, she seemed to ask, why waste a single drop that can be pressed out of this ripe, this melting adorable world? Then she drank. And the air around her became threaded with sensation. Bartholomew felt it; Giles felt it. Had he been a horse, the thin brown skin would have twitched, as if a fly had settled. Isabella twitched too. Jealousy, anger, pierced her skin. “And now”, said Mrs Manresa, putting down her cup, “about this entertainment—this pageant, into which we’ve gone and butted”—she made it, too, seem ripe like the apricot into which the wasps were burrowing—“Tell me, what’s it to be?”Later, Giles tries to reconnect with his wife Isabel over the dinner table: With its sheaf sliced in four, exposing a white cone, Giles offered his wife a banana. She refused it. He stubbed his match on the plate. Out it went with a little fizz in the raspberry juice.However Isabel is far more than a temporarily jealous wife who wonders what went on in the greenhouse between the acts. She herself is a very sexual being and carries all the oppositions of this contradictory work within her. She hears her father-in-law talk constantly of the weather, will it rain on the day of the pageant or will it not, the refrain she’s heard now for years, and she thinks about man and nature, about sex and death, about the cycle of the seasons, the trees and fields, the things of the earth that will endure long after she and her kind are gone. The mainspring of the entire work is buried inside Isabel; she, not Giles, not Bartholomew, not Mrs Manresa, is at the centre of this very clever book...........................................................................In June 1940 when she was half way through writing this book, Woolf wondered if Europe would ever see June '41. She sent the book to the publisher in March 1941. A few days later, she requested they send it back again as she felt it needed more changes. But she couldn't stay around long enough to make those changes; she was not to see June '41.The fire greyed, then glowed, and the tortoiseshell butterfly beat on the lower pane of the window; beat, beat, beat; repeating that if no human being ever came, never, never, never, the books would be mouldy, the fire out and the tortoiseshell butterfly dead on the pane.

  • Ilse
    2018-10-11 14:22

    Fragments of life’s rich pageantSharp, witty, vital, brilliant. With Between the acts, Woolf sings an eudaimonic valediction to her readers, and finally, to life, as Woolf was still working on the final revisions when she walked into the Ouse and the novel was published by Leonard Woolf 4 months after her death. Although sometimes perceived as unfinished and jokingly referred to as her ‘Portrait of the Artist as an Old Woman’, she gave birth to a full-term child. A full-blown, proficient novel, meant to pay homage to literature and to England’s charm. While writing the novel, she says in her diary on the 24th of December 1940 she feels in the Sussex countryside ‘how England consoles & warms one’.At the core there is a dramatic piece, the annual pageant played by the villagers upon the grounds of a fictitious English country house, Pointz Hall, attended by the local villagers and the Oliver family members living in the house, representing scenes touching on the literature and history of England, set in the Interbellum period, ‘between the acts’.Does this sound like tedious, obsolete bluestockingish stuff to you? Well, it isn’t. The deceptively idyllic, overly traditional setting and the play are a pretext to some exquisite, vivid and playful distillation and exploration of ambivalent human moods and experiences, bristling with Woolf’s sly, derisive and subtle humor and social criticism. The eye is barely directed to the spectacle as such, but focuses on what happens before, between and after the acts, on what commonly passes by unnoticed, the thoughts, observations and emotions that come to us when we are alone and where we do not speak about. The substance of the novel is not to be found on the pageant’s stage, satirizing England’s heroic past, but in the polyphony of the fragmented inner voices dispersed in the audience attending the play. Juxtaposing and confronting apparently trivial, everyday concerns like talks about the weather and the food with most significant moments, present and past, rationality and spirituality, art and nature, author and audience, Woolf evokes life’s rich pageant through refined psychological and suggestive depictions of her characters, handling them with great empathy and care.The musicality of her mercurial prose and the ingenious composition reminded me of Toccata, a choreography on the music of Bach danced by Rosas , the dance company of Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a Belgian choreographer which I admire: dancers moving like counterpoint melody lines, sometimes interfering, touching each other, then drifting apart, like the scraps of conversation between Woolfs’s characters and their transient trains of thought. I imagine Woolf as the omnipresent simultaneous resonating voices of Bach, the pianist and the choreographer, conducting and directing the ephemeral movements, minds and bodies of the dancing characters: "For I hear music, they were saying. Music wakes us. Music makes us see the hidden, join the broken. Look and listen. See the flowers, how they ray their redness, whiteness, silverness and blue. And the trees with their many-tongued much syllabling, their green and yellow leaves hustle us and shuffle us, and bid us, like the starlings, and the rooks, come together, crowd together, to chatter and make merry while the red cow moves forward and the black cow stands still."Evidently, academic research thoroughly scrutinized the abundant themes, motives and techniques Woolf packed in this concise novel, inviting to a second and third reading. Aware it is impossible to grasp it fully at this first reading, here is what stays with me now: the wonderful evocation of the archetypical rural English landscape; the people living on the brink of war again, metaphorized by the loveliness of birds, shifting into grim bombers; the people living on the verge of transition, their world crumbling and collapsing by modernity, a world that will wither like the profuse flowers adorning the park of Pointz Hall, recalling Vita’s dazzling Sissinghurst gardens. The magnificent, radiant language:"Beyond the lily pool the ground sank again, and in that dip of the ground, bushes and brambles had mobbed themselves together. It was always shady; sun-flecked in the summer, dark and damp in winter. In the summer there were always butterflies; fritillaries darting through; Red Admirals feasting and floating; cabbage whites, unambitiously fluttering round a bush, like muslin milkmaids, content to spend a life there."And the characters of course, of which the women are the most appealing and intriguing, (according to a feminist study, the men in the novel belong to ‘exhausted patriarchy’) showing resembling traits to real women we ostensibly all know: the blatant, in-your-face voluptuousness of the buoyant Mrs. Manresa, turning on the old and the young men with her frivolous airs and graces; beautifully contrasted with the lyrical, melancholic sensuality of Isa Oliver, the daughter-in-law, jealous, “a captive balloon, pegged down on a chair arm by a myriad of hair-thin ties into domesticity”; Isa’s cynical, restless, frustrated, grumpy husband, Giles Oliver, the only person aware of the impending war; his rationalist father Bartholomew Oliver and his widowed sibling Lucy Swithin, a moving ageing woman, intensely spiritual, sensitive to natural mystic; William Dodge, the nervous companion of Mrs. Manresa, with “artistic leanings”; Miss la Trobe, the outcast artist and director of the play.I was enthralled by the recurrent image of a thread connecting the characters, a masterful leitmotiv, visualizing the pas de deux between the characters that will take place in the greenhouse during the interludes to the play: ”The wild child, afloat once more on the tide of the old man's benignity, looked over her coffee cup at Giles, with whom she felt in conspiracy. A thread united them--visible, invisible, like those threads, now seen, now not, that unite trembling grass blades in autumn before the sun rises. She had met him once only, at a cricket match. And then had been spun between them an early morning thread before the twigs and leaves of real friendship emerge.”Was she referring to her pending death, when she entered the legend of the drowned lady into the book? Her untimely death could easily rouse the usual hineininterpretierung. However, the joyous and playful tone seems to gainsay that morbid interpretation. Adumbrating definitely the gloom of imminent war and suffering, the novel is a hymn of praise to life, being full of pleasure, passion and imagination. Just read this, let her take you eight miles high with her in the flight to the higher realms of celestial beauty and imagination. Listen to her symphony. A swan song and farewell performance indicating that not only Bowie could leave the stage as a genius. Warning: you might end up a Woolfie. [image error]

  • Dolors
    2018-10-09 12:18

    The last book that Woolf wrote before she entered the Ouse, never to return. There is a sense of premonition in this hybrid work; a play within a play like in “The Tempest” and a novel of manners with the most British of pedigrees; a presage that the world is never going to be the same, even if people keep acting as if nothing were the matter. The feeling is mostly portrayed in a global scale because the characters are not ready to acknowledge it and make it personal, but it can be perceived in the changing dynamics between members of the same family, neighbors and acquaintances.The year is 1939, and the setting is rural Southern-England on a summer day when the Olivers organize the yearly pageant in their cottage, where all the villagers are invited to attend or to participate. The performance this year takes the form of a journey through the history of England by means of fragmented scenes with symbolical meaning, not short of sharp-tongued satire, which transport the audience back to the time of kings and knights, to Chaucer, the Elizabethan era, the Restoration period, the age of reason, the decorum of the Victorian time, and finally, to the present time.An act between two momentous historical events, WWI and WWII, that symbolizes the continuous farce, the imposed roles that we perform daily for the sake of others. But what is it that really moves and motivates us? Similarly, it is during the intermissions of the play, that we get access into the inner worlds of the Olivers, where they survive in constant contradiction, while they pretend that everything is as pleasant as it should be. Isa and Giles Oliver’s marital struggles, the old Mr. Oliver’s rational understanding of the escalating tension that unfolds in front of his alert eyes, his sister’s romantic soul that responds to music and poetry, the unbridgeable gap between the safety of individual consciousness and the tortuous paths of love, desire, temptation and jealousy. The complexities of human beings, with their insecurities and weaknesses, and their inability to communicate with each other, fluctuate in still movements towards a flowing stream of scenes that compose the physical and psychical landscape the characters inhabit.By defining the familiar movements of the Olivers, blended with their sensations and expectations and their brief snapshots of life and voices barely delineated, while the fertility of the natural world at the backstage stares impassibly, facts are brought about without continuity, shaping a vibrant tableau vivant that is painted with the impressionistic strokes of a language that pulsates with the color of emotions present and past. Woolf exposes her characters to their naked reflections, bared of pretense, and by doing so, she forces the reader to participate actively in their struggles, to feel the pull of desire against their moral standards, to acknowledge a broken reality that is sterile and shattered, whose pieces sparkle under the sunbeams of an indifferent sun, which continues to rise regardless of the countless trauma that the human soul deals with every new day. But still, they keep looking up, hoping to find their lonesome star, which might shine down upon them.Let’s keep looking up, then.

  • Bookdragon Sean
    2018-10-17 15:23

    Virginia Woolf inserts her gaze into the lives of her characters; there are no introductions, no preambles: we are simply there. And her gaze is microscopic. She narrates every last detail about her characters; everything is brought to life in all its shades of grey and ordinariness. She does not comment on her descriptions, but simply provides thorough detail. As such, Between the Acts does not have a beginning per say or any usual sense of narrative progression. The novel feels more like an interlude, an interruption into the lives of her characters and their preparation for a pageant that would be happening irrespective of the reader’s obtrusive presence. In this sense her fiction feels very real. It feels like it is actually happening. Outside the realms of fiction (hard to believe such a place actually exists I know) we don’t have introductions or kindly narrators to give us information. Things simply happen. We are not pre-programmed with a device that allows us to understand this information in its most desirable form. We don’t know who everybody we meet is or what they are doing. We are bombarded with information every second. And here, at least in part, the novel captured this feeling of reality. There are many, many, characters involved in the scenes. For such a short piece of writing, it boasts a large cast. But is that a good thing? I found it extremely difficult to remember who was who. Again, none of them are introduced so none of them have any real substance. This is part of Woolf’s aim here, and I do appreciate what she was trying to do, though it meant that the novel was rather hard to read and even harder to actually enjoy with its emphasis on descriptive information dumps.It’s experimental writing, and the experiment is just not to my taste. On the surface, Woolf’s prose is artistic, eloquent and perhaps even beautiful. Here though, it is mere description (although wonderfully written) with little to no substance. I will keep reading Woolf’s novels because I know there will be one I adore. I just need to find it.

  • Lynne King
    2018-09-27 12:22

    I have a real sense of regret here with this final book of Virginia Woolf. I personally feel that it should not have been published. The poor woman was mentally unwell, perhaps due to the strain of writing this final work? Who knows. Her permisson had not been given to publish it either. Still many other people love this book and that's the main thing.This is a fascinating individual who wrote the most superb Diaries and Letters. I love them and they are a great source of joy to me.In conclusion I would add that I'm surprised that a film has not been made (perhaps it has and I am unaware of it) of the final years of Woolf's life. It would be fascinating. Such remarkable characters as her sister Vanessa, other members of the Bloomsbury Group...

  • Joseph
    2018-10-06 10:07

    Don’t bother with the plot: the plot is nothing.Between the Acts is Virginia Woolf’s last novel. In the introduction, Leonard Woolf explains that Virginia had finished the book, and although some grammar editing was still needed, at the time of her death, she considered it finished. Only obvious errors were corrected.The story takes place in June 1939 but was written while WWII was being fought. The story opens before the summer pageant and play at Pointz Hall, about a three-hour train ride from London, if the trains are running on time to this remote place. The house is owned by Bartholomew Oliver who is retired from the Indian service. His widowed sister, Lucy, lives with him, and she may be showing signs of dementia. His stockbroker son, Giles, and wife, Isa, also live there; they are having problems with their marriage.The story revolves around the pageant and splits between the interactions of the Oliver household with visitors at the pageant and the play being performed. One theme that I found prevalent throughout the story is war. The title itself could be a play on the inter-war period with World War I as the first act and WWII as the second with the characters living in the intermission. Everyone seems to be happy living in isolation. This isolation is also shown in Lucy’s reading. In England’s prehistory, a land bridge formerly joined England to the continent. Just as Pointz Hall is separated from London, England is now separated from Europe. England is safe and secure. The characters seem oblivious to the impending war. There are, however, very few dissenters. Giles sees the whole pageant as a waste when the country should be preparing for war. Another guest watching the historical play comments how the army is not mentioned; its role is vital to British history. Interestingly, the word “war” is only mentioned five times in the entire book, but the symbolism grows throughout the book.The writing is unmistakably Woolf. Her stream of conscious writing is at its peak. The quote I used as a header was a thought Isa had while watching the play and very much reflects Woolf’s writing. What characters are thinking is more important than story lines. The “color” of language also plays a vital role in the writing…and as they trundled they were talking –not shaping pellets of information or handing ideas from one to another, but rolling words, like sweets on their tongues; which as they thinned to transparency, gave off pink, green, and sweetness.… He thought very little of anybody, simple or gentry. Leaning, silent, sardonic, against the door he was like a withered willow, bent over a stream, all leaves shed, and his eyes the whimsical flow of the waters.Woolf lets her poetic talent flow through her prose. Several times I stopped and re-read passages because the were just so well written and contained flow and imagery that is simply sublime. Woolf would have given my grammar teachers fits of rage. She uses punctuation for her own purposes. Periods, semicolons, and commas do represent full stop, partial stop, and pauses, but do not always play by the rules of sentence formation. Like most of Virginia Woolf’s novels, Between the Acts is a difficult read for the reasons I mentioned above, but like most of her work, it is very well worth reading

  • Joseph
    2018-10-18 10:14

    Don't bother with the plot: the plot is nothing.Between the Acts is Virginia Woolf's last novel. In the introduction, Leonard Woolf explains that Virginia had finished the book, and although some grammar editing was still needed, at the time of her death, she considered it finished. Only obvious errors were corrected. The story takes place in June 1939 but was written while WWII was being fought. The story opens before the summer pageant and play at Pointz Hall, about a three-hour train ride from London, if the trains are running on time to this remote place. The house is owned by Bartholomew Oliver who is retired from the Indian service. His widowed sister, Lucy, lives with him, and she may be showing signs of dementia. His stockbroker son, Giles, and wife, Isa, also live there; they are having problems with their marriage. The story revolves around the pageant and splits between the interactions of the Oliver household with visitors at the pageant and the play being performed. One theme that I found prevalent throughout the story is war. The title itself could be a play on the inter-war period with World War I as the first act and WWII as the second with the characters living in the intermission. Everyone seems to be happy living in isolation. This isolation is also shown in Lucy's reading. In England's prehistory, a land bridge formerly joined England to the continent. Just as Pointz Hall is separated from London, England is now separated from Europe. England is safe and secure. The characters seem oblivious to the impending war. There are, however, very few dissenters. Giles sees the whole pageant as a waste when the country should be preparing for war. Another guest watching the historical play comments how the army is not mentioned; its role is vital to British history. Interestingly, the word "war" is only mentioned five times in the entire book, but the symbolism grows throughout the book. The writing is unmistakably Woolf. Her stream of conscious writing is at its peak. The quote I used as a header was a thought Isa had while watching the play and very much reflects Woolf's writing. What characters are thinking is more important than storylines. The "color" of language also plays a vital role in the writing...and as they trundled they were talking --not shaping pellets of information or handing ideas from one to another, but rolling words, like sweets on their tongues; which as they thinned to transparency, gave off pink, green, and sweetness. ... He thought very little of anybody, simple or gentry. Leaning, silent, sardonic, against the door he was like a withered willow, bent over a stream, all leaves shed, and his eyes the whimsical flow of the waters.Woolf lets her poetic talent flow through her prose. Several times I stopped and re-read passages because the were just so well written and contained flow and imagery that is simply sublime. Woolf would have given my grammar teachers fits of rage. She uses punctuation for her own purposes. Periods, semicolons, and commas do represent full stop, partial stop, and pauses, but do not always play by the rules of sentence formation. Like most of Virginia Woolf's novels, Between the Acts is a difficult read for the reasons I mentioned above, but like most of her work it is very well worth reading.

  • Madeline
    2018-09-22 07:32

    Maybe it's because this is technically unfinished (a forward from Leonard Woolf states that although the draft was completed, Virginia Woolf died before she was able to make final corrections and revisions, so it was sent to the printers as is), but this one didn't strike me quite in the way Woolf's other books have. But that's not to suggest that it isn't good - remember, this is Virginia Woolf, so when I say that it didn't strike me as much as her other ones, I only mean that this book felt like a minor blow to the head, rather than feeling like I was being remade from the inside out. That being said, this book is an almost perfect example of what makes Virginia Woolf such a unique writer. Like her more famous Mrs. Dalloway, the action takes place over a short span of time (two days) and is concerned primarily with the actions of one small family, although the narration takes us into other characters' heads occasionally. The main action of the story takes place during the annual village pageant, a history of England. We see the pageant in detail (Woolf even includes stage directions) and, as the title suggests, get to also witness the spectators during the act breaks. Reading this, I felt like there was something else hiding under the surface of the text - something I wasn't fully able to grasp or understand. There's an undercurrent of longing and sadness and frustration running through all the characters, and I felt like there was a whole other story happening just in the margins and the line breaks. I think I could read this book ten times and still not find everything Woolf wants me to find. Halfway through writing this review I decided to change my rating from three to four stars, because I started flipping through the book to find passages to quote and kept remembering what is so extraordinary about Virginia Woolf's writing: she had, I believe, an incredible capacity for empathy. Everyone in her stories gets treated, however briefly, like they're the most important character in the story. Every single character in her books, from the educated landowner to the flighty kitchen maid, has a deep inner life and complex thoughts and emotions, and she makes us see this complexity. No one is ordinary in Virginia Woolf's books. Plus, the writing is, as always, killer. It's not just the people - something as simple as a lily pond suddenly becomes full of deeper meaning and significance when Woolf is describing it:"There had always been lilies there, self-sown from wind-dropped seed, floating red and white on the green plates of their leaves. Water, for hundreds of years, had silted down into the hollow, and lay there four or five feet deep over a black cushion of mud. Under the thick plate of green water, glazed in their self-centered world, fish swam - gold, splashed with white, streaked with black or silver. Silently they manoeuvred in their water world, poised in the blue patch made by the sky, or shot silently to the edge where the grass, trembling, made a fringe of nodding shadow. On the water-pavement spiders printed their delicate feet. A grain fell and spiralled down; a petal fell, filled and sank. At that the fleet of boat-shaped bodies paused; poised; equipped; mailed; then with a waver of undulation off they flashed.It was in that deep centre, in that black heart, that the lady had drowned herself. Ten years since the pool had been dredged and a thigh bone recovered. Alas, it was a sheep’s, not a lady’s. And sheep have no ghosts, for sheep have no souls. But the servants insisted, they must have a ghost; the ghost must be a lady’s; who had drowned herself for love. So none of them would walk by the lily pool at night, only now when the sun shone and the gentry still sat at table."

  • Teresa Proença
    2018-10-15 09:20

    Entre os Actos - o último romance de Virginia Woolf, que concluiu mas já não reviu, - foi publicado, pelo seu marido, meses depois do seu suicídio.É uma obra com uma estrutura original constituída por dois planos narrativos: o romance tradicional no qual, a dado momento, as personagens assistem a uma peça de teatro representada por eles próprios.As personagens principais são um casal, Isa e Giles, que não sabem se se amam ou se odeiam e cuja sombra da infidelidade, potencial não real, paira sobre eles. "A sós pela primeira vez em todo o dia, mantiveram-se os dois em silêncio. Sós, a hostilidade ficava a descoberto; e o amor também. Antes de adormecerem, teriam de lutar; depois de lutar, abraçar-se-iam."Sobre a prosa não digo nada além de: é Virginia Woolf...

  • Lynne King
    2018-10-10 11:17

    I love Virginia Woolf's "Letters" and "Diaries". I often look at them as they show her wit. They are brilliant and compelling reading. I also thoroughly enjoyed her novel "Mrs Dalloway" but this book, well I'm sorry but it's not for me at all. I liked it initially and then I lost interest. It appeared to be full of fripperies.Such a shame...

  • Jamie
    2018-10-16 14:24

    2011 Update: This is the third consecutive spring in which I've read BTA. I'll confess my reading this go-round felt less urgent (I...dare I say it?...skimmed parts of the pageant), but nevertheless increased yet again my love for this novel. Deceptively minimalist, austerely affective, Between the Acts feels somehow so apart from and so integral to Woolf's canon. The characters themselves are powerfully immediate; almost allegorical in the way Woolf employs metaphors, images, or emotions as shorthand for these figures (Isa and the sensation of drowning; Mrs. Swithin's prehistory; Giles' burning desire for violent action; Mrs. Manresa, the 'wild child of Nature'). They don't feel one-dimensional, though, for all this referentiality; it's almost as if they're akin to one's own index of the people one knows. This is a different kind of relationality from, say, The Waves, where the very boundaries between selves are diffuse, hardly even fluid--almost nonexistent. There's an alienating quality to BTA that doesn't permeate her other works, and perhaps that's why it so often is read as a bleak text; but I find something almost energizing about this sense of separateness, inasmuch as the entire novel is seeking an articulation for the simultaneous 'unity' and dispersal of all relationships. At any rate, enough of my 'thoughtful' blabbering. Another fantastic experience of reading this book, with many more readings (hopefully) to come.**2010When I discovered I'd be re-reading Between the Acts for my Modernism course this spring, I groaned internally and began to steel myself against the novel, once again. I read this for the first time about 2 years ago in a Woolf seminar, and found it to be an absolute chore in the way none of her other novels had been. I, like many, questioned why the hell Woolf would write such a superficial & trivial novel with the war looming so heavily before her. And if this Modernism course was invested in particular themes--heroism, experimentalism, acute interest in the seismic historical shifts of the first half of the 20th century--why weren't we reading Jacob's Room or Mrs. Dalloway or To the Lighthouse?I was in for quite a great surprise. Since I knew from the start of the semester that I'd probably end up writing on this novel (I couldn't bear the thought of writing on Ulysses or The Waste Land, and knew *nothing* of Beckett or Djuna Barnes), I began plotting ways of coping. When the time came to read the novel, in the midst of the eye-of-the-semester's-storm, I found myself--SHOCKING--positively loving the novel. So much so that I re-read it again only days after finishing it, which is something I *never* do with books, even the ones that really pierce me.I wholly revise my contention that the novel is superficial. In fact, now I find it to be one of Woolf's most politically cognizant novels--the pageant functions as a direct indictment of England's troublesome history, the sound & sight of the aeroplanes overhead is possibly the most disturbing moment of the novel, Giles figures as a sort of blossoming fascist who nonetheless must be incorporated into the novel's community...certainly helps to read the novel alongside Three Guineas (where Woolf suggests that the embryonic fascist is not simply a monster--but is within us). The novel's intense interest in precultural histories, "thoughts without words" & the like makes for a wonderfully philosophical read, but you never feel overburdened by abstraction; the strange ideas are presented through the characters' encounters with them, much in the way we, the readers, might likewise encounter them.The writing left me misty-eyed and out of breath on numerous occasions (the final scene with Miss La Trobe, for example, may contain five of the best pages of prose styling in all of literature). The characters are intensely beautiful--Miss La Trobe, William Dodge, Isa Oliver, Lucy Swithin...each seems tattooed on my innards in some way (that's less grotesque than I'm describing it). Also, the fact that there's an old woman/tranny (ok, gay man) bonding session tickles my naughty bits. Ok, I just never feel adequate when I try talking about Woolf--god knows how I felt assured enough to write a paper on the novel. It's amazing, it's incredible, it's fucking Virginia Woolf (which should pull you in, in any case). If you've already read it and hated it, give it another go. I was knocked off my feet by the novel this time around, and highly advise anyone remotely interested in Woolf to grant it a little breathing room. I'm almost tempted to read it again this summer, but I've got other Woolf on my list (The Waves--finally). Happy reading, and possibly sobbing...

  • Diana
    2018-10-01 10:06

    I took a class on Woolf in the last semester of my third year. This was the last book we read. We had the option of taking an in-class final or writing a paper. As I had not finished much of the assigned reading, I opted for the paper. That quarter, all of my finals were done Monday, and this paper wasn't due until Friday at 5pm. I figured I'd gun this out and turn it in Wednesday at the latest. Ha. No. Woolf never finished editing this book. It was the middle of WWII and she lost hope. She killed herself before it was complete. You can feel that hope draining as you read it, can feel movement towards the inevitable conclusion. Humankind is doomed to re-enact its mistakes, and the only thing that changes is the number of stones in the churchyard. On Wednesday, after I'd written most of a paper about some one being a foil to some one else, I realized her actual conclusion. I sat and cried and cried, both for her sadness and my own faltering faith. I stayed there for, seriously, a day and a half, until I finally found the other half of the conclusion: this is the way it's been, but things could be different. Woolf wove together a damning account of (man's) history with a resolute belief that things can change. If not now then someday. She lost faith, it's true, but we're still here and so can be different. And then I ended up rewriting the whole thing Friday afternoon and ran to submit it without reading it or editing. And, embarrassingly, I haven't read it since because I want to idealize the moment and not screw it up with my run-on sentences and footnotes. I realize this probably isn't the best recommendation of a book, but I am telling the story because it's why I love it. Between The Acts broke open my whole perception of the world. Twice.

  • Ronald Morton
    2018-10-06 10:04

    (I read over half of this yesterday - so, again, happy birthday Virginia Woolf)Between the Acts was Virginia Woolf’s final novel, published posthumously following her suicide by drowning. It was written between 1939 and 1940 – the beginning of World War II into the beginning months of The Blitz on London (which Woolf experienced and wrote about in some of her correspondence). Both events weigh heavy on the text, though it is impossible to say how much of her eventual suicide should be read into the work itself (the war and the Blitz absolutely should be read into the text though, it is clearly intended).Whether one should see Woolf’s eventual suicide in the text or not, it is difficult to separate that event from her last work. In the opening pages of the book a “haunting” is both alluded to and directly referenced by a number of characters – when the events that led to the haunting are eventually disclosed, It was in that deep centre, in that black heart, that the lady had drowned herself, it obviously strikes a chord, but then, later, I am confronted with: But what wish should I drop into the well?" She looked round. […] "That the waters should cover me," she added, "of the wishing well."[…]"That's what I wished," Isa added, "when I dropped my pin. Water. Water..." The real difficulty in all this is that water is a recurring theme throughout Woolf’s oeuvre – and there is a lot of water imagery here that I’m not touching on – but the wish to be covered by water is especially striking in this last book, and deeply saddened me to read it.The war hangs heavy over this work – threats from above; the weather, birds, even literal planes; all darken the pages with their threat. When the planes themselves make their eventual appearance (not the actual Blitz, but a group of planes flying over) not only does it disrupt (and eventually scatter) the pageant – but “opportunity” itself is “cut in two”. Furthering the inherent (and sometimes surprising) threats from above: I love the description of the storm breaking, unexpected: No one had seen the cloud coming. There it was, black, swollen, on top of them. Down it poured like all the people in the world weeping. Tears, Tears. Tears.All those observations aside, this book was beautifully written – big surprise there, I know – and really only underscores the loss that was Woolf’s death. In reading A Room of One’s Own I came across this reference to World War I: But what was lacking, what was different, I asked myself, listening to the talk? And to answer that question I had to think myself out of the room, back into the past, before the war indeed, and to set before my eyes the model of another luncheon party held in rooms not very far distant from these; but different. Everything was different. Meanwhile the talk went on among the guests, who were many and young, some of this sex, some of that; it went on swimmingly, it went on agreeably, freely, amusingly. And as it went on I set it against the background of that other talk, and as I matched the two together I had no doubt that one was the descendant, the legitimate heir of the other. Nothing was changed; nothing was different save only here I listened with all my ears not entirely to what was being said, but to the murmur or current behind it. Yes, that was it—the change was there. Before the war at a luncheon party like this people would have said precisely the same things but they would have sounded different, because in those days they were accompanied by a sort of humming noise, not articulate, but musical, exciting, which changed the value of the words themselves. Which struck me as a staggeringly great summation and observation – and I wondered (as most of Woolf’s work was written and published between the two wars) what Woolf would have had to say about World War II, as I’m sure it would have been as striking as what she contributed to the post-war literature following World War I. Between the Acts hints at what more could have come, intimates how great it could have been, but leaves only a void, and a loss.

  • Claire
    2018-10-19 07:29

    3.5 stars.

  • Boris
    2018-09-27 07:28

    В навечерието на втората световна война В.У. написва книга. Между действията = Между войните = Между антракта = Между отношенията.Тази книга раказва за една пиеса, която проследява развитието на Англия от малко невинно момиче, което говори с езика на елизабетинската епоха в първо действие, еволюира в езика на викторианската епоха във второ действие, а в трето действие завършва вместо с поклон от актьорите - с огледала срещу публиката. От заглавието до най-незначимото и кратко изречение в съдържанието, "Между действията" поставя сериозни въпроси, които е трябвало да гърмят отвсякъде в навечерието на ВСВ.Книгата на Улф е кресливо тиха в тази си цел. До последното изречение си изяснявах въпросът, който поставя В.У. с тази великолепна творба. Последните думи затварят кръга и всичко се връзва по умопобъркващият начин, който само тази спокойно дива жена умее да спретва. Любима писателка. По-поетична отвсякога с препратките към нейния приятел Т.С. Елиът.Признавам си нещо: иронията обаче не я схванах и не разбеах къде й я приписват. И смятам, че е неправилно да я определят като иронична. Поне аз не я виждам с иронична усмивка. Настрана от това мое лично виждане към личността й, "Между действията"е най-тревожното произведение на Улф. Някой трябва да го пренаписва с четвърто, пето, шесто и седмо действие. И то всяка година. Прочетете го, ако я харесвате.

  • Maddy
    2018-09-23 14:30

    I always forget about Virginia Woolf despite everything of hers that I have read hits me in the gut and stays with me for years. Maybe I carry her around in my bones.

  • cypt
    2018-09-22 13:29

    Kai atsirado LT vertimas, susigriebiau, kad nebuvau skaičiusi. O čia juk paskutinis Woolf romanas - atidavusi jo rankraštį, nusiskandino. Bet pasiėmiau angliškai - man taip patinka jos žodžiai, inversijos, pakartojimai, švelnūs atsikartojimai ir aidai, net skyrbos ženklai, kad nesinori to ieškot jokia kita kalba, kad ir koks geras, tikiu, gali būti vertimas.Iš toliau, bet susišaukė: viena iš paskutinių skaitytų knygų buvo Binet "HHhH", apie pasikėsinimą į Hitlerio dešiniosios rankos Himmlerio dešiniąją ranką Heydrichą. Ten buvo daug istorijos apie 1938, Miuncheno susitarimus, apie Chamberlaino Britanijos absoliutų neveiksnumą ir stručio taktiką prieš pat WWII. Nors jie juk nežinojo, kad tas metas yra prieš kažką - tik mes dabar taip matom, o tuo metu tai veikiausiai buvo priimtiniausias (beviltiškiausias?) elgesys sunkumų akivaizdoje.Ir greta viso to - Woolf, viena 1939 metų vasaros, birželio, diena. Ji rašydama jau žinojo, kad ta diena yra - buvo - visai prieš pat karą, kurio pabaigos pati jau nesulaukė, žinojo ir apie politinį, ir apie asmeninį bejėgiškumą - kai tave kankina svetimi balsai (ar jie būtų išorėj, ar viduj), kurių negali kontroliuot ir nuo kurių tu niekur nepasislėpsi. (Pagalvojau - gal ir gerai, kad ji nebematė 1942 ir visko, ką jie atnešė.)Visa knyga ir yra apie tą dieną, visiškai vulfiška - tarpusavy susiję ir nesusiję žmonės, jų reakcijos vienas į kitą, mintys, pereinančios į išorinio pasaulio garsus, į pasakotojos žodžius, tada vėl grįžtančios į kažkieno, vis kito/s, galvą. Nėra to vidurio knygos supurtymo, koks buvo "To the Lighthouse", tačiau pilna mažų (vaižgantiškų, jei galima taip sakyt) deimančiukų - aukštuomenė suisrinkusi žiūri kaimo vaidinimą, į jį reaguoja, tada staiga mintimis kažkur nuklysta, tada prabyla peizažas, karvės, tada kaimo vaidinimas visai netikėtai pasirodo nebe kažkokia lėkšta kostiuminė dramelė, o su vos ne koršunovišku twistu gale. Istorijos ir beviltiškumo - tik mažyčiai atgarsiai, kaip kad sueižėjęs lapas tvenkiny, kurio forma kažkam primena Europą, virš galvos skrendantys lėktuvai, rodantys, kad net ir sala jau nebėra kažkas atskiro ir saugaus. Turbūt tas ir turima omeny, kai apie Čechovą sako, kad jo personažai geria arbatą, kol aplink dūžta likimai. Bet Čechovas man nebuvo taip surezonavęs, kaip šita aukštuomenės diena dvare. Išties graži, liūdna knyga, kurią gali skaityt turbūt bilekiek kartų - aš kartais pamesdavau, kur skaitau, imdavau skaityt nuo kažkurios pastraipos, atrast joje tiek visko naujo - palyginimų, šuolių - ir tik po kurio laiko suprasdavau, kad ką tik tą pačią vietą jau skaičiau. Ir, regis, atidžiai, bet kiekvienas kartas parodo vis kažką nauja, o kiek ten apskritai visko yra, kiekvienam žody, kiekvienam tarpe- net nesuprasi.

  • Emanuel
    2018-10-05 13:33

    "Her gift meant nothing. If they had understood her meaning; if they had known their parts; if the pearls had been real and the funds illimitable - it would have been a better gift. Now it had gone to join the others.'A failure' , she groaned, and stooped to put away the records."Ainda bem que o li em inglês, talvez o livro mais orquestrado de virginia, os compassos, as rimas, as repetições, as pausas. Não tendo nenhuma tradução portuguesa, ficou-me a sensação que é das obras de Virginia que será pouco tangível quando traduzida, não no conteúdo, antes no significado que uma narrativa carrega além da palavra, que em Virginia já sendo poética por si só, aqui atinge variações poéticas puras onde a musicalidade da prosa nos faz por momentos até esquecer que as palavras existem.

  • Jesse
    2018-10-20 10:13

    Not my favorite novel by Woolf—not by a longshot—but as the unanticipated terminus for one of literature’s great oeuvres it strikes an incredibly powerful and poignant note, its deliberate, hard-fought expansiveness resisting any sense of finality or closure (indeed, the end is revealed to be just another beginning). On this reading I was struck with how the novel itself feels positioned at a stylistic juncture, an attempt to fuse together the gorgeously abstracted soliloquies of The Waves with the more intimate representation of inner consciousness showcased inMrs. Dalloway,Orlando, and most particularly,To the Lighthouse I’m not convinced everything attempted actually works—it all sometimes feels like a fascinating experiment rather than a full expression of mastery—but it also feels like the kind of creation that retrospectively turns out to be a threshold to other things. Of course in this case we’ll never know what those other things could possibly have been; as Leonard Woolf’s prefatory note acknowledges, its author was dead before the inevitable final revisions could be made. So just to get my critiques out of the way: the quotation of long passages of text being performed at the pageant just don’t ever feel fully integrated into the overall narrative—I’m not inherently against the idea of extended quotation but they almost felt like place cards intended to hold place for something else. Also the various characters seem to function more as archetypal “types” than individuated “people,” and though they signal their various concerns and struggles and thought processes but they feel more like, well, a cast performing lines rather than embodied entities. That said, the distancing effect was certainly Woolf’s intention, as the narrative itself not only sets out to blur distinctions between the generic markers of fiction and drama, but is just one of many boundary lines Woolf plays with: those separating audience and performer, and even author and reader when it comes to generating meaning. There’s a wonderful moment towards the pageant’s climax when a mirror is produced on stage and the narrative voice shifts pronouns, shifting from “them” to “ourselves:” “a burst of applause greeted this flattering tribute to ourselves.” It’s a subtle alteration, but the effect is jarring, and it immediately begs the question of who exactly “ourselves” refers to. The audience watching the pageant within the text, of course, but the reader also is being intentionally imbricated here, and I imagine the author is including herself as well. In my first status update during my reading I also noted how queer this book struck me at this time around; during my first reading some ten years ago I was not in the place to detect alternate meanings to William Dodge’s silent confession that he’s “a half-man” or Miss La Trobe’s complaint that “she was an outcast” and that “nature had somehow set her apart from her kind.” But apart from covert queer representation—and rather depressing ones at that—there’s also something weird, and rather queer about the way Woolf attempts to present time throughout Between the Acts, with the constant, sometimes startling crash between the historical past and the tenuous present (with rumblings of upcoming war wafting nervously in the air). Time cycles restlessly throughout the text, always refusing to march linearly forward, instead trying to slip into more ambiguous temporal spaces. As well as impending war there’s also the long shadow Woolf’s death casts across the text—would the text seem quite as elegiac as it does if Woolf had lived and written more texts after it? An impossible question, and one undermined somewhat by the text itself, which continuously waves off the past and even the future to place the emphasis instead on the present moment. This moment. “The hands of the clock had stopped at the present moment” the narrative trumpets. “It was now. Ourselves.” And when exactly is “now?” The “now” of the text? The “now” of the words first written upon a piece of paper? The “now” of the reader reading the words? For the briefest of instants, the present moment manages to contain them all. [Second reading.]

  • Simon Robs
    2018-10-20 14:04

    Isa Oliver, the Virginia Woolf-like character in "BtA" reflects that "Books are the mirrors of the soul."  And so do plays with mirrors but we'll get to that.  Isa's inner world like the inner world of all human beings if held to mirror would as all Woolf's characters do display clipped and jangled fragments of thought aflight in barn swallow dips and dives between the acts of everyday life.  She's given to poetic flights of fancy to counteract her threadbare and borne acceptancy of matronly married life where love is a veiled proposition.  Her children barely register.  She has her woman's intuition, desire for constancy, passion however checked for proprieties sake.  She's like Pointz Hall the country house setting built on low ground facing north, not the most ideally suited for warmth and view but solid, comfortable, respectable.  If this story went on she might would drown herself too, but it doesn't, so.The story is a day in the life, countryside England in the summer of 1939 on the estate of Bartholomew Oliver of Pointz Hall, where an annual afternoon play or pageant is to be performed outside weather permitting on the lawn and attended by many of the local country folk landowners to benefit the nearby church with donations.  Besides Isa and her father-in-law Bart are his spinster sister Lucy Swithin whom the staff call old "Batty" and Isa's husband Giles Oliver, a saturnine stock broker who also seems trapped in his familial moorings and (their two children) all living together, servants for house and grounds too.  It's a bucolic setting that nevertheless holds within slight cracks that given time or tempest a threat to harmony.  Two additional characters arrive by accident early on to fill out the immediate cast a Mrs. Manresa and William Dodge; she a boisterous virago and he a reserved invert given to artistic flair - how they come as a unit we never know.  The pageant this year is a three part drama invoking periods from England's past and ending in her present.  It is written and directed by a Ms. La Trobe who yearly assembles her cast from locals on a strict budget with no frills and the copse for a dressing room.  The play begins with prologue, mother England calling out, then a Shakespearean romantic piece, a restoration comedy, Victorian epic and finally ending with a shocking piece entitled "Ourselves" where mirrors are turned upon the audience who have been lulled at this point by a caesura (intentional void to set up the ending) interrupted too by unexpected planes flying over and causing consternation.  The cast all hold mirrors on the audience flashing this way and that an assault on identity. The assembled audience by this point has been entertained but also baffled at the conclusion as to meaning - are they to understand that they are part of the play on play or what?  It's Woolf here doing her thing in this swan song performance as novelist - are we readers mirrored, exposed, taken to task?  Are we they who think their act doesn't show through?  Do we too shade our own thoughts with propriety while inside we seethe with uncertainty?  Are we even aware of how what we think registers?  Woolf's own mirrors proved too much for her, she couldn't let be, the demons were at her door and the pouring out in her books couldn't dispel the voices harping in her mind, those very fragments repeating and endless droning that left her no way out.  "BtA" anticipates the coming war that was to be, the horrors were and are history's morality play that show us humans that our memory is fragmented too and needs constant updating with iteration after iteration.  The mirrors are shining back as we read here and now.

  • Xandra
    2018-10-12 07:15

    Virginia Woolf tries to execute an ambitious concept and, while she’s not entirely successful, she doesn’t fail either. Even though the play within this story doesn’t mesh as flawlessly as I would have liked with the story itself, the ideas that do work, the allusions to war, the exhibit of life’s patterns and human nature show that unmistakeable Virginia Woolf mark of brilliance. I was going with 3 stars initially, up close it’s easier to notice the imperfections, but looking from a distance I realize it’s the best parts that stuck in my mind. I guess it’s one of those cases when the ideas transcend the execution and stand on their own. And, my god, the ending was perfection, those two short sentences suffused with meaning, my heart skipped a beat. I’m never disappointed with how she ends her books.And now for the part I liked best (the villagers watching the play, a metaphor of war and its impact on the world): “She had forbidden music. Grating her fingers in the bark, she damned the audience. Panic seized her. Blood seemed to pour from her shoes. This is death, death, death, she noted in the margin of her mind; when illusion fails. Unable to lift her hand, she stood facing the audience.And then the shower fell, sudden, profuse.No one had seen the cloud coming. There it was, black, swollen, on top of them. Down it poured like all the people in the world weeping. Tears. Tears. Tears.“Oh that our human pain could here have ending!” Isa murmured. Looking up she received two great blots of rain full in her face. They trickled down her cheeks as if they were her own tears. But they were all people’s tears, weeping for all people. Hands were raised. Here and there a parasol opened. The rain was sudden and universal. Then it stopped. From the grass rose a fresh earthy smell.”3.5

  • Maria
    2018-10-06 07:09

    You know what I love the most about Virginia Woolf? I am completely captivated by her novels. When I am reading her, I find myself completely lost in her words. Her descriptions bring her world together and it surrounds me in such a way that I just become part of it. It’s so wonderful…“Between the Acts” was brilliant, the kind of brilliant that doesn’t ask to be adored, but that just is due to its simplicity. Virginia Woolf’s observant side is so evident here… it really takes your breath away if you allow yourself to go with the flow. The way she knows people… probably better than they know themselves. I find it absolutely fantastic. When she makes them all stare into their own, broken, reflection… When she makes them realize that under their clothes and their titles they are just the same… When, for a moment, she makes them think about it… it hurts their minds, and you can feel it in their words, their confused words. Then the church’s bells start ding-dong-ing and everything is over. No more need to think. No more need to socialize with people that are there just because society says they should. They just go back to their routines. All of them just abandon their thoughts and go. All of them but the ones considered the crazy ones. Are they crazy to think? Isn’t their insanity a proof of their sanity?Sigh.If I had to describe this novel in one word? Oh, I would call it enchanting. It just lulls you.

  • Markus
    2018-09-24 07:16

    Between the ActsVirginia Woolf (1882-1941)The author has used in this novel the same modernist style as in "To the Light House." It is easy to follow, but if you want to explore the deeper meanings, you would often be reading each sentence or paragraph several times over.“Between the Acts” was the last work of Virginia Woolf and said to be her masterpiece.The story takes place in summer of 1939 at an English country manor. Every year, at about the same time, the owners allow their barn and lawns to be used by the local parish people to put on a country pageant for raising money for the church. This year, the play represents a series of colorful events, celebrating England's history from Victorian and Elizabethan times up to the present. But most of all, ‘Between the Acts’ the audience itself is used by the author to create many outstanding little individual tableaux of sorts, each group a colorful and very British representation of the rigid different social levels, and their rules of minimalist or non-communications. I have come to imagine that in one of the characters of the play, ‘Isa,' the author describes herself, profoundly depressed and expressing her wish to die in several places. At the end of the play, to celebrate the "present," a surprise for the audience has planned something special and startling: The players flash mirrors onto the audience as if to say, "Look what You have become”. !The story is not a cheerful one, but it's a fitting one, to sum up, Virginia Woolf's creative work.

  • Tony
    2018-10-07 11:27

    Woolf, Virginia. BETWEEN THE ACTS. (1941; this ed. 2008). ****. Although I’d have to give the novel itself only three stars, the four star rating applies to this edition which provides an excellent introduction by Melba Cuddy-Keane (University of Toronto) and extensive notes to the text. To give you an idea, the novel itself is only 149 pages long. The introduction is sixty-six pages long, the appended notes take up sixty-two pages. This should give you some idea of the likely obscurity of most of the references in this novel. This is not a novel in the usual sense. Woolf set this up as a microcosm of the world history of England from prehistoric times down to the present as represented by a pageant performed at Pointz Hall in the heart of England. The time is one day in June in 1939. Pointz Hall is owned by the Oliver family, who every year sponsors this pageant to support some local charity. This year, the profits will go towards getting electric lights for the village chapel. The pageant is composed of scenes from the history of England, beginning with the age of Chaucer, through the Victorian Era, ending with “ourselves,” i.e., the present day as represented by the audience. The pageant is suitably obscure with Woolfanistic quotes and allusions – that’s where the notes come in handy. The audience is a mixed bag composed of the local villagers, the Olivers – Isa and her husband Giles – the pastor, the woman who wrote the script for the pageant, and a variety of local lords and ladies. We, as readers, become part of the audience, and don’t much care what is really going on on stage; of course, the fictional audience doesn’t much care either. The most popular parts of the pageant are the “intervals,” where the members of the audience is free to go and get tea and cakes, or wander off with each other for conversation – though their conversations are mostly to themselves and are kind of overheard by their comopanions. We learn that the Olivers are having difficulties with each other. We learn, too, of the frustrations of some of the other female members of the audience and their quest for suitable companionship – either male or female. To say that the technique of stream-of-consciousness predominates this novel would be an understatement. What Woolf has done was to further explore that form along with a concatonation of separate character identies who end up mostly talking to themselves. After you realize that the pageant and its contents aren’t really all that important to the book, you take a break from flipping back and forth to the notes and simply read on, now realizing that you are now seated in one of the wooden chairs in the back of the group, listening in on what the audience members are saying. Lots of comments occur during the pageant, but these are mostly from the older members of the audience who are hard of hearing or just remembered something from their past that the pageant reminded them of. As we approach the end of the pageant, the group finally breaks up when a group of war planes flies overhead. We are left with the sponsors, Isa and Giles, and the story they tell as the last act of the novel. Woolf’s novels are never easy reads, but this one – her last – is especially complex. Recommended.

  • Abby
    2018-10-19 09:24

    “If we’re left asking questions, isn’t it a failure, as a play? I must say I like to feel sure if I go to the theatre, that I’ve grasped the meaning… Or was that, perhaps, what she meant?”Third read. (First read in June 2009; second read in November 2009.)The pleasures of revisiting Woolf are manifold. Years later, I still feel like I never left this novel. I read it twice in 2009 in preparation for my undergraduate thesis, and now, in 2015, I have been happily astonished that it felt so fresh and memorable to me. Rereading Between the Acts felt like visiting an old friend in her garden. My undergrad marginalia in my copy was often embarrassing to reread, but I think these copious, juvenile annotations served to cement a strong recall of the themes and overall emotions of this novel. Mainly, I’ve come away with this impression: Snob as she was, Woolf noticed everybody. And here we notice ourselves in these characters, as at the end of the play, when the (literal) mirrors are held up to the audience, casting a chilling democracy over the crowd. “So that was her little game! To show us up, as we are, here and how.” On a summer evening in the English countryside, a family and their neighborhood friends gather to put on an annual pageant that spans the history of noble Britain. As to be expected with Woolf, a multiplicity of psychological distress simmers under the social surface. Isa is the quiet center of this novel, and we live in her sad, observant mind. As with most Woolf heroines, she is a secretive poet and an unhappy wife and mother, imprisoned by the luxuries of her domestic situation. And yet she is still sympathetic and very human. This is not her strongest novel, and it’s not the one I’d recommend to newcomers, but it has all the trappings of Woolf’s timeless appeal as a novelist: the incisive characterization, the lush prose, the beautiful meditations, the moments of playfulness. “Did the plot matter? She shifted and looked over her right shoulder. The plot was only there to beget emotion. There were only two emotions: love; and hate. There was no need to puzzle over the plot. Perhaps Miss La Trobe meant that when she cut this knot in the centre? Don’t bother about the plot: the plot’s nothing.”

  • Brenden O'Donnell
    2018-10-05 14:26

    I think I tried to make this novel conform to the rest of Woolf's work when I first read it. This reading, done in the context of a Modernism seminar after having read "Ulysses" and "Nightwood," has provided a more appropriate frame. Though throughout most of this reading it still felt a little more like Djuna Barnes than Woolf, once I got through to the end I was surprised how much Woolf I recognized in it. I read it as a prophetic vision of the end of human meaning, though it's really ambiguous whether this end of meaning happens as a consequence of the end of human life. I think there's evidence that the novel is conscious of this possibility (what with the war happening on the margins of the novel's action), but, like with most post-humanist arguments, I think it's a waste of time to focus on the associated dread and violence of the end's imposition. "Between the Acts" offers so much more in the way of repositioning our understanding of meaning, rather than mourning the loss of it. There is, literally, a fertility that occurs as the characters surrender their power to the weather, animals, and circumstance. Rather than worrying about whether or not they will recognize themselves when the end comes, the characters focus on what they can recognize now: that is to say, the presence of and forfeit to an end that is the beginning of something we as humans cannot appreciate. But we can appreciate our own limitations. "Between the Acts" encourages us to remember that structures of human meaning abandoned, "words without meaning," are, nonetheless, "wonderful words" (144). It's a powerful idea that is capable of quelling much anxiety if we choose to remember it often. I'm still not sure what it is about this closing idea that makes the novel more recognizably Woolf than it previously had. It's questions like these that makes Woolf such a persistently vital part of my life.

  • Ali
    2018-09-29 15:32

    Between the Acts was Virginia Woolf’s final novel – published posthumously – it is a novel which remains as she left it when she took her own life in 1941. We will never know what revisions and alterations she might have made.Taking place on one English summer day in 1939, Between the Acts perfectly re-creates a long June day before the war changes everything for the comfortable upper classes. The war looms large throughout the novel, Virginia Woolf of course writing the book after hostilities had begun – it is clear she was very affected by it. Throughout the novel there are illusions to the coming war. We are reminded of flight by the swallows in the skies above the characters who muse about what may be ahead – the legions of aircraft which will soon take to the skies. Vague references made to the unsettled continent lying a few miles across the channel.It is the day of the annual village pageant at Pointz Hall – which has become quite a local tradition. In typical British fashion on such occasions there is some discussion about the weather – and will the barn need to be used. The day starts well, the weather looks like being fine. The pageant; attended by all sections of the community, the grand and not so grand – is a grand celebration of English history, a play within a play.The Oliver family; Isa, Giles and their young children, are staying with Giles’ father Bartholomew Oliver and his sister Lucy Swithin at Pointz Hall. Around the Olivers gather a disparate group of characters through whom we witness the comings and goings of the day, as Woolf weaves together their various musings and concerns.Full review: https://heavenali.wordpress.com/2016/...

  • Blake
    2018-10-05 07:33

    Here is Virginia Woolf at her Orlandoesque playfulness.In a country house, somewhere in England, the residents and others prepare for a pageant, annually performed in the house grounds. It is just weeks out from WW2. The pageant, a celebration of English history, is attended by the entire local community. There, amidst the rush, the leisure and lingering, Woolf has canvas fit to serve her swirling brush.The writing is filled with hidden meanings, many of them tucked away in seemingly innocuous rhymes, but therein lies violence, sex and other "mad music". Musings are interrupted, corrupted and flow into each other, often bringing out something more intriguing than the original thought.The characters are painted vividly in Woolf's detailed style, but as always they retain that delicate shape she so mastered composition of.It ends on a calm note, representing the earlier events perhaps as prehistory...or, to Woolf, a possible posthistory. Exquisite!

  • Adriana Scarpin
    2018-09-29 11:15

    Obra magnífica, o simbolismo presente mesmo abarca não só a história cultural da Inglaterra, como arremata não apenas o momento em que foi em escrito em tintas diacrônicas como também a metalinguagem da autora. Três aspectos importantíssimos a serem considerados na leitura desse livro: 1939 e o século das guerras, modernismo literário e musical, por último mas não menos importante, o fato deste ser o último livro de Woolf antes do suicídio - se você se ater a essas três chaves mestras o simbolismo será destrinchado e se abrirá o leque de uma das mais soberbas obras de Woolf.

  • Michael
    2018-10-20 07:17

    Seriously awful.I'm not even going to pretend to like it.I have to discuss this book for my English class tomorrow. What can I honestly say about it? I know the hardcore kids in my class have stacks of notes they took. They will sit on the edge of their seats waiting for the moment to shoot their hand up and draw pointless analogies to other books they've read. They'll have sentences beginning with "It's interesting how..." and "It seems to me that..." I'll sit quietly and mock them in my mind.Woolf makes me a cynic. That is what I have learned.