Emily's Reviews > Between the Acts

Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf
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Feb 05, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2010

So this book took me forever to finish it! And not because I did not enjoy it (because I did), but because I was so busy with exams, and college and reading enormous amounts of papers to get through! But anyway, today I had some free time and finished in about an hour the eighty pages I got left.

So, yeah, it was pretty dense, which kind of made it difficult to get into it at first, as often happens with Woolf's works. I felt I didn't know the characters until around page sixty or seventy. I think Woolf's works are full of subtleties and delicate irony, which makes them often seem quite inaccesible. So I try not to panic and just flow through the prose, even if I feel I'm losing something that's escaping between my fingers, at least I'm enoying the experience, I'm getting to know the characters and the environments. Then, when I get to be deep enough into the story, I may look around for more subtle details, trying not to break that fragile spell that may dissapear any time.

Whilst "Between the Acts" hasn't been my favourite work by her, it's definitely got something the others didn't. Perhaps, I think, it's that this time Virginia focuses more on society and social relationships from the outside (their actions, the things they do to relate to each other in a fully organized society) than on the inside (feelings and thoughts but not much action). Also, the play seemed pretty irrelevant at first, but as I writer myself I think it is such a good idea to, kind, of, I don't know, create that kind of metaphor when the real life is the actual play and everybody is playing their role (although they all feel opressed somewhat, as wee see in the main characters, Giles, Lady Manresa, Isa and William, and even the playwriter, who feel so misunderstood, Ms. La Trobe) and the play is the actual "between the act", that is, a mere stop from playing, a rest to watch something different. And then! The ending of the play! Couldn't have been better, definitely! To make them see themselves reflected off a mirror, oh my god, that is why she's so good and even if you've been halfway trhough the book thinking nothing makes any sense (at least for me, me being not native and having just begun to learn English history for the first time at college I sometimes got lost in cultural references, feeling I was missing something, though perhaps it's also beautiful to interpret it from a different culture, to see it with new eyes), then you get that -which may be a kind of present for having gotten so far and having trusted her. (and the ending sentence. beyond awesome!).

So as I said, this isn't one of my favourite books by her, but it's definitely worth reading in order to understand a bit better the characters of that age and Virginia herself (I think she expresses many of her discontentments towards her life here. It's curious that she actually wrote it some time before dying -comitting suicide). Many topics she subtly mentions are actually crutial -Manresa feeling stupid and then thinking she's superior because she does enjoy life in the natural way, Isa so tired of wearing the mask of the stupid and nice housewife, Giles thinking he can be unfaithful to Isa but she can't, uncommunication in marriage, hidden emotions in order to be polite, and just many of them could apply to our times! It's a good book to think over, though it seems that in the end, everything vanishes (as what happens with the play, that makes the audience think for a while but they actually end up forgetting about it -or at least trying).

It doesn't, really. Leaves a good taste in your mouth.
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Quotes Emily Liked

Virginia Woolf
“Books are the mirrors of the soul.”
Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts

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