Orlando, a prestigious young man, is chosen by the current Queen of England to join her entourage in London. During his time there, he meets his love, which is ultimately ruined, and he leaves in disgrace.
Why this book?: I heard it’s queer. Specifically, I heard Orlando is possibly genderqueer or genderfluid.
Plus I had to choose another AP Lit book for the last quarter. My teacher found this book for me, so I had to read it.
This one is really difficult, mainly because I was expecting one thing, and got one that was only somewhat similar to what I was hoping for. I knew, or at least expected, for the writing to be very dense, considering that this was written by Virginia Woolf and that it was on the AP book list. And that is exactly what I got.
The writing was dense, so dense that I ended up not reading the physical copy, and found a cheap audiobook in order to finish it in time for my essay. The writing was so distracting that I often found myself focusing on the writing style rather than what was being written about. Woolf used beautiful metaphors and other figurative languange that really caught my attention, so much so that I don’t even remember what part of the book I was reading. It became less distracting as I transitioned from physical to audio, but it was still difficult to understand the story.
As for the genderfluidity that I heard rumored about, I can’t say that I was impressed? Woolf made it seem like having a fluid gender was more of a problem if anything, because she repeatedly touched on how Orlando lost all of their possessions because there was no way to verify they were Orlando.
Plus, people were going on how in this book, Orlando changes gender multiple times, therefore: genderfluid. However, Orlando magically changes gender once, from male to female, making me think trans. This isn’t me saying “if you only change gender once you’re trans not genderfluid” because I’m not about that gatekeeping shit, but at the same time the rep, for any type of being non-cis, was lackluster, and frankly insulting, when examining the “magic” part of Orlando’s transition.
Final Rating: ★★★☆☆
While I could barely understand what was going on, it wasn’t a bad story. I was interested and intrigued, and the writing was amazing, but I just really couldn’t get into it. Plus, I wasn’t impressed by Virginia’s lackluster gender rep. I have a feeling she was just doing it for the shock appeal, and not for any actual representation.
Also, this book baffles me. Why are people surviving centuries? Like, yeah, Orlando is magical, but there were other characters that survived that long. What?
Would I Recommend?
I mean, if you really like that classic, dense writing that puts you to sleep, sure, why not. I really didn’t see where the story was going, and while I liked the characters, especially Orlando, I wouldn’t read it for any diversity points that someone might want to award Virginia Woolf.
Published: October 11, 1928
Publisher: Hogarth Press
Page Count: 333
Synopsis: via Goodreads
In her most exuberant, most fanciful novel, Woolf has created a character liberated from the restraints of time and sex. Born in the Elizabethan Age to wealth and position, Orlando is a young nobleman at the beginning of the story-and a modern woman three centuries later.