Monday, March 11, 2013

Review: Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf

Title: Between the Acts
Author: Virginia Woolf
Genre: Classics / Literary
Publisher: Mariner Books
First published: 1941
Pages: 228

Rating: 6 out of 10

Between the Acts, the last book that Woolf ever wrote, covers one day in the lives of a group of people living in a small English countryside town. The setting is just before World War II, and they are preparing to put together their annual play.

I was expecting this book to be another Mrs. Dalloway, and though there are many similarities, I never felt that inspiring sense of beauty that Dalloway gave me. I was put off by its simplicity, vague plot, and string of characters, while Mrs. Dalloway builds off of these same points. This book should not be looked at as a novel, but rather a spare description of a day's events.

The characters were slightly interesting, but I kept asking myself what the point of this book was. Perhaps to allow us a glimpse of a commoner's view on the history of England? The play was a brief exploration of the townspeople's native land through the ages, and Woolf allows us to "watch" the play while still hearing what all of the characters in the audience are commenting (often not complimentary).

However, if this is indeed what Woolf wanted the book to be about, it didn't work out all that well. I hardly remembered the subject of the plays until I flipped back through it while writing this review. The connection with English history wasn't a striking one. I think that she wanted to focus on the characters more, and yet, I never felt anything for any of them.
Isa was the only one who interested me mildly. She is a middle aged woman who is married with children, and finds herself wanting more out of life. She refers to her husband as "the father of my children," seemingly in an effort to remind herself of her duty and attachment to him. She has feelings for another man, but they never even speak to each other.

I felt that none of the characters were ever explored deeply enough to qualify this little volume as a true, character driven story.

As a result, this is a nothing-driven story, and it is only Woolf's beautiful prose that saves it. I love Virginia Woolf's writing style, and that is what kept me reading.

I would hesitate to recommend this to anyone except fans of Woolf.