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Book Title: Between the Acts|
The author of the book: Virginia Woolf
Edition: Penguin Books
The size of the: 787 KB
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Loaded: 2935 times
Reader ratings: 3.3
Date of issue: 1972
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
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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.
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Read information about the author(Adeline) Virginia Woolf was an English novelist and essayist regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century.
During the interwar period, Woolf was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. Her most famous works include the novels Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), and Orlando (1928), and the book-length essay A Room of One's Own (1929) with its famous dictum, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."
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