Introduced by Jeanette Winterson
Posing as a biography, Orlando spans 400 years in the fantastical life of a young nobleman whose adventures take an unexpected twist when he wakes one day to find he has become a woman. Introduced by Jeanette Winterson.
This exuberant book has been described in many ways. Virginia Woolf declared it ‘a writer’s holiday’ – a break from the seriousness and earnestness that she felt bound by in her career as a novelist. To Jeanette Winterson, who introduces the Folio edition, it is a joyful fantasy, a historical novel and a ‘savage satire on sexism’. And to Nigel Nicolson, Orlando is ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’, written to his mother, Vita Sackville-West.
Posing as a biography, Orlando spans 400 years in the fantastical life of a young nobleman and favourite of Queen Elizabeth I whose adventures take an unexpected twist when he wakes from a week-long sleep to find he has become a woman. He/she lives through many ages, experiencing the Great Frost of the early 18th century, befriending Alexander Pope and living as a wife and poet in 1920s London, but never ages beyond 36 years. Woolf saw the book as an opportunity to send up her own writerly postulations: ‘Had Orlando … died for a week, and then come to life again? And if so, of what nature is death, and of what nature life? Having waited well over half an hour for an answer to these questions, and none coming, let us get on with the story.’ But Orlando was also a gift to Vita, with whom she had had a passionate affair. The protagonist’s childhood home is Knole, the sprawling Kent mansion of the Sackville-Wests which, as a woman, Vita could never inherit. Orlando’s handsome physique pays compliment to her beauty. Orlando’s gender change and cross-dressing echo her romantic adventures, which included wooing female lovers in the garb of a man. In real life both women resisted the boundaries imposed by their gender; in this bold novel Woolf critiques stereotypes and conventions by pushing the boundaries of her imagination, perhaps more than in any of her other novels.
The first edition of Orlando included photographs of Sackville-West, some of them taken specifically for the book. Woolf ’s chosen images are included here, signalling Orlando’s dual identity and the author’s unabashed presentation of the novel as a paean to Sackville-West. She also included photographs of four portraits, which are still housed at Knole and Sissinghurst. Happily we were able to reshoot three of them in colour for this edition.
Read more about the life and work of Virginia Woolf
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Review by PAULALOUD on 1st Dec 2013
"The Folio Society edition of Orlando is gorgeous. Everything from the binding to the photos and illustrations make this a beautiful volume to own. Orlando is captivating and soul-stirring as we are ..." [read more]
Review by ericbruen on 21st Jul 2013
Review by firstname.lastname@example.org on 12th Feb 2013
"I received my lovely copy of 'Orlando' last week, and am very happy with it, as it includes the original photographs and illustrations. Lovely cover design, nice in the hand. I will be reading it soon..." [read more]