Review: Orlando by Virginia Woolf

There is something intimidating about Virginia Woolf. As the High-Priestess of High Modernism, she has a reputation of being opaque and denying easy access to her texts. So, though I’ve read and enjoyed her texts like Mrs. Dalloway and A Room of One’s Own, there are a couple of her texts still languishing on my shelves. Thanks to Reading Challenges though, I’ve finished her Orlando.

First published in 1928, and dedicated to Woolf’s friend (and lover?) Vita Sackville-West, Orlando is the story of the eponymous hero born during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Blessed (cursed?) never to age, the  novel recounts his adventures thereof which includes falling in love with a Russian princess, being betrayed by a poet, being posted as England’s ambassador to Turkey, moving with the gypsies over there, returning to the literary circles of England of the 18th century, suffering the fecundity of the Victorian age. It ends on an October day in 1928. And yes, sometime in Turkey, Orlando goes into a deep sleep and when he wakes up, he is no longer a man. From then on, Lady Orlando experiences life both as a man and a woman.

Some of the passages in the book are hilarious such as the description of the conferring of the Dukedom on Orlando or the one in the ship when she accidentally shows her ankles:

Here she tossed her foot impatiently, and showed an inch or two of calf. A sailor on the mast, who happened to look down at the moment, started so violently that he missed his footing and only saved himself by the skin of his teeth. (111)

Overall, however, the book tends to drag. However, I am happy that after a decade on my shelf, I am finally done with it.


First Line: HE – for there could be no doubt about his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it – was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters.

Title: Orlando

Author: Virginia Woolf

Publication Details: London: Penguin, 1998

First Published: 1928

Pages: 232

Other books read of the same author: A Room of One’s Own, Mrs. Dalloway


The book is easily available in libraries, book shops, on the Net. It is also available for free download. After all these years I’ve quite forgotten where I purchased it from.


Submitted for the following challenges: A-Z (Titles), British Books, A Classic Challenge, Mount TBR, TBR Pile, Unread Book.

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