This month, my book club read Orlando by Virginia Woolf and I seem to be the only person who really truly enjoyed it. The friend who picked it seemed to like it enough and another friend saw its merits, but the other three members simply did not care for it. I suppose it isn't an easy work to get absorbed by, but that's why I'm glad to have a book club -- we read and discuss the books we should have already read and discussed in a class by now.
Orlando was written by Virginia Woolf as lighter fare, a break from the other book she was writing - The Waves. It plays with the idea of a biography, namely, by being a fictional fantasy biography of a character whose life spans centuries and genders. Bookstores at the time of its release refused to order many copies because "biographies don't sell" and Woolf admitted that she would have to pay a high price for the fun of calling her book a biography, but it actually turned out to be a huge success. It's also no secret that the character of Orlando is based on Vita Sackville-West, a friend and lover of Woolf's. Sackville-West's son is quoted to have said that this novel is the longest and most charming love letter in literature. The novel (like Vita) explores lesbian and bisexual themes in addition to the ruminations on the confines of gender.
Despite what sounds like serious things, it's very funny as a self-aware narrator muses on the business of writing a biography and Orlando muses on writing in general. I sincerely recommend it, particularly because it brought Woolf into a new light for me, as this differs so much from To the Lighthouse and Mrs Dalloway, which were my only references-- both excellent, but not noted for their humor.

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