In the beginning of this year as a new year's resolution I decided that I would read more novels written by woman. This was because I realized that the novels that I was reading in my life were almost always written by men. It was not a conscious decision, I didn't even realized that that was the case, but when I though about it I decided to change it and I immediately bought a few books from Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and Emily Bronte. Those authors were always in my ''future reading list'', I wanted to read them already, simply this realization that I was not reading female authors triggered me to do it this year and not later.
This was the first book I've read from Virginia Woolf and I have to confess that it has really impressed me. Her style, her lack of preoccupation in creating a coherent story, the amount of interesting inner debate about life, gender, and society, it all made really love this book. The story is about Orlando, a man who is born in a rich family in the sixteenth century in England. In the beginning of the book you have sometimes the impression that some events happen really really fast. For example in a single page you get the information that he has a relationship with a woman, than after that with another one, and that after that he gets engaged with a third one. In this you get a sense of something that happens throughout the whole book, which is that the passage of time in the story is really chaotic. For example, the whole life of Orlando happens in about 350 years, there is really more than 300 years of events in the book during a single life of a person. There is a social party once that only it lasts for 50 years. However, the funny thing of all that is that in the end, after passing all this time Orlando still is 37 or 38 years of age. Yes, as I said, the story is not very coherent, specially about time. But to be honest, this was one aspect of it that I really enjoyed. Yes, it was nice to see how Virginia didn't care about certain things like the time for example. It was as if she wanted to tell a story that was not physically possible, but nevertheless a story that she wanted to tell, so she simple said, fuck this time thing, the story is mine and even time is something that I control here. At least this was my impression. Additionally there is something else about it. Orlando talks a bit about this in the book and how people's time and the real time might not necessarily be the same thing. For example, 50 years can pass to a person but her experiences during those years might have been so few that it would be as if this person wouldn't really be 50 years old. Those issues get materialized in this story with mastery.
Another important aspect in this book is the issue of gender. As I said, Orlando was born as a man, but there is a moment in his life, when he is actually living in Turkey, that inexplicably he ends up sleeping for seven days in a roll, and when he wakes up, he suddenly realized that his sex has changed and that now she is a woman. The funny thing is that initially Orlando, apart from the body change, doesn't really perceive any change whatsoever in how she feels, what she thinks, what she worries about, in her character in general, and the story simply goes on as if nothing significant has happened. Well, at least for a while. There is a moment when she is coming back to England on a ship, and there she starts to see how men behave towards her and starts to remember how she used to behave towards other women when she was a man. Then observing from both perspectives she starts to rethink a lot of gender issues and from now on in the story this becomes a present thing very frequently. This gives rise to some feminist social criticism of the English society of the nineteenth century. For example, Orlando when still a man, wanted to be a poet, but now as a woman she initially feared that she could not become anymore since this was not viewed as a woman's thing. Virginia, through Orlando, makes some good social criticism even to famous writers of her time that she didn't like very much. Anyway, to summarize, the story of Orlando is very interesting. The writing is simple and even though the story is sometimes quite crazy, the whole book is easy to read and certainly very enjoyable. All those fantastic things that happen with time makes it even more interesting I think. And it is quite impressive how things like feminism and more so transgender issues, that today are more openly talked about, were already vividly present in this book that was written about a century ago. I confess I am now in love with Virginia Woolf. I am really looking forward to read more of her books. I guess this book could easily be in my top 5 novels of all time. If not at least in the top 10.