Fantasy, love and an exuberant celebration of English life and literature, Orlando is a uniquely entertaining story. Originally conceived by Virginia Woolf as a playful tribute to the family of her friend and lover, Vita Sackville-West, Orlando's central character, a fictional embodiment of Sackville-West, changes sex from a man to a woman and lives throughout the centuries, whilst meeting historical figures of English literature.
The book opens with Orlando as a young nobleman in Elizabethan England who finds love with a Russian princess. During Charles II's reign, he is an ambassador to Constantinople and becomes a Duke. Orlando then goes on to wake as a beautiful woman, exploring the roles of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. Eventually becoming a wife and mother the tale ends in the year 1928, a year consonant with full suffrage for women. Upon plans to publish her 1588 poem 'The Oak Tree', written in the opening of the book, she reflects on her centuries of adventure.
An exploration of androgyny and the creative life of a woman, it is considered a feminist work. Arguably one of Woolf's most popular stories, it marked a turning point in her career, departing from her more introspective works. Receiving both critical and financial success, it guaranteed Woolf's financial stability.
There have been many adaptations made, including a 1992 film starring Tilda Swinton and an opera by composer Peter Aderhold which premiered at the Braunschweig State Theatre in in 2016.
Clare Higgins is an accomplished actress of screen and stage, winning three Olivier Awards for Best Actress for her roles in Sweet Bird of Youth (1995), Vincent in Brixton (2003) and Hecuba (2005). With a long and successful career in British and American theatre, she has also been a regular feature on our television screens. Her recent roles have included Miss Cackle in The Worst Witch (2017), Ohila in Doctor Who (2013 and 2015), Hazel Warren in EastEnders (2015) and Vivian in Rogue (2014).
Claire Higgins is probably best known for her memorable and sinister performance as Julia in the horror films Hellraiser (1987) and Hellbound: Hellraiser II (1988), with other film appearances including The Golden Compass (2007) and Small Faces (2006). With a voice and timing perfect for audio she has narrated many audiobooks, including Nick Hornby's How to Be Good and Joanna Trollope's The Best of Friends, and in 2009 portrayed Margaret Thatcher in the BBC Radio 4 drama A Family Affair.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Nicholas on 18-01-09
An imaginative classic...
This is an outstanding pieces of literature. I came to this title by accident following a audible recommendation link from a previous title, The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffeneggar.
This voyage through life and time is superb. Humorous, intense and subtle. He, then she, Orlando, touches, brushes and grasps each era from the 16th to the 20th century. An imaginative classic, this work is accessible and highly recommended!
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
By Phillip on 24-09-09
They stream of consciousness style and dry wit is suited perfectly to an audiobook. Also, Clare Higgin's voice is perfectly suited to the work, and I want her to record all of Virginia Woolf's work.
It is magical, perfectly produced and the only disappointment is that 8 hours and 43 mins is over much, much too quickly. It is one of the few audiobooks that I will listen to again.
Wonderful, magical, surprising, original, beautiful, bold and full of love.
Listen to the sample . . . and then you will find that you must get this audiobook.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Mayca on 31-05-05
Orlando by Virgina Woolf has totally enchanted me. It is beautifully written with an extraordinary abundance of vocabulary and mastery of the English language. Woolf transports you effortlessly to a world where ages succeed one another depicting all the world changes typical of the corresponding era. But Orlando lives through them all. And although his gender changes, his personality, so rich and versatile, does not and stays fascinating throughout the whole book which holds you spellbound from the very first word to the last. Clare Higgins is a gifted narrator and her clear and musical diction contributes to the enjoyment of the story. I have listened to the book twice and I intend to do it more times. I also intend to purchase more books by the author.
18 of 20 people found this review helpful
By J. on 21-03-13
wonderful language, unusual style
Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?
Perhaps. It's something that few people would seek out on their own.
If you’ve listened to books by Virginia Woolf before, how does this one compare?
Somewhat less grim than her polemics, a witty fantasy.
What about Clare Higgins’s performance did you like?
Superb reading, showing fluency and thorough familiarity with the material and idiom. It made me able to pretend I was hearing the voice and thoughts of the author, as she projected them into her protagonist.
If you could rename Orlando, what would you call it?
Migrations of a soul
Any additional comments?
Vivid descriptions of wonderful natural and social environments; no direct dialog or conversations; some devastating skewering of the follies of manners and institutions, as in essays; rambling plot and erratic pace, with many digressions and ellipses; humorous turns of phrase; interesting characters.
Not nearly enough pause breaks for skipping back if you miss one or two intricate sentences among the dense verbiage.
7 of 8 people found this review helpful