Between the acts, Virginia Woolf

Sometimes you read a book you expect you will probably like. A book that is written beautifully and has parts you enjoy enormously, but a book that also has a problem. I had this strange experience with Between the acts by Virginia Woolf.

It is a beautiful summer day in 1939. At the estate of Pointz Hall the villagers gather to rehearse and perform their annual play. The family who owns the estate is waiting until everything is ready and they can fulfill their part as the audience.

The family consists of old Bartholomew Oliver, who once played a part in the colonial government of India. There is also his son Giles, who works in the city, but does not like that and his wife Isabella who is dissatisfied with her marriage. To compensate that she writes poems she hides and often thinks herself to be in love with one of the farmers in the village. Other people who visit the estate are Bartholomew’s sister who is religious and irritates her brother and the worldly Mrs. Manresa and William Dodge.

During the preparations for the play and the pauses between the acts the different members of the family ponder about the changes in the world, and Giles for example thinks he is the only one who knows that is going on in Europe and how serious the situation is.
People talk about the view and how little it has changed over the years, they talk about the king who has abdicated and what is happening in the country.

You read parts of the conversations and pieces of contemplations while the preparations for the play are in full blaze. It is a bit like you are walking around hearing bit and pieces everywhere. You can see this is a technique Virginia Woolf used before, it is done so very well here.

Beautiful descriptions of the surrounding gardens take you away and let you float in the atmosphere of a very English afternoon.

If the whole book was filled with these kind of descriptions, I would have been a very happy woman. But unfortunately there was also a part I did not like at all, and that was the play itself. Virginia Woolf put the entire script of the play in the book and I was completely bored by it. I even admit I skipped some pages here.

In short, beautiful descriptions and fragments done like nobody can do so well as Virginia Woolf, but I personally thought the parts between the acts were better than the acts. J

Published in 1941


  1. This is my least favorite Virginia Woolf novel and it's because of the play; I didn't like any of the parts that had to do with the play. Which made it hard for me to appreciate the rest of the novel. I liked her idea, but not her execution with this particular novel.

    1. That was exactly my feeling about this book!
      I really enjoyed the inbetween parts, but certainly not the play. I am so glad I am not the only one who thinks this!

      Kind regards,

  2. I haven't read any of Virginia Woolf's work but I am hoping to rectify that - I'm signing up to The Classics Club this year and have a title or two on my list of 50 books to read over the next few years.
    Bits & Bobs

    1. I am looking forward to the reviews of the books you read. I find Virginia Woolf as a person fascinating (although not a very kind woman, I think), but I must confess I do not think she is a very easy or accesible writer. For me, it takes some hard work to read and understand her work.
      But some parts are absolutely beautiful.

      Kind regards,


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