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.
Published in 1941
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