Virginia Woolf - Orlando
[Unabridged audiobook with text]
Orlando: A Biography is an influential novel by Virginia Woolf, first published on 11 October 1928. A semi-biographical novel based in part on the life of Woolf's intimate friend Vita Sackville-West, it is generally considered one of Woolf's most accessible novels. The novel has been influential stylistically, and is considered important in literature generally, and particularly in the history of women's writing and gender studies.
Orlando tells the story of a young man named Orlando, born in England during the reign of Elizabeth I, who decides not to grow old. He is briefly a lover to the decrepit queen, but after her death has a brief, intense love affair with Sasha, a princess in the entourage of the Russian embassy. This episode, of love and excitement against the background of the Great Frost, is one of the best known, and is said to represent Vita Sackville-West's affair with Violet Trefusis.
Following Sasha's return to Russia, the desolate, lonely Orlando returns to writing The Oak Tree, a poem started and abandoned in his youth. This period of contemplating love and life leads him to appreciate the value of his ancestral stately home, which he proceeds to furnish lavishly and then plays host to the populace. Ennui sets in and a persistent suitor's harassment leads to Orlando's appointment by King Charles II as British ambassador to Constantinople. Orlando performs his duties well, until a night of civil unrest and murderous riots. He falls asleep for a lengthy period, resisting all efforts to rouse him. Upon awakening he finds that he has metamorphosed into a woman—the same person, with the same personality and intellect, but in a woman's body. For this reason, the now Lady Orlando covertly escapes Constantinople in the company of a Gypsy clan, adopting their way of life until its essential conflict with her upbringing leads her to head home. Only on the ship back to England, with her constraining female clothes and an incident in which a flash of her ankle nearly results in a sailor's falling to his death, does she realise the magnitude of becoming a woman; yet she concludes the overall advantages, declaring 'Praise God I'm a woman!'
Orlando becomes caught up in the life of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, holding court with the great poets (notably Alexander Pope), winning a lawsuit and marrying a sea captain. In 1928, she publishes The Oak Tree centuries after starting it, winning a prize.
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