Orlando - Virginia Woolf Orlando; or, The World’s Most Interesting Premise WastedVirginia Woolf has a wild premise for Orlando: a boy living in Elizabethan England does not die and somewhere near the middle of his life turns into a woman!What a spectacular starting point for an author not only wanting to provide a good story but also wanting to describe the effects of time and gender on a person. Maybe Virginia Woolf did that. Other readers certainly think she did. I do not, however. Orlando is the huge waste of a premise.I’m not sure what I’m supposed to take from this reading experience. Its most salient point was the immutability of the human spirit regardless of sex. For although Orlando must change her outward behavior to align with societal attitudes concerning gender, he/she remains steady throughout the text, mainly through his/her devotion to writing. I suppose I don’t find this point really profound. It’s been said before and it’s been said better. My main problem, though, is the writing. I’ve read some of Woolf’s essays and short stories before and was impressed by her prose. In Orlando her writing choices confused me. Her prose lacks any emotion. I read this entire book utterly dispassionate to what was unfolding on the pages before me. For me, it read cold and surgical. It lacked any life. This detachment is exacerbated by the character of Orlando who is very aloof. Who is Orlando? Why should I care about her? Even when events upset Orlando—when the Russian princess leaves, when the critic insults his poem, when her lands and title are stripped from her—he/she continues on like before. Woolf might say, “Orlando was devastated,” but not once did I feel any of Orlando’s feelings.It reminded me of reading a lab report. “Observe closely as our specimen, Orlando, male and aged 16, sits beneath the oak tree. [Six paragraphs of description about his surrounding environment] Now watch as he goes to the Queen’s Court [Nine paragraphs of description about his surrounding environment]…Now observe as he transforms into a woman [Sixty two paragraphs about 17th Century London]” And on and on. Obviously I’m an outlier here. Most people are moved by Woolf’s writing and challenged by Orlando’s metamorphosis. In my goodreads profile under “favorite books” I have written: a book that 1. makes me think 2. features a gripping story. Usually but not always in that order. If I finish a book that accomplishes none of the above, I will be very unhappy. I just finished Orlando and I’m feeling very unhappy.