I got a combined The Years / Between the Acts paperback for the whopping price of £2.50 (I prefer reading on dead trees than rare earth minerals) and so read one immediately followed by the other. As suggested by the short General Introduction at the front I read them first before reading the accompanying (longer) Introduction. Afterwards I read the Introduction to understand what the hell I’d just read (somewhat standard fair with Virginia Woolf).
The Years, despite being much longer, is actually pretty straight-forward and a “normal” novel - there isn’t as much to analyse or understand about it. Between the Acts on the other hand has a lot more going on in it than at first sight.
- The horse with the green tail incident is actually explicitly mentioned (Isa reads the newspaper article), but still it is somewhat possible to read the novel without realising the true horror of what this refers to - the Introduction ensures you don’t miss this and, presumably, if you were reading the novel closer to the time of publication you’d be much aware about the case a couple of years earlier.
- The word “tumbling” sounds a lot more innocent than it is (“I kissed a girl and let her go, another did I tumble”) and if it wasn’t for the Introduction I too, like Mrs Manresa, would have been completely ignorant and oblivious to this.
- The ending (last couple of pages) has a quote from Isa that is very similar to the one I’ve picked from Flush (see tomorrow). I found that interesting.
- I found the ending (the last paragraph) unnerving. There are different ways it can be interpreted (and the Introduction surprisingly interprets this quite innocently), but, likely as a result of knowing this is the last novel she wrote before her suicide and that Virginia Woolf’s mental health had been deteriorating, I saw this differently; Between the Acts on the whole could be seen (probably isn’t) as a descent into a schizophrenic dream (nightmare); A less disturbing interpretation would be that what lifts (“rose”) at the end is actually the “parenting” veil/mask mothers and fathers wear during the daytime and in the evening they are finally free to enjoy solely each others company (and hopefully remember they do actually like each other afterall).