|Leonard and Virginia Woolf
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The Reading Life Virginia Woolf Project-
One of the long range Reading Life Projects I am currently working on is all the fiction of Virginia Woolf (1882 to 1941-UK. I started out with the "Big Four", Mrs Dalloway, To the Lighthouse, The Waves, and Orlando. In part my thinking was that if I get side tracked or lose interest in the project at least I will have read her masterpieces. I then read Jacob's Room followed by Flush. I read her classic work A Room of Her Own, plus a few essays and short stories.
"Lappin and Lapinova" was one of the stories included in her final collection of short stories, A Haunted House and other Stories. It is narrated in a simple straightforward way that would have been quite comfortable to short story writers conditioned by the work of Saki and O. Henry.
As the story opens Rosalind and Ernest Thorburn had just gotten married. They are very much in love. One morning Rosalind begins to think that her husband does not look like an Ernest. Instead she decides that he looks like a rabbit. Ernest in no way to outsiders resembles a rabbit ("lapin" is French for rabbit) but soon he and his wife have constructed a private mythology in which they see each other as rabbits. One wonders if VW had the same image in mind of the romantic proclivities of rabbits as readers might now. This mythology gives the couple a private world of their own. To me VW does a wonderful job of creating the happy early times in a marriage ( a cynic would say "before reality set in").
Ernest comes from a very big family whereas Rosalind is nearly alone in the world. Ernest's family seems to be country gentry and one bucolic party day things take a turn for the worst. I do not want to giveaway the plot of the rest of this delightful story.
Woolf in a few pages does a brilliant job of depicting how subtle things can have a great effect on relationships. She shows us how delicate love can sometimes be. One could read this story and say private myths are needed to support a marriage or you could say the near opposite that they hide from shallow participants the real nature of their relationships.
"Lappin and Lapinova" is a delightful story that will well repay the few minutes it takes to read it. You can read it online.