Flush is a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s spaniel, Flush. Yes, it is a book which tells the story of a dog, through the dogs eyes but it is actually wonderful however absurd that sounds! This book was picked up purely on the basis that it was written by Virginia Woolf and was published by Persephone, both of whom I love.
It’s a short book at just over 100 pages but every word is wonderful. It was written in the come down from her writing The Waves (a book which I am yet to read) when she was relatively drained. It was something she wrote for fun and you really get that humour come across in her writing in this instance.
Flush was a dog that lived a very varied life, it gave an insight in to Elizabeth Barrett’s life also. From the fields he roamed as a puppy to his life in a London townhouse and then moving to Italy and the freedom he gained, Flush lived a very good life. This is a parody of sorts as the Victorians did love writing a good biography of an esteemed gentleman and from Flushes point of view, he is an esteemed gentleman. Some of the feelings he had were just so human and, really, believable. A particular chapter that really resonated with me is when Miss Barrett meets Mr Browning and Flushes jealousy!
This book is by no means the masterpiece that Orlando is but it is, however, a really charming book. This book is a very accessible book to read if you’ve not read any Woolf or even if you have but didn’t particularly have that resonance with her writing. It’s a solid 4/5 read and, honestly, one I think I would reread because it was just so lovely!
So, after reading The Count of Monte Cristo I felt bereft. No book I picked up called to me whatsoever so I decided to pick up A Room of One’s Own because if all else fails, Virginia Woolf, right? It was a good choice and, honestly, I wish I had started my love affair with Virginia here. I had actually started this previously, I had almost finished it too, as I was reading this on the bus for several days but I chose to pick it up and read it properly and that was a much better decision. Woolf is an author who needs a lot of attention to pick up the nuances of her work and it is hard to put any of her books down; at least in my experience!
A Room of One’s Own is a non-fiction text, it’s a slim 112 pages and is based on a series of lectures that Virginia delivered in Cambridge. It is pegged as a feminist classic and I have to agree with that term. While it’s a classic and is 86 years old, so much of it still felt relevant today. She covers female writers in history, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot and also, Shakespeare’s fictional sister. She tells us how it is only with a fixed income (500 pounds a year) for independence and ‘a room of one’s own’ that a woman will be free to create whatever they please. She makes sure that as a reader we know how brief and limited their histories are. It seems she wrote this to be enduring as she encourages the reader to to acknowledge how their female ancestors fought for just five minutes peace and a few pieces of paper to pen their thoughts.
Trying to put my thoughts in to words for this book is, again, difficult. I just don’t know how because she has left me with so many thoughts and feelings I don’t even know how to put in to words. Virginia Woolf is just one of the finest writers that has ever lived. This only emboldens that statement, for me. If you haven’t read any Woolf, I would really suggest starting here because it is so readable – it is much easier than Orlando to get through! I ultimately think I give this 4/5 but it is one I know I will revisit and KNOW I will possibly love more on doing that.
I loved Mrs Dalloway when I read it a few years ago, but I did say it was a book that I would have to reread to appreciate. Because of that I waited, 5 years, before picking up any more of Woolf’s work and… I’m so glad I waited.
Orlando is a book that requires patience. It’s a book that required me to slow down my reading to fully bask in the beauty that it is. I think having a few more years on me also helped comprehend and appreciate her grasp and use of language. She is a genius. I love her. This book has changed me, it has changed how I will read from now on. I just cannot verbalise how amazing it is.
I actually read this twice; the second time straight after the first because I didn’t feel like I took enough out of it the first time around. I read a different edition (I have a mass market paperback sized edition which isn’t nearly as pretty) and actually annotated it – this is a huge thing, I hate to write in a book but it was beautiful to do that. To just fully appreciate her writing and put my own thoughts in the margins, highlighting the bits that stood out to me. A second read made me notice how vividly she describes colours and textures; the first chapter/section has far too many references to the colour green but never once is it repetitive and God – this woman!
Reading this book once is not enough to take everything away from it; it’s just so complex. I know that I can’t write about it and do it justice. I will however, briefly gloss over the general gist; Orlando begins the novel as a man (He – for there could be no doubt of his sex) in Elizabethan England; by the end, Orlando is a married woman in the 1920s.
It is just sublime, there are no other words for it. The experience I had reading this was transformative; it is already changing how I approach books and what I take away from them. I will reread it again in future and make further notes with a different colour, for sure as it is – undoubtedly – a book that with every reading I will take more away from. Read it. 5/5.