Monday, February 28, 2011

Flush by Virginia Woolf (1933)

I'd been planning for weeks to start reading Flush, and finally it was time.  It's in the Persephone catalog, so it was top on my TBR list for that reason; also, Amanda from The Zen Leaf chose it for me last year in our first-ever Reading Swap.  And it's been sitting around on my TBR shelf for a couple of years now, so my timing was perfect. 

Now that it is time to put words on the blog I find I'm at a bit of a loss.  This is a short little book about a dog written by Virginia Woolf; specifically, Elizabeth Barrett Browning's dog.  Ostensibly, it is a biography, but is it about a dog or a poet?  Or is it just an excuse to start reading Virginia Woolf, who scares me?

Flush is not a hard read, and I suppose it's not one of the Woolfs that is studied and discussed and analyzed extensively by the literati.  (Which I am not, believe me!)  It begins when young Flush is given as a gift by his owner to Ms. Barrett (not yet Mrs. Browning), an invalid.  He must give up his days of sniffing and running and exploring the outdoors to be the indoor companion of this bedridden poet.  He loves her and becomes extremely protective and suspicious of Mr. Browning, and he is along for the ride during their elopement and marriage and journeys to Italy and back.  The story moves back and forth in places between his point of view and that of his owner.  

I know next to nothing about Elizabeth Barrett Browning but now I am intrigued by her life as well.  I do remember Browning and Flush are included in a book called Shaggy Muses, which is a nonfiction work about the lives of several women writers and their pets.

Like the life of a dog, Flush is sadly short.  This was the first of Woolf's fiction that I really liked, and I wish I'd had more of it to read.  I am glad, however, that the ending wasn't terribly sad -- there are so many tearjerking stories about beloved pets these days, I really did not want to cry at the end of this book.

Virginia Woolf seems to be all over the blogs the past couple of weeks.  My good friend Amanda was baffled by Orlando; Carolyn at A Few of My Favorite Books brought To the Lighthouse to Florida for a beach read!  To the Lighthouse has been sitting on my shelves unread as long as Flush, but it scares me -- it's such a short little book but I've heard it's challenging.  Stream-of-consciousness is not really my thing.  

The endpapers from the Persephone edition of Flush

I did read Mrs. Dalloway and was underwhelmed, but that was a few years ago when I had just started reading classics.  Maybe I didn't know enough about her work to appreciate it.  Last year, my classics book group at the library read A Room of One's Own, which I quite liked, but that's really a long essay, so I don't know I'd like her fiction.

This probably isn't the best review I've written, but I feel like I don't know enough about Woolf or her writing to think of something clever and insightful.  I would love to hear other people's thoughts -- how does this compare to other works by Virginia Woolf?  Should I take the plunge and read To the Lighthouse or start with something a little easier?

This is my third book for Persephone Reading Weekend, hosted by Verity and Claire.  Check out their blog links for more thoughts on Persephone books!

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