Flush – Virginia Woolf

You might just be wondering why on earth after my poor success with both ‘Mrs Dalloway’ and ‘To The Lighthouse’ today I am once more writing about Virginia Woolf. While a lot of bloggers will be talking about ‘Orlando’ over here I decided that I would do something a little different and yet still in keeping with ‘Woolf in Winter’ by reading ‘Flush’ and trying once again to see if I can get to grips with good old Ginny.

The premise of Flush in many ways I thought would mean that it really wouldn’t work for me. First of all it’s a biography and second of all the subject of the biography is indeed a dog called Flush. Though this is quite an important dog who originally belonging to the writer Mary Mitford (not of the famous Mitford’s, well I don’t think so) and then to the writer Elizabeth Barrett Browning when Mary was poor and Elizabeth was sick. This could have possibly been an utter write off and Ginny and I could have parted ways forever.

Odd then that I really, really enjoyed this book isn’t it? From the very opening paragraphs that take us through the history of the spaniel, which could have easily been a dull read but in some ways became a mini-historical adventure, I was enjoying myself and I hadn’t even met the delightful main character yet. Flush is a wonderful character indeed, he is one of life’s enthusiasts, a bit of a rogue (he is a father before you could even credit it), loyally to the point of fearlessly protective and in his own way very democratic. The fact that he almost becomes human though always clearly a dog is a credit to Woolf and her writing (which I have previously admired though never really ‘got’).

This isn’t just a book about a delightful dog though. Through her subject and using extracts of letters from Mitford and Barrett Browning we see parts of the lives, though in the main the latter, of two wonderful writers. You gain insights into the lives of a Victorian country woman with no money forced to sell her precious pooch and then get whisked into the world of a bed ridden well to do woman on the cusp of love which proves a life changing event for both herself and her beloved dog. (The scenes between Flush and Elizabeth’s suitor are wonderfully written.) Flush is of course the star of this tale and rightly so as clearly both of his mistresses loved him dearly and I dare say any reader of this book will become an instant fan of Flush too.

Though I don’t think I am ready for ‘The Waves’ in two weeks time, I am now much more positive about future Woolf reading and have another Woolf read lined up for a fortnight instead. I am pleased I gave her another shot and just goes to show why even after two books you should never write a writer off!

If you have been reading ‘Orlando’ then do pop over here to where the discussion is going on. First though have you any other Woolf books that are slightly off the well beaten Woolf-ish track? Which authors have you tried and failed with and then tried and fallen in love a little with (their writing rather than the author ha, ha)? Have you read Flush?


Filed under Oxford University Press, Persephone Books, Review, Virginia Woolf

27 responses to “Flush – Virginia Woolf

  1. I didn’t really go for this one I’m afraid. it was a sweet idea, and well executed but I’m just not into dogs! I will read more Woolf eventually…

  2. Yay! You have confirmed the theory that Flush is the non-Woolf fan’s favourite Woolf. Since I have struggled through some of her other works without enjoyment, this one remains on my TBR list as my hope for redemption.

  3. I read Flush for Persephone Reading Week and enjoyed it. It isn’t typical Woolf but it is radical in its own way and also beautifully written. I laughed when he had to be shaved, although it was also so sad and Flush was so proud!

    • I think her writing in every book I have read of hers is beautiful, I just enjoyed this one which is a delightful progress, lets see how I do with the next mystery title which isnt The Waves,

      The kidnap but almost did me in!!!! I was gripped.

  4. I forgot all about this book! I actually love love love the Brownings (bless their sweet hearts), and although I am normally intimidated by Woolf, I could really go for this one. Thanks for the reminder. I’ve decided: Flush will be my ticket onto the blogosphere Virginia Woolf love train.

    • Flush could be the ticket to anyone who feels they are missing out with Woolf though by the sounds of it this is a very left field piece of work from her. I will keep you updated after my next read of her work.

  5. The Captive Reader Claire offers a good point in that Flush “is the non-Woolf fan’s favourite Woolf.” And as Paperback Reader Claire writes, the writing, as with all of Woolf, does carry the day. Glad you enjoyed it, Simon, and are going on to more Woolf. Thanks for the link too!

    • No worries, I hope you dont mind that I am doing a sort of off kilter Woolf in Winter (though because of the totle today I want to write Woof instead of Woolf) and will still be directing everyone to you guys as you go. I am thankful I have given Woolf a whirl.

  6. I wish I hadn’t read Orlando, Simon, as I’ll try to explain later elsewhere. Glad you had a better time with Woolf with Flush!

  7. I never knew she wrote a book about a dog! I’ve struggled with Woolfe (never made it all the way through one of her books yet) but as I like books about dogs, this one might be good for me!

  8. kiss a cloud

    Simon, I really think you would’ve loved Orlando though. I hope you give it a try someday. It’s a little off the Woolfish beaten track, if I may say.

    Flush doesn’t appeal to me as much because while I love dogs, I don’t know why I don’t really gel with animal characters in lit (well, not all, but considerable). But as I am loving Woolf so much, might give it a try. Although I much prefer the Leonard Woolf Persephone, which I will be reading for the next Persephone Week! So excited! Have you any planned titles yet?

    • I am planning on reading Orlando Claire have no fear of that. I just think for me, clearly not for most bloggers, such big books of hers (even though they are small they are big) in succession is a fine line between hard work and hatred. This was a nice light relief along the way thats given me hope. I would recommend this to anyone and everyone.

      As for Persephone week, I have three options I will only read one or two though I just dont think challenges are for me I am in my whimish stride this year after seasons, challenges and long lists of last year.

  9. I like Flush a lot, though it isn’t one of my favourite Woolf novels by any means. If it had been about cats, mind…! ‘The Voyage Out’ is similarly Woolf-without-the-style, so you might well prefer it to TTL and Mrs. D!

    I struggled through Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald, but then loved The Bookshop – that’s the only similar experience for me that I can think of! I suppose Barbara Comyns too – while I liked Our Spoons Came From Woolworths, it wasn’t until I read Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead that I was hooked.

    • Are you saying I only like Woolf when she has no style? How rude hahaha. I think I just needed to try something different and this book made me read which with Woolf was becoming almost impossible I will admit, so its done the job, the next rogue one I do should be interesting.

      I think some books by some authors just dont gel with you and others do. I hated Behind The Museum by Kate Atkinson and yet have loved every other book, though I will try that one again this year I think.

      • Ha, no I didn’t mean that! I meant Woolf-without-WOOLF’S-style – without the stream-of-consciousness, fluidity, going here and going there without any plot. Flush still has great style, just different.

        Have I dug myself out of that hole?!

  10. I think you were brilliant to veer off into this ‘dog book’, and try to gain a bit more perspective on dear old Ginny. I definitely feel I should have beem more familiar with her as a person before reading her books, and that’s never happened with me about an author before. But, I would never have appreciated To The Lighthouse without knowing her difficult youth with the loss of her mother and her stringent father.

    On the side, can you fill me in on Persephone week? When is it? I love Persphone books, and I have garnered a few more in my collection.

    • I just couldnt do Orlando, I thought it might cause damage that could finish off me and Ginny’s relationship forever and so I went for something shorter and slightly off the woolfish rails and it worked which I am most pleased about. I may give Orlando a whirl in the not too distant future.

      You need to ask Claire of Paperback Reader when thats all kicking off, I am not sure to be honest.

  11. *HI-jacks Simon’s blog for a moment*

    Bellezza, the next Persephone Reading Week is scheduled to take place during the first week of May.

  12. Now I mus have this book. I will admit that Virginia Woolf is a great writer but I do not like her. My spouse loves her. She is the only novelist he will read. Neither of us knew of this book, though, nor of Flush. And we are both fans of Elizabeth Barret Browning. We even had one of her sonnets read at our wedding.

    • The only author they will read, at all? Blimey that is intriguing. I think if all I had to read was Woolf I may go slightly mad. This was a hit, I am not quite a convert yet, we will see what happens with the next book.

      Flush is a great character and its a book thats both sentimental (not overly so) and factual whilst also being wonderfully written.

  13. Pingback: Memoirs of a Novelist – Virginia Woolf « Savidge Reads

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