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Review: Flush: A Biography, by Virginia Woolf


Pages: 118
Original date of publication: 1933
My edition: 2005 (Persephone)
Why I decided to read: Persephone catalogue
How I acquired my copy: Persephone subscription, March 2011


I have no idea how to categorize Flush: a Biography. Flush is a “biography” of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s devoted spaniel, which is fictional and imaginative, so it’s basically a cross-genre book. The novella covers Flush’s long lifespan and highlights major event in his life, starting with his arrival at the Wimpole Street house in 1842. We also get to see Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s life through Flush’s eyes, from her courtship with Robert Browning to their elopement to Italy and beyond.

I expected this novella (for it’s not really a biography in the traditional sense) to be more in the style of Virginia Woolf’s other novels, so I was a little bit apprehensive about Flush. But I was pleasantly surprised. Flush is an easy, enjoyable read, mostly because of the subject matter, but also because it’s an extremely playful and sometimes funny read. Virginia Woolf infuses Flush with warmth and life and makes him a likeable character. He is extremely snobbish and has a really defined sense of class and his own place in the world—a small-scale reflection of what’s going on in Victorian London. He can be a bit boorish at times, but he is still lovable. Woolf really gets you into Flush’s head without making the story or subject matter seem too twee. I especially liked the way Woolf dealt with the birth of the Brownings’ son, and how confused poor Flush was! Flush is one of Virginia Woolf’s lesser-known works, but it’s a very clever novel nonetheless.

This is Persephone no. 55. Endpaper below:

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