Skip to main content

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:

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…