And I am now back from my first ever Persephone Book Group! I do hope it’s the first of many, because the people were lovely, the discussion was fun, and meeting Persephone fans new or old is always a delight. I *am* a little worried that my Persephone obsession was a little too forthright… will have to temper my “Oo! Oo! I know that one!” for next time…
We discussed Flush by Virginia Woolf, which I read a few years ago and re-read last week. It’s all about Elizabeth Barrett and her courtship with Robert Browning, from the perspective of their dog Flush. I think it’s a brilliant book – mostly because it so successfully presents a new angle, a new way of perceiving things. Lots on smell especially – I liked this, on Flush’s astonishment that Mr. Barrett cannot tell Mr. Browning has been there:
‘Don’t you know,’ Flush marvelled, ‘who’s been sitting in that chair? Can’t you smell him?’ For to Flush the whole room still reeked of Mr. Browning’s presence. The air dashed past the bookcase, and eddied and curled round the heads of the five pale busts. But the heavy man sat by his daughter in entire self-absorption. He noticed nothing. He suspected nothing. Aghast at his obtuseness, Flush slipped past him out of the room.’
Critics haven’t always been enamoured by the novel, perhaps because the initial concept sounds a trifle silly. But in Woolf’s very able hands this is a clever, funny and very well observed book. I almost never get bothered about depictions of places in novels, but from the entirely new angle of a dog, I found descriptions of London and Italy fascinating.
The book group seemed, on the whole, to like the book a lot. Most of us didn’t know much about Elizabeth Barrett Browning before we started, but didn’t think that made much of a difference. Woolf’s slightly odd views on class were discussed, but so too her liveliness and breaking free from Victorianism. Whilst I love Flush, I don’t think it’s the most representative of Persephone’s books, and I’d be intrigued to see what the views are on other titles. Next time is Joanna Canaan’s Princes In The Land, and after that Rachel Ferguson’s Alas, Poor Lady. I’ve not read either of them, and sadly I’m going to miss the next one, but looking forward to July and Alas, Poor Lady.
If anybody from the book group is dropping in (since I shamelessly advertised this blog) please do say hello! I look forward to seeing you again.