When I got my Kindle on Christmas day, 2012, I bought a book and then downloaded a few free ones that were floating around in the Kindle store.
One of those books was Flush and it's taken me all of that time to get around to reading it (Psychology textbooks aren't just going to read themselves you know!)
The book is a biography of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's cocker spaniel. I'm a huge dog lover and I have my own hairy mutt of a golden cocker spaniel back home so it instantly appealed to me. Moreover, it would be interesting to get an insight into the life of one of Britain's famed literary figures through the combined eyes of another great writer and a dog, no?
As I haven't read anything other than pop fiction for the last few months, it took me a few pages to get used to the carefully crafted style that greeted me on the opening page. We are treated to a quick history of the cocker spaniel as a breed before being introduced to our protagonist, Flush (strange name for a dog, right?) as a brand new, bounding puppy.
I've read a few of Woolf's other books and I do quite enjoy her writing. Once the story begins, it is impossible not to fall in love with Flush and his innocent and distinctly "doggy" way of seeing things. This may seem like a stupid thing to say - of course he sees things in a doggy way. However if you have ever owned a dog, you will recognise the behaviours and emotions that are described for us in these pages as the passions and loyalties of (wo)man's best friend.
Beyond the cutesy dogginess of the book (and you can see now why I wasn't accepted to study English Lit at uni) the reader is allowed a fascinating insight into the lives of Elizabeth Barrett and "Mr. Browning". Real facts and quotes from letters are woven into a flowing narrative that becomes a veritable mash-up of fiction and non-fiction, education and fantasy. Moreover, the London that existed long before any of us were born is described in unfaltering detail. If you cannot picture the bustling streets full of ladies and their well-bred dogs or the cramped and miserable conditions of Whitechapel then all hope of reclaiming the past is lost.
It is one of those books that transmits a certain feeling, an atmosphere, into the brain of the reader. It has an almost dreamlike quality that pervades memory as if it were taken from a collective conscience to which we all have access. As somebody who has visited London and Italy many times and who has a cocker spaniel to refer to throughout, I found the entire story particularly evocative.