Well, I have finished Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” sequence and right on time, too. The 13 volumes have taken me 13 months to read, and I could not have done it without having the other lovely bloggers and LibraryThing Virago Group members to see me through.
I’m going to do the competition bit first to allow people to go in for it without seeing any review spoilers – I will put a big heading before it and my MEDAL after it so you can zip down to the bottom of the post to comment.
See, I’m not going to read these again. It was good and interesting to read them, but I’m not planning on re-reading. And they’re both quite hard to find and not that valuable as such, so I’d like to GIVE my set of four (my original one, two I had from fellow Viragoite Kerry and one I bought in Macclesfield), as pictured, the first one a bit rough of spine, to someone who wants to read them.
All you have to do is add a comment saying you would like to win them. If you’re not in the UK I will post them surface mail. I will leave the comp open until the end of the year and send them out in the new year.
If you would like to win a full set of “Pilgrimage” in the original Virago Green edition, please post a comment to say so.
Dorothy Richardson – “March Moonlight”
(28 March 2015, Macclesfield)
The last volume, at last. It’s a short one, and you know why? Because it’s bloody unfinished. Now, I do not like unfinished books. I don’t read them. I didn’t realise this was unfinished until I started reading a book I bought recently on Richardson and it mentioned this fact. I do feel a bit cheated, I have to say. Worse … I couldn’t tell!
OK, the positives. In much of this book, we’re in the Oberland again, in a guest house with a lot of other guests I’m pretty sure we haven’t met before, including the fascinating Jean, who she can have long silences with as well as interesting chat. Unfortunately, Jean has some shady business going on with one of the chaps (a bishop?) and really upsets Miriam. Or Dorothy.
As well as shifting between the first and third person, Miriam finds herself being addressed as “Dick” or “Dickie”. Miriam Henderson or … Dorothy Richardson. I’m guessing this was heavily unrevised, possibly at Richardson’s death, and it’s a real shame, because you keep getting jerked out of any engagement with the narrative when these oddities arise.
Not much really happens, not much really progresses. I was much cheered by mention of a tall young woman who’s off with the CMS, trained at Woodbrooke – the Church Missionary Archives are still at the University of Birmingham and Woodbrooke is a Quaker Study Centre, so that was lovely to see there and pulled the book closer to me just when it needed to be. There is quite a bit about writing, which I know will please Jane, and this rather illuminating quote:
“If you can describe people as well as you describe scenes, you should be able to write a novel.” But it is just that stopping, by the author, to describe people, that spoils so many novels?
Ignoring the content for a moment, that stray question mark or “it is” instead of “is it” seems to back up that lack of revision.
There are the usual comments on marriage, and Miriam seems to have come to a point where she’s accepted she’s on her own and will go through life writing, using her small amount of money to sustain her. And that’s it.
Well, I’m glad I have read this through: it’s a seminal work of modernism and it’s important to the works of other 20th century writers. It wasn’t easy but it was interesting, and it was lovely having a group of people to discuss it with along the way. And it’s done.