A non-#20BooksofSummer review today and one I’ve been a bit delayed on by work things. I am still reading, don’t worry! More on current reading later. Here, I complete the #Woolfalong challenge for May and June (all caught up again!) and complete the seventh volume of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” (over half way!) so a nice achievement and they seemed to go together in a modernist / stream of consciousness way, so I saved up the short stories to review, having read them right at the start of the month.
Virginia Woolf – “Mrs Dalloway’s Party” and “Kew Gardens”
(16 May 2015 and May 2015)
I’m reviewing these short stories together, as “Kew Gardens” is a single story, published on its own in a slim and beautiful volume by Kew Gardens publishing, with lovely illustrations and the text on only one side of the page.
“Mrs Dalloway’s Party” is a set of short stories taking in before and after the famous party in a VERY slim volume. It was pulled together by Stella McNichol, who drew the stories into their current order and provides an interesting Introduction (to be read last, of course). The stories are highly perceptive of the currents and undercurrents that arise through intersections of similar and different people at parties, and you do get a strong sense of Woolf herself sitting on a sofa, perhaps, and observing, observing, observing, perceiving what is unsaid as well as what is said.
We have the “paralysing blankness of feeling” when the conversation stutters and you end up staring at the furniture. The description of Sasha Latham walking like a stag through the garden “as if she had been some wild but perfectly controlled creature taking its pleasure by night” is the stand-out passage for me, but misunderstandings, clashes of personality and feeling are all there, and it’s an excellent companion to the novel itself.
“Kew Gardens”, which I won in Ali’s giveaway (thank you, again!) is a garden’s eye view of people passing a flowerbed, all just as (un)important as the snail which is attempting to climb along a leaf. People hint of past visits, past loves, and the gardens go on timelessly. The lovely illustrations in this edition really complement the text, and it’s a very pleasant exercise in writing that gives a lovely little reading experience.
These books count for the May/June section of Heaven-Ali’s #Woolfalong.
Dorothy Richardson – “Revolving Lights”
(October 2015 – from Julie)
Similar in tone and subject to “Deadlock” (and with a less off-putting title, it has to be said!), volume 7 of “Pilgrimage” centres on Miriam’s life in London (complete with nice long walks, my favourite part of the books) and her relationship with Michael Shatov, which has reached that point where both parties want different things, as was inevitably going to happen.
Miriam ponders the differences between men and women – are those differences natural or caused by society and what can we do about it? – and also thinks about and experiences different aspects of religion. This part seemed a little forced to me, although I suppose she is exploring her identity and the underpinnings of her tenets in life. There’s lots of talk of ‘Jewesses’ which reads, both in that word and the discussions, a little jarringly nowadays, and she attends a Quaker meeting, remaining unconvinced, as all she sees there is men and their egos (a strong example of our seeing through Miriam’s eyes and filters). Add to this a distaste for children and realisation of what marriage and family would entail, and you have a young woman mulling over her future and making some decisions – but risking perhaps becoming inflexible and set in her ways.
Miriam is apparently doing some writing for Hypo (criticism not creative writing, as it’s made clear that she’s one of life’s synthesisers and editors (hooray!)) and spends a holiday at his and Alma’s house, which promises to be marvellous, but is rather spoilt by meeting the dreadful novelist, Edna Prout, who is writing a roman a clef. Richardson/Miriam pours scorn on this, surely making this a portrait of someone, thus a roman a clef, but never mind! I did feel that Miss Prout was also a warning of what Miriam could become (see end of last paragraph). She helps Hypo mysteriously to stave off an affair (presumably a romantic one) but this area becomes murky and vaguely worrying.
Not as engaging as the last volume, but I want to read on. I note the next one is really short, and that will be the end of the overarching Volume 3 of 4!
I’ve read Book 5 in #20BooksofSummer but am waiting for something to review it with. I’m currently wading around in Kynaston’s “Modernity Britain”, wallowing in diary entries by the famous to the Mass Observers, with social and economic / political history pulled together seamlessly. Lovely, although a Very Large Volume. I’ve also started Rushdie’s “Two Years …” but haven’t got very far yet (Mr Liz is further on than me with his audiobook reading – oops). At the moment it seems a bit difficult to get into, but I need to give it some time, I think, as I have loved several of his other books.
What are you reading RIGHT NOW? How are your reading challenges going, if you’re doing any?