Dorothy Richardson - PilgrimageAs I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been working on two book challenges over the weekend; that was about Woolfalong and this one is an update to my reading of Dorothy Richardson’s “Pilgrimage” series. I’m very glad I’ve been reading this along with fellow bloggers (I’m not going to list them as I’ll miss someone one, but  hopefully you’ll all comment with your progress so far). It has been a bit of a struggle at times, but I think it’s going to feel really good to have finished the whole lot and read this early work of Stream of Consciousness.

*** Note: Spoiler alert – don’t read this review if you haven’t read the book yet ***

Dorothy Richardson – “Clear Horizon”

(28 March 2015)

The eleventh volume of “Pilgrimage” and the end is in sight. This was another confusing and opaque read, even though some events do actually happen during the course of the book (previously, we’ve had an entire, exciting bicycle accident confined to the space between two books!). Amabel the French feminist is living in the boarding house, but, keener for more radicalism than the Lycurgans (are these the Fabians, really??) can offer, has joined the suffragists and is relishing the idea of being arrested. Miriam’s sister Sarah has something wrong with her, and the kind doctor who’s been friends with Miriam for years (maybe years, maybe months) and keeps telling her to get married and have babies but is generally A Nice Man has arranged for her to have her operation in a charity hospital (reminding us about the dark days before the NHS, of course). Meanwhile, he’s diagnosed Miriam as having had a nervous breakdown, but she also seems to be pregnant for at least part of the book (although this is as obscure as her deflowering and takes some patience and careful reading to pick out) – I’m not sure of the cause and effect of the breakdown here.

Figures from the past, including, startlingly, all the maids she has ever known at the Orlys’ dental practice, reappear. Miriam has gone off Hypo and doesn’t get excited when his letters appear, but he seems rather implausibly to be able to cover her job while she goes off for a six-month rest cure. He also confusingly appears as H.G. Wells himself in some more general discussions …

Richardson makes no concessions to the reader. We’ve worked that out by now. She offers us practically no handy reminders of who people are or where they fit into Miriam’s life, either when introducing them or reintroducing them. It’s left to us to work it all out. Now, even in quite experimental novels, like Woolf’s, we are able to keep track of who’s who. I think of Iris Murdoch’s party conversations and how it’s possible to work out who’s talking unless it really doesn’t matter. Reading Richardson is more like reading a diary, letters or memoirs, written almost in a shorthand, shifting tenses and first person / third person narrators – but when reading a diary, letters or memoirs, you would have footnotes to follow from a kind editor, explaining and reminding. It’s this lack of compromise which makes the books so hard to read and follow, in my opinion.

pilgrimage-medalSarah from Hard Book Habit came up with a great idea in our discussion of her review of “The Trap“. She suggested that such a marathon read deserved a medal and goody bag full of reviving treats. Well, I can’t provide the latter, but I have created a medal for us to post on our final, THIRTEENTH, review of the series. It’s not great art, I know, but I think we all deserve something, right?! So feel free to copy this image and share it when you’ve finished, too!