Flush is a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog, whose name was, of course, Flush. Flush was a golden Cocker Spaniel who was apparently very finely bred, though I personally know nothing whatsoever about dogs or dog breeding. The book goes from Flush’s birth to his death, as most biographies are known to do, and is really a ruse for a partial look at Ms. Barrett Browning’s life.
I have to admit, at first I was really disappointed with this book because I thought it was an autobiography, told from the point of view of the dog. The narration did mostly stay with Flush, but it was all third person. Having read the whole book now, I can see why it wouldn’t have worked any other way, but I was very excited about the prospect of seeing Woolf write from the point of view of the dog.
My disappointment quickly subsided, though. This is an extremely clever book and I adored it. I’m not even a dog person – I really don’t like dogs at all – but I loved Flush and the things he thought and did. More, I loved seeing Ms. Barrett Browning, who is fast becoming a little obsession of mine. I have yet to read Aurora Leigh (I’m still a bit too intimidated), but I really want to, and I want to read more and more about her life.
Even better, I had a whole novel idea bloom from reading this book! It actually has nothing to do with anthropomorphic animals or Ms. Browning, but a few words from the narrative sparked an image in my mind which sparked the seed of an idea, which grew…
I would highly recommend this book! It rates an EASY on the Woolf scale, not difficult to read at all, and it’s light, happy, and pleasant. Some people say they don’t like reading animal memoir-type books because inevitably the animal dies at the end. While this, of course, is true in this biography (and it’s not a spoiler to say that – the real-life Flush did indeed die in the 1800s and is not still living as a vampire dog in present-day Europe), his death is not at all sad, but triumphant and uplifting. As no one knows how Flush actually died, Woolf gave him a proud, loving, completely unrealistic sort of death. Not a hero’s death, where he dies saving a child from a burning building, but the sort of symbolic death where one minute he is alive, and the next, his body becomes a monument to his living self. No sadness at all. So don’t let sadness keep you from this one!