16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
The essence of Sussex, but of much wider interest, particularly for Virginai Woolf fans,
This review is from: To the River: A Journey Beneath the Surface (Hardcover)To the River is an unusual book, combining local and literary history, a walking journal, meditations on the topic of rivers and water, and a hefty amount of biographical material about Virginia Woolf. The author, Olivia Laing, walked the Ouse Path during a time of great personal sadness, soon after she had broken up with a long term man-friend, and something of the loneliness of this time, even a sense of personal desolation, also comes out in her writing.
The Sussex Ouse is a short river (less than fifty miles from its rising to the sea), and it flows through a rich countryside of woods and fields before flowing down between a gap in the range of hills known as the South Downs, until it reaches the port of Newhaven. Although it may lack drama, the route is steeped in history and this has given Olivia Laing a considerable amount of material to enrich the account of her walk which took place over the course of seven days in September, a couple of years ago. I could not help but be impressed by the huge list of sources at the back of her book which takes up eight pages of small print - although the walk may be short, Olivia Laing's readers won't be lacking information about it.
The authors launches into many passages which capture the quiet stillness of much of the route, which is only disturbed by the noise of passing cars from the roads which are never too far away. As ex-Deputy Books Editor of the Observer newspaper, Olivia Laing's book is full of literary references. Sometimes these seem slightly over-long (ten pages of Kenneth Grahame of Wind in the Willows fame for example) and I found myself skipping through some of these, but also realised that they are well written and do relate to the landscape she walks through.
The history side of the book is excellent - Olivia Laing provides a lovely potted history of the Piltdown Man archaeological scam, a blow by blow account of the little known Battle of Lewes and a fascinating chapter on the terrible floods that came on Lewes in 2000. It would not be fair on the author to commend this book only for its excellent local history (which should make it an essential purchase for anyone who lives in East Sussex), when in reality this is a highly literary walking journal which adds another volume to the burgeoning Woolf-related library.
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Initial post: 24 Jun 2011 20:46:14 BDT
A Common Reader says:
Apolgies - its Olivia Laing, not Manning. I have corrected my review but it may take a while for my corrections to appear
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