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4.4 out of 5 stars
16
Flush (Oxford World's Classics)
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 3 September 2008
Virginia Woolf's fictional biography of Flush the spaniel must make him the most famous dog in literature. Flush was Elizabeth Barrett Browning's beloved cocker spaniel, and she herself wrote two poems about him.

Poor Flush has to contend with being dog-napped, having to accept Robert Browning into his life and then the Browning's baby. He travels form London to Italy, making him a well traveled pooch, also he has to endure the Spiritualist craze of the time.

This book gives you an insight into Elizabeth Barrett Browning's life and the love she had for her dog, as well as a dog's view of living with humans. Definitely the lightest of Woolf's works this is also possibly the most accessible. If you have never read Virginia Woolf before this is a good book to make you acquainted with her work. If you are fans of her books you will love this. This book also includes the original illustrations and Margaret Forster's introduction gives an insight into Flush and his effect on Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
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on 27 June 2008
Virginia Woolf may be best known for her modernist novels such as Mrs Dalloway, The Waves, and To The Lighthouse, but she also wrote this seemingly light and funny 'biography' of the spaniel belonging to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Woolf read the published love letters between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett and was hugely entertained by the feature they made of Barrett's dog's, Flush. (The dog was clearly put out by the courtship and not amused to be second in his mistress's favour.) However, though it might seem just a lighthearted read, Flush: A Biography raises questions about 'breeding' and status - showing such notions to be absurd. The book essentially charts the taming and training of Flush (who is a pedigree dog) and effectively put this alongside the 'taming' and 'classification' of women. The book itself is a funny and imaginative read and sold very well at the time it was first published. Woolf was apparently worried she would be put down as a 'ladylike prattler' for writing this book and would have hated it to be described as 'charming', but whether you read it at face value as a fun and clever book about a dog's life, or look for the dissection of women's lot in life, it is definitely worth reading.
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on 2 January 2017
Charming tale told from the point of view of Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's spaniel, Flush, that will be utterly endearing to dog lovers. What stops it being overly sentimental (just) is Virginia Woolf's characteristic sly, mocking humour.
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on 9 December 2003
In this book Virginia Woolf tells the life story of the Spaniel Flush and his mistress the English poet Elizabeth Barett. The two are inseprable and share the ups and downs in life. Elizabet Barett became the wife of poet Robert Browning and shortly after their marriage they moved to Italy taking Flush with them. Moving to Italy makes both Flush and his mistress bloom.As everything else written by Virginia Woolf this book has a beautiful language and is filled with a wonderful sence of beeing there.As well as portraying Flush it also gives us a beautiful portrait of Elizabeth Barett, her life how it was and how it came to bee after meeting her future husband. Robert Browning. "Flush" is a must for dog lovers. You will feel happy and even more convinced that dogs really are man's best friend after you have read this book.
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on 30 April 2013
"Had the Kennel Club, then, no jurisdiction in Italy?... He was the only pure-bred cocker spaniel in the whole of Pisa"

This is probably Woolf at her most playful as she imagines a 'biography' for Flush, Elizabeth Barrett-Browning's dog. Told from Flush's point of view, this follows his introduction in the Barrett household, the advent of Robert Browning and the move to Italy... from a dog's viewpoint.

I have to admit that I found this all a bit too cute for my tastes. We certainly might read Flush as a symbol for other groups excluded from, and yet existing on the margins of, nineteenth-century upper middle-class life, such as the personal maids who served women like Elizabeth Barrett, but the 'dogginess' of this didn't really work for me (maybe I'm too much of a cat person?)

Others have clearly loved this - but if you're looking for an accessible way into Woolf, I would recommend Orlando over this.
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on 4 February 2009
What a lovely book. It gives the dogs view of the world it lives in. It is the dog of Elizabeth Browning and a truly delightful book.
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on 18 April 2009
An unusual Woolf and unputdownable. Understands a dog's sensibilities like Mark Doty in Dog Years. Interesting Forward by Margaret Forster, who wrote Lady's Maid, Life of Elizabeth B Browning, and which includes much about Flush also, of course. All three books "Must Reads" for dog lovers!
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on 11 August 2015
Flush is a cocker Spaniel. When his life first starts he is of course unaware that this affords him a special status amongst dogs. He is content to run and play and love his owner Miss Mary Mitford.
But one day, Mrs Mitford takes him for one of their regular visits to Miss Elizabeth Barrett, and abandons him there. At first he panics but when Miss Barrett returns to her room he settles and gratefully falls in love with her instead.

Virginia Woolf follows Flush and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning through the rest of his life. Through his eyes she seems to create an unusual but peculiarly intimate portrait of one of England’s most loved poets.

But beyond that her prose also creates a vivid portrait of the London of the 1840’s. This is no water-colour though; this is a portrait painted in oil. Full of depth and texture, it is built of layers of social commentary yet when you look at it from a distance it seems like a simple thing of beauty.

I think part of the reason I chose this as my first Virginia Woolf novel to read (to my shame!) is the puntastic fact of a Woolf writing about a dog! I know, my reasons are a bit dodgy but Woolfs’s writing isn’t. Flush’s voice is completely believable, there are many things that he doesn’t understand and his point of view remains firmly canine regardless of how aware of his own pedigree he becomes.

This isn’t a long book, and for some the prose may be overly descriptive, but I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it.
NB This review first appeared on The BookEaters Blog - http://www.thebookeaters.co.uk/flush-by-virginia-woolf/
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on 23 October 2013
I read this many years ago and decided to recommend it to my Book Group as we wanted to read something about dogs. Woolf is a wonderful writer and this is a little more 'accessible' than her other novels. Beautifully written.
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on 24 June 2014
the book has got a highly intellectual preface, useful for a dissertation, the print is good, i ts a pleasant read.
The book arrived in 8 days ,immaculate brand new ,as advertised. thank u.
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