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Cover ImageI’m not a fan of Virginia Woolf.  Though admittedly I am not that familiar with most of her work.  I started reading Mrs. Dalloway after I finished the atrociously bad (though such a clever idea!) The Hours.  I didn’t get very far.  Though I like her language, I had a hard time relating to her character (a woman planning a party – no surprise there, that’s not my style).

I had heard that she wrote a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog Flush but I never thought to read it, since I was so turned off by her to begin with. But then I read another atrociously awful book How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life, in which they mention Flush and I thought, this could be interesting. 

I love stories about famous folks’ dogs (the exception being the modern day Paris Hiltons with their little rats in bags) and one of the best books on the topic is The Pawprints of History by Stanley Coren (Flush was sadly omitted).  Flush is more than that though, it’s the imagined biography of this dog told in a whimsical yet very canine oriented way.  As the reader, you really feel as if you know what Flush was thinking, feeling, and smelling (and he did have many adventures!).

Flush’s bond with Elizabeth is palpable.  Virginia herself had a cocker spaniel and it has been suggested that she used him as the model for this book.  I’m sure he was.  Clearly the author loved dogs in general and spaniels in particular, but one special dog clearly prompted this labor of love.

Interestingly though, this book is really a backdrop for the story of Elizabeth herself.  Flush is with her when she elopes.  He is with her when she flees to Italy.  He is even with her for the birth of her child.  And through it all he is unimpressed with her poetry and even her husband (though he softens a bit on that count). He is still very soundly a dog.

Maybe Ms. Woolf isn’t so bad after all.  Anyone who can climb into the canine mind with such empathy and understanding must be a dog person.

And dog people are my people.

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