1 November 2020 Susannah

Olivia Laing’s ‘To The River’

Olivia Laing, To The River

A recent reading treat was Olivia Laing’s To The River (thank you to Catherine for lending it to me), a beautifully written book which is part meditation, part travel, and part history book. Olivia Laing sets out to walk the length of the River Ouse (pronounced ‘Ooze’) in Sussex, from source to sea. She discusses the importance of rivers and the roles they play in our lives, she investigates how history is there in every bit of the English landscape, and she talks about the changes the years have brought. Laing is especially interested in Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in the Ouse, which was near her Sussex home of Monk’s House, and the book has many quotes from Woolf’s diaries and letters, and anecdotes about Virginia and Leonard.

I just LOVED this book! And I’m not the only one, as it was shortlisted for various literary awards. The prose was lyrical, and flowed like the river, it was packed with fascinating information, and I especially enjoyed all the literary references. Laing has also written a book called The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking which I have ordered and look forward to reading.

We are not able to travel to England in this time of Covid, so reading a book about walking through glorious English countryside and through its history, is the next best thing to actually being there.

Have you already read any of Olivia Laing’s books? Let me know by leaving a comment.

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Featured image credit- Natasha Raphael and Ella Bright in Malory Towers, 2020 BBC TV adaptation, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11129816

Comments (2)

  1. Philomena Bleasdale

    Susannah, how timely, we in England are about to go into ‘lockdown’ and my daughter a literature graduate & teacher and an avid Virginia Woolf fan, will now spend her birthday in lockdown. Can you imagine my relief when I read your book recommendation this month, a birthday present solved? There are more coincidences we live in West Sussex and Charleston is a favourite place for my daughter Su.
    I met you at an ADFAS talk in the Buderim area ,when I was unable to fly home due to Covid restrictions, and have enjoyed your newsletters and recommendations. I look forward to your new project.
    Stay safe, god bless,
    Philomena Bleasdale

    • Susannah Fullerton

      How lovely to hear from you, Philomena, and I am so glad you enjoy my newsletters. Good luck with your next lockdown – a love of reading does help in such stressful times. Isn’t Charleston just the most gorgeous place! You do live in a truly lovely part of the world.

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