I don’t think I’ve read a story about a dog, surely not a Spaniel. And definitely not about a dog as opinionated and observant and amusing as Flush. It is exactly as the cover says, the biography of Flush, the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s golden brown cocker spaniel. He spends much of his time sitting with Elizabeth as her companion. Flush, however, is no dull puppy. There are adventures romping through the streets of Italy, meeting other dogs, a series of kidnappings, attacks on his owners’ suitor, and profound self-exploration. Flush is a busy little man. What is even more interesting than his adventures is the comment on society that lies underneath his exploits. A direct nod towards class, Flush is of the highest pedigree and knows this. Rather he has learned this. There is one particularly scene where Flush is aware of his pedigree as compared to other dogs on the street. His desires to run free, to hunt, and mate are stiffled by his attachment to his owner. At times he decides to resist and remain inside perched on a chair at her feet, “the prime lesson of the bedroom school”. Other times, he can not resist for long and romps about. In addition to this pedigree business is the idea of repression, especially of Elizabeth Browning by her father and possibly Elizabeth Browning repressing Flush. Elizabeth is forced to remain inside and is not encouraged to write. Eventually she decides against her father’s wishes and marries and leaves for Italy. I think we would all expect this sort of commentary from Virginia Woolf. So Flush’s name is fitting: spaniels are birds dogs and so ‘flush’ game from the brush for hunters and through the eyes of this doggy, undercurrents of society are flushed from hiding and put on display for contemplation.
Picture: Tucker is a golden cocker spaniel and sat nicely to have his picture taken. I suppose he looks just like Flush after being treated for fleas (his hair was cut short)
Claire of PaperbackReader also read Flush this week. Read her lovely review here.