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We will be reading this in 2019 for our annual read. I think if you google each book separately "pointed roofs" you will find pdf files on all the books without any cost. Dorothy Richardson is a Virago author. Something I am just starting to learn about. She is credited with the first stream of consciousness book. Here’s a link to a bit more about our author. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2015/may/15/dorothy-m-richardson-des...
I have added all the pages (1920) of the 13 sections and divided them out. I did not include introductions. If you read those, it will be a bit more pages but if you read 37 pages a week, you will finish on time.
Pilgrimage, Volume 1 : Pointed Roofs, Backwater, Honeycomb by Dorothy M. Richardson published in 1906 is the first volume in a series of 13.
1. Pointed Roofs
4. The Tunnel
5. Pilgrimage: Interim
7. Revolving Lights
8. The Trap
10. Dawn's Left Hand
11. Clear Horizon
12. Dimple Hill
13. March Moonlight
I will definitely read the first volume and then I will see afterwards if I'd like to continue on.
It's interesting to me that this was published in 1906, predating Proust and Woolf. I've read In Search of Lost Time and all of Woolf's novels. I'll be interested to see how this stream of consciousness novel compares.
Dorothy was the third of four girls. Father was a son of a business man (grocer) and her mother was gentry. Her father wanted to be a gentleman, so sold the business with the plan to live off his wealth. That didn’t go well and Dorothy had to leave. Why Dorothy. Dorothy was familiar with life of tennis and music. She also had an education in German, French, literature, logic, and psychology.
One of the things that seized me about it was a kind of "contemporaneousness". Not just that its experimental approach, made it approachable as a modern reader, avoiding an alienation the formalism and archaisms of older work can make me feel, but that its very much situated in its time. The impressionistic, stream-of-conscious approach served well to give me a feel for texture of every day life as it might be lived.
It brought some things closer — it was easy to experience a carriage ride to a country inn as if were a ride to a pub in a car, avoiding a distancing that would have made it feel unnecessarily distant — while throwing others into a starker relief. In honeycomb one of the older characters starts buying the Victorian equivalent of the tabloids, and starts making allusions to it as a 'strange secret'. Miriam, who is much concerned about her path to adulthood, and feels excluded by this, becomes determined to find out what this is. When she, clumsily, tries to find out, she is refused an answer, told only that it is 'the most awful thing', something that is referred to in the Bible. When you know the year this is set, it become clear that this can only be the trial of Oscar Wild. It wasn't so much the obvious difference in social mores that made reading feel quite a shock, but doing so while experiencing it as if it were a contemporaneous new event.
What I most enjoyed was a sense of being able to easily inhabit a character separated from me not just by time, but also by age and gender, and the sensation of closeness and distance while reading, was central to this.
Here are some links that might be of interest.
includes the Dorothy Richardson Society: http://dorothyrichardson.org/society.htm and Journal http://dorothyrichardson.org/journal.htm (Acacdemic/Peer-reviewed. Free to download).
http://dorothyrichardsonexhibition.org/ - an online exhibition by the Dorothy Richardson Society.
Pg 16. Get rid of men and muddles and have things just ordinary and be happy." Make up your mind to be happy.
It was a relief to be going away.
You have no religion.
Pg 21, she lathed women
Pg25. Had never one thought of their "feeling" her going away.
Pg 28. He was playing his role of the English gentleman. Person of leisure and cultivation.
32. If pater had kept to grandpa's business they would be trade, too--well-off, now--all married.
68. Nothing to remind her of her summer days. They were all past and she had nothing.
74. She must pretend. Living with exasperating women who did not understand.
Pg 77, German men dispised women.
92 Miriam was beginning to know that she did not want to talk to her girls.
Miriam left home for the firs time in her life, she was at first taken in by her German setting but now is starting to feel like a fraud and failure at her job of being English and talking to the German girls in English. She is not enjoying her job and she is homesick for England.
A bit of of my own thoughts; "pointed roofs". A home is a symbol of family, the roof contains the family. Pointed roofs would be steep, dangerous and hiding what it inside. Miriam must pretend. She cannot let others know her.
In the forward to my edition, one of the reasons put forth for the book not really catching on may have been that publishing a pro-German book in England 1915 just wasn't going to go over well. I did find it interesting that so near to the war, Germany was where Miriam chose to teach.
I like Miriam. She seems to be the sort of person that is hard to get along with. She's sort of stand-offish and opinionated and not one to open up. But her voice and observations strike me as honest and authentic and I'm enjoying getting to know her.
Having read a lot of stream of consciousness novels (Woolf, Proust, Faulkner), I'm not quite seeing this as the same style yet. Certainly it's all from Miriam's point of view, but it still has a bit of a traditional novel feel to me. I'll be curious to see if the style gets more experimental as the book progresses.
I'll wait a couple weeks before starting Backwater.
I am looking forward to Backwater but also will be on vacation during February so hoping I can keep up with reading.
>12 japaul22: I agree with you that it's a novel in the sense that some things happen...I was thinking that everything moves so slowly because we feel and see and are affected by everything that Miriam feels, sees and is affected by - and in that way it's a good example of stream of consciousness; it took me longer than a 'normal' novel of this length because of that.
I was intrigued by her thoughts about church, how she thought it was wrong to listen to sermons and that you could easily pick out the logical fallacies, but that she also felt safe and derived solace from church. The trip that the girls took to a Catholic church was interesting also - the French teacher saying that it wasn't suitable, that she knows these people and that she's afraid.
Interesting that she thought German men despised women, but at some point she mused about marrying a German boy.
And finally, why was the French teacher so upset about sharing a room with a married woman?
I'm looking forward to continuing also.
Backwater is next up on my reading list. I'll likely go ahead and read that and the 3rd volume together.
In this volume, I thought Miriam really exhibited a lot of the typical thoughts of a teenage girl - thinking about men, feeling attracted and attractive for the first time, trying to verbalize her thoughts about religion, and becoming obsessed with novels. These are all things I remember from that time of life as well.
I'm finding it interesting to see the women she works for and how they interact and influence her. I'm wondering if in all of these early parts there will be an older female figure for Miriam to observe.
Liz (Eliz_M if you know her from around LT) observed on my Club Read thread that she felt Backwater was more expected/conventional than Pointed Roofs and liked it a little less. I commented that I had (possibly arrogantly!!!) thought that I was just getting used to the writing and that was why it felt easier to read. Curious to hear what you all think!
. . .
Flipping through, I couldn't find many of these passages in Backwater -- only a page or so as Miriam drifts off to sleep.
Mind you, the narrative is still not linear, and still all takes place in Miriam's head, but for me it was easier to follow and there were more long passages that flowed continuously in the same time frame than in Pointed Roofs, where I was continually lost as to when a particular episode was set relative to the others. I maintain that this period of Miriam's life is less interesting to her (and the author), as witnessed by the title, so perhaps it was also written with fewer experimental techniques.
I thought the scene where she rolls the cigarette, decides to smoke it as funny but not much different than any young person deciding to smoke. To make that decision as if that makes you grown up but yet she is busy trying to hide the evidence.
Maybe I connected more to Backwater because I found more to relate to in my own teenage experience. Not that I was off teaching or anything, but some of the emotions seemed more relatable to me personally. I do agree that Pointed Roofs was edgier, though.
I'm probably going to finish Honeycomb today and I'll say that I'm losing Miriam in it a bit, even though it's still her point of view. Mrs. Corrie and her friends seem to be dominating the story and I like that less. Curious to hear what others think. I like hearing everyone's impressions as we all seem to be honing in on different aspects of the work. I always think that's one sign of a good book.
The latter is quite something. Even though I was on the look out for it, I had to double back when I reached the end of the book to find it. There is a curious movement where she both describes the exact moment and elides it, hidden by indirection, as something that cannot be spoken of.
I'm only about 100 pages in, so maybe that changes later.
Spoilers for The Tunnel below!
I feel like Richardson has really hit her stride in this 4th installment of Pilgrimage.
I was so struck in this novel that Virginia Woolf must have been influenced by this work. Miriam being out in London reminded me of Clarissa Dalloway and the importance of Miriam's own space both within her flat and in claiming London is also a prevalent them in Woolf's later work.
Richardson has come up with a unique style. It is all Miriam's point of view and to keep that narrow focus characters flit in and out, sometimes without much explanation of who they are. I think this was Richardson's way of keeping Miriam the focus, but it does make for challenging reading.
One thing that is disturbing to me is the racism and anti-Semitism; I hope it doesn't continue throughout.
I'm wondering if we could use 'spoiler' when we're sharing important plot points?
So, I get it now that although she characterizes it as a novel, it's very autobiographical and I certainly won't worry about any detailed posting about events in the books.
>35 Kristelh: I do agree with you that Miriam is very judgmental - I noticed it in Pointed Roofs and in Backwater also; and now that I understand that this book is so autobiographical, it's interesting that Richardson would portray herself (essentially) in this way.
Some episodes I totally identified with - I would absolutely be going crazy if I was with someone like Mrs Corrie in the hat shop, ugh!
The double wedding was very interesting and her reactions to the two men she encounters there; and it's very sad about not having enough money for proper healthcare for her mom, problems that still exist today for so many.
And actually the first question goes back to the previous novel - I've read the ending over again, in conjunction with the introduction and info on Richardson in Wikipedia, and how exactly do we know that her mom died?
And then in The Tunnel, what exactly happened with Dr. Hancock?
I also found it quite interesting that in Backwater, she talked about her teeth: (about eating bread) 'When she began at the hard thick edge there always seemed to be tender places on her gums, her three hollow teeth were uneasy and she had to get through worrying thoughts about them - they would get worse as the years went by, and the little places in front would grow big and painful and disfiguring.' And here she is in The Tunnel working in a dental office!
This is one of the reasons I think it's helpful to know the autobiographical elements as I read the book. Otherwise it seems almost impossible to get the plot points.
Here's a good description of it.
Miriam being persistent? And then the end of the letter sounded like she might lose her job, but carrying on through the end of The Tunnel, it looks like she is still there.
>43 japaul22: Thanks and also for the website info. I read through a couple of the summaries at that website, and the explanations are helpful. I guess I hadn't thought I would need that sort of guidance to work my way through Pilgrimage, but good to know it's there.
This book is described as long, modernistic, innovative and staccato prose. What we don't know in the Tunnel is what has happened to Mrs Henderson, What about the disgraced father, what has become of him. How about the sisters and the brother in laws? This is an example of how interiority works in the modernist/ novel.
The book is published in 1919 about a woman in 1896 written by a woman. Compare to other books with female characters such as Arnold Bennett, George Gissing or H G Wells’ novels (all were contemporaries of Richardson and Miriam). Miriam is not much different than any young woman working today as a secretary or dental assistant.
I also thought it was interesting that she was regularly misunderstood by the men around her. And, although this is a stream of consciousness book, I'm little bit suspicious of Miriam as a narrator. I'm interested to see what happens next.
I wish there was more scholarship written around this book. It has been really helpful for me with other experimental authors to have a literary analysis around for reference.
This is part of my review without plot spoilers.
What stuck out to me in this book is that Miriam has become more vocal. In previous novels she is opinionated but the "discussions" mainly occur through her interior monologue. In this book she states her opinion, often to Mr. Shatov, but also at work, which gets her in trouble, and to her family. I liked seeing this change in Miriam. She's growing up, exploring how to vocalize her opinions, and using others reactions to frame her own beliefs and grow. Her opinions on feminism, particularly, are maturing and she's able to voice some of her feelings about life as an English woman.
Thanks for mentioning the VMC threads on the Pilgrimage group read of a few years back - I've just finished going through the ones for Volumes 1 and 2, and it was great to have some external links with more info and analysis. Also, I was happy to see some of the readers there were confused by some of the same stuff I was. So, I shall persevere!
>53 japaul22: and great job getting through Deadlock already. I've got the book out, but haven't cracked the cover yet.
The beginning of the narrator's years in London. She starts out in The Tunnel describing living in an attic room that may have been like a tunnel. Miriam is living in London, young and single. This is the late 1800s so that is quite the accomplishment. She is earning her own living as a dentist assistant. Miriam seems to be at a happy point in her life.
These questions are not fully answered in the narration: What happened to Miriam's mother, what happened to her disgraced father. How are the sister's doing. How about the brothers in law (Bennett and Gerald).
New characters; Mag and Jan. Riding bicycles in the night in their knickers. I enjoyed the part about the two day solo bike trip that Miriam takes to Wilshire/Savernake Forest. Independence of movement, freedom to travel, and speed to get away from threats.
There is a lot of info in this book about women's life.
Miss Eleanor Dear: interesting character, not sure I liked. She is sick with tuberculosis and in poverty. Miss Dear may have a tragic life but I did not like how she used others. It seemed dishonest. I wasn't quite sure how they met each other.
>56 japaul22: Good job! I have yet to crack open Pilgrimage 3, but I have it with me on this trip, and plan to start tomorrow and alternate it with something else that will no doubt be a bit more gripping...
>53 japaul22: Good comments about Miriam speaking her mind more, and that did mess her up a bit at work.
I have a lot of travel and long-haul flights along with Christmas vacation between now and the end of the year, so I think I still have a chance to finish all the Pilgrimage works by yearend.
I've just finished Dawn's Left Hand, so I have 3 more to go. I had a tough time with the last few, but this one was a bit more interesting again. It sets up two opposing relationships - both with a strong physical attraction - between Miriam and Hypo and Miriam and Amabel (a beautiful young woman very attracted to Miriam).
I'm determined to push through the last 3, but at 400 slow pages, we'll see if I do it before the end of the year. There are still enough moments that I really enjoy and I feel so invested in Miriam that I want to see it through.
This excerpt is from “The Stories” chapter:
Ta, Seen, Meem. letters, not words These are the verses of the *clear* Book. We recite to you from the news of Moses and Pharaoh in truth for a people who *believe*. Indeed, Pharaoh exalted himself in the land and made its people into factions, oppressing a sector among them, slaughtering their newborn sons and keeping their females alive. Indeed, he was of the corrupters. *And* *We wanted* to confer favor upon those who were oppressed in the land and make them leaders and make them inheritors. *And* establish them in the land and show Pharaoh and his minister Haman and their soldiers through them that which they had feared. *And* We *inspired* to the mother of Moses, "Suckle him; but when you fear for him, cast him into the river and do not fear and do not grieve. Indeed, We will return him to you and will make him one of the messengers." *And* the family of Pharaoh picked him up out of the river *so that he would become to them an enemy and a cause of grief*. Indeed, Pharaoh and Haman and their soldiers were deliberate sinners. *And* the wife of Pharaoh said, "He will be a comfort of the eye for me and for you. Do not kill him; perhaps he may benefit us, or we may adopt him as a son." *And* they *perceived not*.
This was my summing up. There aren't any spoilers.
Pilgrimage is a 13 volume, 2110 page novel published between 1915 and 1967. From what I’ve found it is currently out of print, but fairly easy to access through used copies of Virago Modern Classics which published the work in 4 volumes. Originally, each volume was published individually until Dimple Hill, the 12th volume. It and the final installment, March Moonlight, were only published in full volume sets.
Pilgrimage is highly autobiographical. It follows the interior thoughts and experiences of Miriam Henderson, a young woman starting out in the world. I believe it covers her life from about age 17-30. Miriam leaves her home when her family falls on hard times financially to become a teacher in Germany. She teaches in different locations for the first few novels and then becomes a secretary at a dental office in London. While in London, she truly finds her confidence in being an independent and single woman. She explores the city and finds a deep connection to the city itself. As the book progresses, she develops her skill as a writer, begins and ends relationships with several men, and travels, gaining a wide array of experience.
The plot in the novel is buried deep within Miriam’s experience. Her reactions and thoughts are always primary, sometimes (often) to the point that the plot is undiscernible. This can be frustrating. Characters come and go sometimes without introduction and even large life events aren’t spelled out. Both her mother’s death and her first sexual experience I had to go back pages later and say, wait - what???
As such, this is not an easy reading experience. The book meanders and definitely loses its way, especially, I felt, later in the work. I think that by about half way through these novels, Richardson knew NO ONE was reading anymore and was truly writing for herself. I wonder if anyone was editing at all. Also, the book is unfinished which feels frustrating at the end of 2000 pages. I’m not sure Richardson ever intended to stop writing Miriam’s life experience.
All that said, I still highly recommend reading this. I thought a lot of the writing and ideas were truly groundbreaking. I’ve never read anything quite like this, and I’ve read Proust, Woolf, Faulkner, some of Joyce so I did have plenty to compare it to as far as interior, stream of consciousness writing. At her best, Richardson writes beautifully and intelligently, with great insight into the female experience. There is a definite feminist slant to her writing. There are certain scenes (Miriam exploring London on bicycle) that I will never forget.
If I were to be honest, I think you can get an excellent feel for Richardson’s talent and importance by reading the first 4 novels in this series of 13. I recommend those without reservation. And if you are a completist like I am, then by all means, read the whole thing. But I definitely recommend trying this neglected novel. I think it deserves to be read.
I'm about halfway through Revolving Lights, which is about halfway through Pilgrimage 3. A lot more about relationships in this one, and what women's roles are in relationships. I'm regularly amused by Miriam's meandering thoughts...
In Revolving Lights, I was surprised to actually find a reference to one of the titles in Pilgrimage:
Still it was strange, she reflected, with a consulting glance at the returning brilliance, that without any effort of her own, so very many different kinds of people and thoughts should have come, one after the other, as if in ordered sequence, into the little backwater of her life. What for?
Even coming across this, I still have no idea where the titles come from...
Relationships feature strongly in Revolving Lights, both with Michael and whatever starts happening with Hypo. From other sources, I understand about the affair with H.G. Wells. It seems that just like with what happened to her mother, some of these very important events in Dorothy's life are only skimmed over very briefly (although the vacation at Hypo and Alma's house was certainly described in detail). Looking forward to learning more in Pilgrimage 4.
The Trap seemed to be all about moving into a new place - sharing rooms with another woman, so as to both save money and have a bit bigger space. Miriam gets out and about a bit more, meets some neighbors and hosts a party.
In both of these novels, Miriam's love of London just shines through - London seems to be the great love of her life so far.
I liked this book the best of the three I've read so far.
Just 50 pages into Oberland and Pilgrimage 4. I'm not going to let this one linger too long - I'm afraid if I set it down it might stay down for quite a while! And being the longest of the four, that would not do.
Good luck carrying on!
There was a section in Oberland where Miriam goes on and on about soap, summing it up with this comment: To buy a new cake of soap is to buy a fresh stretch of days. Its little weight, treasure, minutely heavy in the hand, is life, past, present, and future, compactly welded.
I also loved how she expressed her joy of tobogganing!
I think we've all commented on not having a real clear understanding of the meanings of each novel's title; in >66 LisaMorr: I saw a reference to 'backwater' in Revolving Light, and then towards the end of Dawn's Left Hand, she talked about 'the horizon': All my life, since the beginning, I've left things standing on the horizon...I put things on the horizon and leave them there. Is that a reference to the next novel, Clear Horizon, that things get clearer for her? Hmmm
Dimple Hill was the only one that was 100% clear to me, but still it wasn't until the next to last page that it was mentioned!
This was a shocker in Dimple Hill: At last it was possible to think of the dead Eve. When did Eve die???
I was wondering how on earth she could afford to go away for six months; Hypo was always saying how she barely lived above the poverty line. And it wasn't until somewhere in March Moonlight that it was
Her relationships were really something - men and women falling in love with her, asking her to marry them, she pretty much values her independence more than marriage, still interesting to see the evolution of her relationship with Michael, with Amabel, and then Amabel and Michael, with Hypo.
Then her time with the Quakers, visiting Michael and Amabel, and then back to the Quakers, and then in what I would equate to a YWCA boarding house, and then back to the Quakers, and her relationship with the French ex-priest,
So, finally finished ! Looking back on my notes and timeline, I started Pilgrimage 1 in January 2020; it took me 14 months to get through, which is only a little longer than the original plan of 12.
And my overall thoughts:
Four books actually, and more than 2100 pages, of living inside Miriam Henderson's mind in this stream of consciousness work, encompassing 13 novels. I'm glad for the experience of reading this work, but it was not an easy or fast read. It was difficult to follow who was who and to actually understand at times what was happening. At the time of its publication (over several years), her critics didn't suspect it was based on the author's life. I had to read a lot of reference material to understand the actual events taking place -
Full of excruciating detail of people, their clothes, houses, furniture, the London streets, and nature, it went very slowly, Still I was interested in what it was like for a single woman to live and work on her own in London in the early 1900s. To attend lectures, read, and learn and question others about philosophy, to travel to Switzerland, live with a Quaker family, fall in love and have men fall in love with her, and to always stay single and live as independently as possible.