Monday, 11 April 2011

All the dogs of my life (Von Arnim) 397

I apologise for the lack of Virago Venture posts over the last couple of weeks - if you follow my other blog (Cardigan Girl Verity) you'll have seen that I've been reading my way through the Orange longlist. I'm nearly done, and I have a stack of VMCs at home which I'm really looking forward to getting back into. But I snuck one, by one of my favourite VMC discoveries in over the weekend. It was an enjoyable break from the more recent fiction that I've been reading, even if it didn't quite hold up to the other books that I've enjoyed by Elizabeth Von Arnim.

Rather than a novel, this is Von Arnim's autobiography, or at least the nearest she ever got to writing one. It isn't a traditional autiobiography, because she uses as a framework an account of the fourteen dogs that she owned in her life to date - so it is more of a biography of her dogs than really a story of her life.

"I would like, to begin with, to say that though parents, husbands, children, lovers and friends are all very well, they are not dogs." Dogs were hugely important to Von Arnim as reliable companions.

I didn't think it really quite worked for me - perhaps because I am not a doggy person, but mainly because she kept saying as an aside "if this wasn't a book about dogs, then I'd tell you about...." which just annoyed me, and made me wish for a proper autobiography. Elizabeth and her German Garden and The solitary summer seem to give a much better sense of Von Arnim as a person.

I wonder if there is a biography of Von Arnim out there (and if not, perhaps Virago should commission one - I'm sure it would make fascinating reading!)

That's the last Elizabeth Von Arnim that I've got to read for this challenge, although the good (and bad I suppose really) thing is that she wrote a number of novels which never made it into the VMC list and I've still got a couple of those to read. I would love to see the rest of them published as VMCs if anyone from Virago is reading this!

This was published just the once by Virago, with this slightly unusual cover. It does have a green spine even if the front of it looks quite un-Virago like!


  1. I am a doggy person and really loved this book. I'm begining to suspect that Von Arnim has quite distinct writing personalities and that she won't always appeal. I was very much in two minds over 'The Caravaners'...

  2. She was a fascinating person I think and this looks very interesting. Like you, I'd love an autobiography! Congrats on managing all the Virago ones too.

  3. I have this on the TBR shelf, purchased after I fell in love with Elizabeth in Her German Garden. However, I am a huge dog-lover and I've realized there might be sad bits, so I have put it off. I do want to read more of her books. I started Solitary Summer and found it terribly slow though.