To the River – Olivia Laing

517v9HOHHLL._AC_US436_QL65_I have tried, really tried to finish this book. Twice, maybe even three times I have lost interest, then in a valiant effort picked it up again. But when you would rather clean the bathroom than read the last forty pages, it’s probably not the book for you.

Laing is recovering from a recent relationship break up and is feeling down. As such, she decides to walk the length of the river Ouse, a river she already knows well and that in which Virginia Woolf drowned herself. As she wanders the length of the river her narrative also meanders and she discusses all sorts of topics from local flora and fauna, historical figures, flooding, Virginia Woolf’s life and Lewis Carroll (this is the book which prompted me to read the fascinating Inventing Wonderland  – review here).

There is a lot in this book and I can’t help but see the similarities in style between Laing and Robert MacFarlane or W G Sebold. Which is intended as a compliment and shows the quality of her writing is high. However, even though Laing writes well I’m afraid the subject matter didn’t hold my interest.

I’m torn whether to recommend this but will anyway. You never know, you might like it and you might learn some diverse facts to impress your neighbours with at the next local quiz night.


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