Books Magazine

To the River by Olivia Laing

By Pamelascott
An author's walk "from source to sea along the Ouse in Sussex is a meandering, meditative delight" drawing on history, literature, and the river itself (The Guardian, UK).

In To The River, author Olivia Laing embarks on a weeklong, midsummer odyssey along the banks of the River Ouse in Sussex, England, from its source near Haywards Heath to the sea, where it empties into the Channel at Newhaven. More than sixty years after Virginia Woolf drowned herself in the River Ouse, Laing still finds inspiration and guidance in the author's abiding presence.

Through cow pastures, woods, and neighbourhood streets, Laing's meandering walk occasions a profound and haunting reflection on histories both personal and cultural, and on landscapes both physical and emotional. Along the way, she explores the roles that rivers play in human lives, tracing their intricate flow through literature, mythology and folklore.

Lyrical and stirring, To the River is a passionate investigation into how history resides in a landscape - and how ghosts never quite leave the places they love.




(@canongatebooks, 5 May 2011, 305 pages, ebook, borrowed from @GlasgowLib via @OverDriveLibs)



This is my first time reading the author. I didn't know what to expect. I really enjoyed To the River which is a lot different than the books I usually read. Like, Laing, I am also fascinated by rivers and our encounters with water. I can't swim and have a deathly fear of drowning so am always unsettled by scenes in books, film and TV which include drowning or unpleasant encounters with water. I enjoyed the journey Laing took me on even if the water felt uncomfortably close at times. I enjoyed the way the author explores the life and death of Virginia Woolf (who I have never read) and also references other well-known books and authors known for writing about the sea and water.

River Olivia Laing

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