‘To The River’ by Olivia Laing
‘To The River’ is named for Woolf’s ‘To The Lighthouse’, a novel that dwells on the passing of time, mirroring the ebb and flow of the sea. The River Ouse is famously the river where Virginia Woolf drowned. Half a century later, in the wake of the end of a relationship, Laing seeks to discover the mysterious pull of the waters of the river. In Laing’s work, the rhythm of the river likewise becomes a metaphor for the ebb and flow of time, and of life itself. We loved how Laing combines meticulous research of the place’s political and cultural history with her own week-long walk around the river, bringing in a thoughtful and personal dimension to the book.
Through vivid and careful observations of the world around her, Laing brings alive the ways in which landscapes hold meaning—meaning that we construct ourselves, by making rivers into metaphors, or dark skies into bad omens, but also histories that are written into the world around us like a palimpsest. Laing reminds us that there are stories all around us. From the banks of the river, she gives us a glimpse into the past of a country, the brilliant mind of a troubled writer, and her own relationship with nature.
This June, we're reading ‘To The River’ for the Champaca Book Subscription and Book Club. Read this book with us and join us in our book club meetings where we dive deep into the book, and what it meant for us!