‘Pilgrimage’ by Dorothy Richardson: Where I’m At

Some of you may know that I’m focusing upon Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage sequence in part for my PhD thesis.  One of my supervisors and I have decided that the first to fifth volumes will be good to focus upon, and with that in mind, I present my thoughts about the fourth and fifth books in the sequence – The Tunnel and Interim.

The Tunnel ****
9781554811106The Tunnel is the fourth volume of Dorothy Richardson’s Pilgrimage series, which follows the fascinating protagonist Miriam Henderson.  This particular novel finds Miriam firmly ensconced within London, where she works as an assistant to a dentist.

In my opinion, The Tunnel is not the best, nor the most interesting, volume of Pilgrimage to date; indeed, at points, it feels almost static.  I found myself far less interested in the external storyline than in Miriam until almost the end of the novel.  Of course, it is still spectacularly written, but The Tunnel is my least favourite Richardson novel to date.

Interim ****
is engaging from the first, and as a construct, Miriam becomes even more spectacular; she is realised in such detail that she could step to life from the page and absorb herself into modern life without lacking anything.  There is a real dreamlike quality to her here, which I absolutely adored.

Richardson’s writing, as ever, is beautiful throughout; more so, I feel, than in The Tunnel.  Scenes are evoked down to the smallest detail; like Miriam, they are almost achingly realistic.  It feels, in Interim, as though there is a change of direction; Miriam is still our protagonist, but the comparably large cast of secondary characters are focused upon far more than are the secondary characters in the previous novels of the sequence.  There is less emphasis placed upon Miriam at points, and whilst she does spring to life as she always does, it does not feel as though much development of her character and mindset has been provided overall.  Still, Interim is undoubtedly enjoyable and well rounded.  My only qualm is that the penultimate chapter felt a little anticlimactic, and the ending was a little underwhelming.

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Neglected Books: ‘The Judgment of Eve’ and ‘The Helpmate’ by May Sinclair

The Judgment of Eve ****
The Judgment of Eve is the shortest Sinclair book yet in my reading of her entire bibliography.  The author sets the scene wonderfully, and introduces the reader at once to protagonist, Aggie.  Aggie herself is well-educated, but in true Edwardian fashion, the first quarter of the plot deals with which of her two suitors she will choose to marry.  She is rather a progressive woman, willing to work if her fiance’s salary fails to rise as he has been promised.  Sinclair’s prose is shrewd, as ever: ‘Nature, safeguarding her own interests, had whispered to Aggie that young ladies who live in Queningford are better without intellects that show’.  


May Sinclair

After a move to London, the intellect which Aggie prizes above all else disappears once one child after another is born.  Our protagonist rises to the challenge of motherhood, but Sinclair makes us aware that it – and the never-ending domesticity which comes with it – is far from a perfect life for Aggie: ‘It was as if Nature had conceived a grudge against Aggie, and strove, through maternity, to stamp out her features as an individual’.  Sinclair paints the role of the traditional Angel in the House in a very interesting light, essentially turning it on its head.

The Judgment of Eve is a short book, but it unquestionably has a lot of depth to it, and both asks and answers a plethora of question about womankind and their place within the world.  Had it not been so brief, I would have definitely given it a five-star rating; regardless, it deserves to be read by a far wider audience.


The Helpmate *****
May Sinclair’s wonderful, and sadly neglected, novel The Helpmate details a marriage from its very beginnings.  Her characters, in their entirety, feel touchably realistic, and their relationships with one another are complex.  Here, Sinclair demonstrates the many different – and sometimes opposing – facets of married love.  There is such emotional depth throughout, and one can never quite tell what is likely to happen next.

The Helpmate is so very compelling, and of course, it is wonderfully written.  There is such a clarity to the whole.  The novel was first published in 1907, but feels incredibly modern; many of the themes are just as relevant today as they were when it was written.  Sinclair writes of love, deception, and grief in such a timely way; the modern reader can learn so much from it.  It is sadly not a book which I can include in my PhD thesis, as it lacks the elements which I am looking at, but it is certainly a fascinating and well-paced read, which – along with all of Sinclair’s work – deserves to be widely read.