Pointed Roofs

Pointed Roofs - Dorothy M. Richardson [These notes were made in 1992:]. First published 1915. Though she disliked the term, Richardson is accurately described as a stream of consciousness writer. A heavy value is placed on immediate and accurate response to the stimuli of the outside world, and to the realistic, associational movement of thought and conversation. Under the influence of all this detail - "meaningless" detail, in that it is not patterned to serve a plot as in more conventional fiction - it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking nothing is happening at all. I fell into that trap when I first read this novel at 20 - much too young to have the sophistication to read between the lines and pick up what is 'really' happening, as opposed to what is striking Miriam's own intelligent but fuzzy, naive 17 1/2-year-old consciousness. In Pointed Roofs we are introduced to this very autobiographical character, of a poor genteel family, with lively sisters and an independent mind, particularly on the subject of religion (which she dislikes) and confining women's roles (which she resents ferociously). There is also a certain amount of not-terribly-focussed musing on the differences between England & Germany (where Miriam goes to be a governess). On the subject of German men she is quite clear, though - they are autocrats. So is the Fraulein who runs the school, an unpredictable tyrant who cools sharply towards Miriam when the local pastor, her gentleman-caller, shows himself to be friendly to Miriam. (Miriam is perplexed by this). There is also, to the modern suspicious mind, more than an undertone of suppressed lesbianism in this small school - lots of goofy schoolgirlish affection, of course, but there is one particularly beautiful girl to whom Miriam herself is not unsusceptible, and for whom we see the Fraulein entertaining special affection. However, physical demonstrativeness of even the most innocent kind (during a thunderstorm, for instance) is sharply reproved, and Fraulein reproaches the English girls for corrupting the others by speaking of men. She is a first-class prude, and this is a large part of why Miriam leaves Germany at the end of this novel.