‘A Virtual Image’ by Rosalind Brackenbury – A Road Trip to France

‘A Virtual Image’ by Rosalind Brackenbury (1971) – 187 pages

In ‘A Virtual Image’, young English woman Ruby Smith is driving by car from England to southern France to meet her best friend since childhood, Anna Parrish. Both have just broken up with their boyfriends, and they are now each on their own enjoying the freedom of the open road.

They are to meet at a summer outdoor art colony run by a French husband and wife on a farm.

“And, Thomas,” she said: “Of course he’s the most marvelous painter. But somehow the thing for me here is the atmosphere. You know, there are so few places in the world that are really congenial. And they are such a marvelous couple. So complementary. Almost enough to make one think marriage isn’t such a bad idea after all.”

However when Ruby arrives, Anna has already left. Ruby must track her down.

In many ways ‘A Virtual Image’ is the quintessential early 1970s novel. The early Seventies were the bright dawn of the New Feminism. Women were just starting out to discover and treasure their independence from men. The women speak of self-realization. When Ruby does hook up with the young man Caley, there is a noticeable lack of the cynicism which would come later.

“Beside me he sits, a person I hardly know but who persuades me in the movement of his hands and the rise and fall of his voice, and in a hundred small gestures, that he will tell me something, change the way I am.”

‘A Virtual Image’ is kind of a road map for a romance between an independent woman and a guy who can handle her independence.

“Out of such things, out of the prosaic and the glib, I felt companionship grow, and our ease with each other; so that it was no longer necessary to talk all the time about Anna and explain all our actions in terms of our search for her.”

It is easy to tell who the guiding light for ‘A Virtual Image’ is. It is Virginia Woolf brought into the 1970s. I am no expert on the style of Virginia Woolf, but I have read ‘To the Lighthouse’ and ‘ Mrs. Dalloway’. We are always aware of what is going on in the mind of the main protagonist who is Ruby. We view events mostly through her eyes and insights, although occasionally there are abrupt unannounced shifts in the perspective to Caley or Anna.

The sentences and the paragraphs in the novel tend to be longer than those we get today. The novel was written before the “less is more” style became predominant.

Despite finding the ending somewhat melodramatic and over the top, I enjoyed ‘A Virtual Image’ throughout and found the scenes quite vivid.

Grade:  B

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mikewalmer on April 2, 2021 at 3:10 PM

    I think I like this one more than you do, Tony, but really glad you got something out of it. Thanks for covering it.

    Liked by 1 person


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