Well here we are again Team Middlemarch and what an odd...no, make that a very peculiar and discombobulating reading week or two I have had, so please forgive a slight digression whilst I give you some honest context.
Last week I interrupted all my reading in progress, including Barbara Kingsolver's new novel Flight Behaviour which has me rapt, along with my chapter every-so-often of Middlemarch, in order to settle down with the new and first novel for adults from J.K.Rowling, The Casual Vacancy.
No, I don't know why either, not when I am enjoying what I am already reading so much, but I had read that it was a reflection of the life and times of 21st century rural (West Country) England and so my mind made a little connective leap to George Eliot and Middlemarch. Well wouldn't it be interesting if J.K.Rowling had somehow pulled that one off I thought, what great comparisons we could draw, plus I had about eight hours on a train last Saturday so it was ripe for my Kindle, yes, I paid hard-earned money.
I really wish I had been the person who dubbed The Casual Vacancy "Mugglemarch".
I will write more about The Casual Vacancy when I have calmed down a bit, but suffice to say George Eliot it wasn't, well not for me anyway, even if both books do have a character called Fairbrother / Farebrother, and nor can I tell you when a book may have left me feeling more ...no I'll save all that for when I can be a bit more rational. I know some of you have loved it so I want to write sensibly rather than rant, and though I rarely write about books I haven't enjoyed I will be making an exception for The Casual Vacancy.
Anway with my reading energy sapped and depleted, coupled with the final countdown for the Kayaker's departure for two years in Australia this coming week, and I half-wondered whether I could even manage to pick up and finish The Dead Hand, Book V of Middlemarch in time for today.
But look, here I am, George Eliot saves the day and rapidly restores my reading mojo, though I may not have much in the realms of an original thought given that Mugglemarch has taken up so much of my thinking this week, please forgive the brevity. It is all yours in comments and I will look forward to your thoughts and some discussion there.
So one of the moments we had all been waiting for finally happens
'But the silence in her husband's ear was never more to be broken.'
and Casaubon is gone and with him went any sympathies I may have held for him. I can't remember that happening last time I read, and every step of the way I realise how unemotionally I engaged with Middlemarch when studying it, and how much I am relishing being able to do that now.
His jealousy of Dorothea and Ladislaw, and that final seemingly spiteful and controlling codicil in the will were all it took for me to cast him out of my affections... I blame JKR for this rather belligerent mindset. I am still a crosspatch 'tis true.
But the other marriage that is the focus of George Eliot's attentions is also steaming into choppy waters. Rosamond's insecurities becoming evident very early on in Book V...
'I shall be jealous when Tertius goes to Lowick,' said Rosamond, dimpling, and speaking with airy lightness. 'He will come back and think nothing of me.'
and Lydgate, who I am still rooting for, humours and pets his wife with affection and we learn that Rosamond 'was expecting to have a baby' which I didn't quite take to mean she is actaully expecting one yet. Thought heaven knows what Rosamond will make of the straightened circumstances that beckon, whilst her man is heading into some turbulent professional waters of his own. Poor Tertius, no aspect of his life is going well is it, but I am refusing to see him as the 'charlatan' or the 'emotional elephant' or the gambler and risk-taker that others may see, even though the evidence may be staring me in the face.
Isn't it amazing how a writer can have the power and a reader can furtively sneak it back.
If Middlemarch is a book about change on every front, and how it affects a community that a reader is coming to know quite well, then George Eliot is the mistress of the genre. I am even enjoying the political elements regarding the Reform Act, and poor Mr Brookes, I am afraid I laughed at the egg shower and his inept and shambolic speech. This may or may not have been appropriate but I felt George Eliot was giving permission, in the way that she does, and it all made me think yet again about the power of the writer and the control they can (or can't) exert over the mind and mood of a reader.
By this time I am cheering up a bit and noticing George's little nuances again...
Mr Farebrother's (another good guy) aunt as she makes 'tender little beaver-like noises' when she hears that her nephew has been granted the living of Lowick parish.
Caleb Garth ( a saint) and his 'peculiar' reluctance to listen to gossip for fear of hearing anything 'discreditable' about another man.
And then the arrival of Raffles, his presence set to ruffle Mr Bulstrode's feathers with some scandal from the past...
'This time Mr Raffles' slow wink and slight protusion of his tongue was worse than a nightmare, because it held the certitude that it was not a nightmare, but a waking misery. Mr Bulstrode felt a shuddering nausea...'
I am there and I am watching those slightest of facial expressions speak volumes of words.
And so I reach page 499 in my edition fully restored to my usual reading enthusiasm.
So how about you??
I am really looking forward to some insights and discussion in comments, and don't forget we reconvene for Book Six The Widow and The Wife on George Eliot's birthday, November 22nd