Middlemarch – local girl makes good

I think that I’ve mentioned before that I’m following http://www.dovegreyreader.co.uk/  as she reads through George Eliot’s Middlemarch.

I think that it’s about the third time I’ve read this book. Yes, I know – big book again. I have read it for a course before, and also because I’m a great fan of the BBC version, which is surely the definitive version. Maybe it’s because in those halcyon days they did the adaptation on the big scale, with plenty of time and a great cast.

(Or was I the only person disappointed by the adaption of Birdsong recently? For a book that gave me such a strong visual impression I found the whole first episode weak, inaudible and completely flat).

Anyway, back to Middlemarch. Yes, it’s a long book, but we are reading it this time section by section, which has the effect of making it far more approachable. It was originally published at intervals which meant that its originally audience would have been keenly awaiting the next opportunity of finding out what was happening to their favourite characters. This approach has far more in common with today’s soap operas than you would believe.

The characters, including the idealistic Dorothea, the pretty Rosamond, the easily impressed Lydgate and the rest, linger in the mind as they slowly evolve and change with circumstance. Like many novels, there are moments of frustration when the reader feels like yelling at a character to stop them doing something which can only end badly. The setting, including rural Warwickshire and the splendour of Rome, echoes the characters so exactly, as Dorothea faces disappointment and disillusionment and  Fred begins to feel that his life may not always be easy.

My favourite character  (being a fan of http://northernvicar.wordpress.com/ obviously)  is the vicar, Mr Farebrother. He has to support his bossy mother, timid aunt and elder sister. He tops up his stipend by playing cards and billiards, and has a good idea of what is really going on in the town.

It is the town of Middlemarch, based on Nuneaton, where Eliot was born that provides the backdrop for this early saga.  I was born in that area, but the story transcends any particular place as the claustrophobia of a small town will have its effect on various characters, so a working knowledge of midlands towns is not vital.

This is a big book in every way. Big characters in difficult situations, realistic emotions and generally an amazing read. It is different from her other books in that it has the space to develop ridiculous characters and the fact that you can see what is going to happen is still enjoyable and worthwhile. It does seem a daunting book to read so reading it gradually may be an answer. And if you have a kindle, you can download it for free…



Solar and a book group (and a tv addiction)

I finally managed to get along to a book group recently! And as I have finished my essay for my course (next one due in JULY!), narrowly avoiding the vital website going down this morning , I thought that I would finally get around to writing a new post…

I think that Solar by Ian McEwan was chosen partly because it is a bit of a man book. Its central character certainly does not waste too much time agonizing over the feelings of the female characters, including wives and lovers, except when those feelings have an impact on his own well being. Having said that, I also think that there is an element of this book which may encourage female readers to shake their heads pityingly and despair of men. Oh, and laugh at their absurdities.

Because in a way the central character in this novel, despite his five wives, worldwide fame and amazing survival skills despite his, quite frankly, enormous appetites, is absurd.  Michael Beard won a Nobel prize for an advance on an Einstein theory. No, I didn’t understand that bit either, but it seems that such science leads to green energy, or at least can do if the ideas of a young scientist are “improved upon”. You do not have to be a scientist to understand this book, but if you are, I dare say that it helps. (Same as for Big Bang Theory . I am addicted to it, despite O level biology grade A being my only qualification in the field. Some time ago…)

This is a funny book. There is a very funny episode involving a call of nature in freezing temperatures which I had to explain to someone in our group. Much merriment ensued…

This is also an annoyingly simplistic book, which does not answer reasonable questions. Why is the overweight, seemingly charmless and definitely hapless hero so irresistible to women?  How did McEwan contrive to construct such a convincing scientific breakthrough which is not real?   Why is it such an enjoyable book, such a funny book, one that I would cheerfully recommend to anyone who was not overly sensitive, given that his other books are so, well, depressing? I enjoyed Chesil Beach, liked the film of  Atonement even if I have failed to read the book, but both were sad, if not tragic. There is some sadness here, but often outweighed by the sheer daftness of the hero pretending to have a lady friend leaving the house by slapping the stairs, or eating crisps…

This is a good book which keeps you reading, even if it’s only because you do not really believe that the protagonist will get away with it… Definitely one to read and enjoy. As long as you’re not easy shocked

A New Post – at last!

Hello! I’m back!

Another long delay, I’m afraid. Blame that Open University course, choirs, awaydays, things to do. I’ve been reminded to start posting again by the fact that I’ve just opened a Twitter account and have had it explained to me by an ever patient Daughter. I think that I can now Tweet, and maybe the fact that I have something to tweet like a new post appearing will make it worthwhile. Well, this new technology lark…

Anyway, I’ve been downloading books onto my Kindle (thanks, Son One),and following http://www.dovegreyreader.co.uk/ as she and a large number of readers blog and comment on Middlemarch by George Eliot. I discovered that a certain selection of old (pre 1926) novels and books are available on kindle for, well, nothing. Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice, and a lot of Anthony Trollope novels lurk in a very readable form.  As I am struggling to carry even paperbacks around with me now, a kindle does mean that I can read something interesting while Northernvicar goes church hunting or train chasing.


No, I haven’t sold out. I am still acquiring real books at a good rate. Father Christmas brought the three new Persephone books, so my collection is up to date, and I’m still keeping up with the Slightly Foxed limited editions. Apparently they are bringing out some of these in paperback, which is good as I have felt guilty about reviewing books here that are only being produced in limited editions. More details here http://www.foxedquarterly.com/news/. The Holman-Hunt book which is coming out will be very appealing. Diana Holman Hunt  wrote My Grandmothers and I as a memoir of her life with her two grandmothers. The artist’s widow was one of the grandmothers, and probably one of the most eccentric grandmothers on record.  It is a funny little book, which I enjoyed as a complete opposite to most modern childhood memoirs. The Slightly Foxed Quarterly is addictive, too. Definately worth investigating….

So, I will be posting about Middlemarch, or at least the first two sections of the big novel. I have also read Solar by Ian McEwan for a book group, and will soon post about it here. I will be trying to post regularly, honest…