I had a near miss with Middlemarch. I mean that I nearly missed it. This book has been hanging around the house for well over a decade but there was always another book more appealing.
The language is flowery, the sentences long and the print miniscule. Mr. Casaubon mentions that he feels it necessary to take the utmost caution with his eyesight. Feeling the same, and unwilling to marry a teenage bride for the sake of having her read to me, I came very close to giving up on it somewhere around page 100. Only pride brought perseverance.
I mentioned a few days ago (here) that I felt as though I had moved in to a small town where the locals were reluctant to talk to me.
Then Husband went away for a week on business. I made dire threats to teenagers about Christmas test results and thus confined them to their rooms. I lit the fire, curled up with the dog on my toes and made a determined effort to get through this book before it defeated me.
I was well rewarded. The denizens of Middlemarch began to spill the beans. Page 208 was the first that I marked. I read a line that made me smirk and think, ‘that’s clever’.
From that point on, my poor book is ravished with dog-ears and scribbles.
I don’t usually write on my books. I suppose the nature of this one brought me back to the habits of my school days.
I marked lines that made me laugh out loud. There’s nothing quite like the laugh that comes at the end of a really difficult paragraph. Only the very best teachers master this method of reward for concentration.
I marked lines that I want to tell friends about;
‘I still think that the greater part of the world is mistaken about many things. Surely one may be sane and yet think so, since the greater part of the world has often had to come round from it’s opinion.’
I marked lines that I wish I could use for myself;
‘The troublesome ones in a family are usually either the wits or the idiots.’
‘The wit of a family is usually best received among strangers.’
Lines that build characters in the most meaningful ways;
‘She was knitting, and could either look at Fred or not, as she chose- always an advantage when one is bent on loading speech with salutary meaning’.
‘Husbands are an inferior class of men who require keeping in order’.
And, ohhh, the most romantic line;
‘I want to make the happiness of her life’.
I clearly have a soft spot for a tragic hero and unrequited love.
Admittedly, this is a slow-burner but the plot thickens at the mid-point and the final third is a rollicking good read. Bizarrely, I was reminded in turns of J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy, Love Actually and Breaking Bad.
I’m a convert and, as such, I shall be evangelical in my recommendation of this book.
Middlemarch is a parable albeit a long one. George Eliot describes how each of our paths may cross, entangle, cause detours and clear the way for others. There is a good deal of religious reference but I found it added layers of depth.
This heavy tome is an encyclopedia of human characters. Everyone you know is in it. Everyone you will ever meet is in it.
You could read Middlemarch as a self-help book which will teach you to understand those characters when you come across them. Perhaps you are married to Rosamund, maybe you are living next door to Mr. Bulstrode. Read here to discover the inner workings of their minds!
If you are honest enough to recognise yourself, this book will help you to understand you better too. It was interesting to compare who I think I am most like with who I would most wish to be like.
We tell ourselves a story about who we are. We worry about the opinion of others because we need to be backed up in our own opinion of ourselves.
The worst that can happen to us is to lose faith in our own story.
We need someone to believe in us. Is that love? A mutual believing in each other?
Middlemarch is a masterpiece. It could change the way you live…
…if you believe in it.