I have shamelessly taken this picture from dovegreyreader's blog, as it perfectly illustrates the book I have been reading. She is holding a "read along", reading Middlemarch in instalments, which meant that I romped through Miss Brooke at a speed of knots, and now have to wait until February to read Part Two.
It's been interesting to re-read George Eliot. Being a literary sort, I chose Science A-Levels, and had to self-teach myself critical reading. In my wasted youth, I read all the CLASSICS (Middlemarch, Dickens, Trollope etc) and didn't particularly gain much from them, although many I enjoyed greatly and have gone on to re-read and re-read, especially Jane Austen and Trollope. Middlemarch has not been one I've re-visited, and I can't really think why. I watched the television adaptation relatively recently, with the lovely Rufus Sewell in his prime (he's gone to seed now, of course) and the utterly entrancing Juliet Aubrey as Dorothea Brooke. Perhaps that's why?
For whatever reason, Middlemarch is on my list. I loved reading it as an adult. A proper adult, I mean, with a job and a mortgage and two children and an account with John Lewis. Miss Brooke is far more pious and difficult than I remember her being, Cecila is a sweetie, Sir James is very proper and manly, and Casaubon is made out of beige. What a wonderful character he is. A key to all mythologies, honestly. And silly Dorothea for being taken in by him - I suppose he would seem like some form of hero to an eighteen year old longing to be taken seriously by someone and, feeling herself to be far cleverer than the people around her, longing to have someone to whom she could admire intellectually. Unfortunately, she doesn't realise; the first rule of being cleverer than everyone else is to pretend not to be cleverer than everyone else.
George Eliot's writing is needle sharp - it's as if she has specially sharpened her pen and is creating perfect little pen and ink drawings of her characters. She is also funny - I don't remember laughing during the television adaptation, except at Mr Brooke, so it must be the strong author's voice, so disliked by Linda Grant. I follow her on Twitter, I don't have a personal connection to her.
The thing I love most about reading the book with a group, especially via dove grey reader, is that she is able to make connections to things I had vaguely noticed and mentally filed under interesting. A S Byatt's writing about GE is the example I'm thinking about at the moment; here is a vast chunk I have copied and pasted.
'I taught it with a passion because it I perceived it was about the growth, use and inevitable failure and frustration of all human energy - a lesson one is not interested in at eleven, or eighteen, but at twenty-six with two small children, it seems crucial. George Eliot's people were appallingly ambitious and greedy - not always for political, or even exclusively sexual power...they were ambitious to use their minds to the full. to discover something, to live on a scale where their life felt valuable from moment to moment...'
I can't say anything more about it. That's it really.