Finished: Middlemarch

To be completely honest, guys, I came like *thisclose* to DNF-ingMiddlemarch. The only thing that kept me going was the fact that this is only the second book off my list and by the time I got to the part where I really didn’t want to keep going, I was only about 100 pages from the end (and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give up on a 800 page investment!) And the fact of the matter is that I don’t really know what it was that wasn’t getting me in to this book.

On paper, or on e-paper, as this current case may be, this book is full of stories that would be fantastic to read. I mean, a man falls in love with a brat and spends his life regretting his decision and bending to her will? Sure (even if that does mean I want to PUNCH ROSAMOND SQUARE IN THE EYE FOR THE LAST 700 PAGES OF THIS BOOK! GAH!). A love story about two people who society wants to keep apart? Sign me up? A sweet country tale of a man who makes himself better to earn a decent living and the admiration of his lady love? I’d read that one more than any of the others. But, to be honest, when all three of these stories showed up inMiddlemarch, I got nothing. Well, I shouldn’t say “nothing”. Because I really did like parts of this book! And there were reading days that seemed to just fly by with the pages. But then I would put the book down and not pick it up because every time I thought about reading it, suddenly doing the dishes would become the most important task ever. And I. Hate. Dishes.

So lets try and figure out what’s up with that, shall we? A little post-book game tape playback, if you will. I think my biggest issue that I had withMiddlemarchwas how withdrawn I felt from the characters. Maybe this is a facet of it’s being a Victorian novel? (someone with more experience/knowledge of the genre, help me out here!) But I felt like I wasn’t actually being allowed in to the character. I mean, we were told how they felt, but it was just a telling. There was something missing to make me¬†feelwhat the characters feel. I’m not sure what that missing thing is, but that’s what part of this project is about – learning what that ‘thing’ is and how to identify it/find it! I found this was the biggest case in the scenes between Dorothea and Will, and wonder if maybe the lack of dialogue and the omniscient perspective of the narrator kind of held things back a length or two. It didn’t seem to bother me much with some of the “shallower” characters (Mary, Fred, the Farebrothers’, the Brookes, even Celia and Chettam), but when it came to the Rosamond/Lydgate or the Dorothea/Will scenes, I felt like I didn’t get quite as much out of them as I could have if I felt closer to, well, everything.

That said, I did deeply enjoy the crazy events that seemed so perfectly in place in a Victorian novel – issues of mistaken parentage, town gossip, misunderstood exchanges of money, all of that jazz. It reminded me, in places, of some of the twists we see in Dickensian works. I was as much one the edge of my seat as I could be when Raffles was sick in bed at Bulstrode’s, and knowing how much was riding on his death, and knowing how things would look to the public once Lydgate was involved, it was truly a social-comedy delight to see the town gossips take the matter and run with it. Maybe that’s a bit cruel, considering this gossip was responsible for driving two good men (alright, one good man and one middling-to-fair man) out of the realm of decent public opinion, but to be honest – it was more fun to see how they’d deal with it than it would be to offer them sympathy! And ah, the joys of literature – the ability to have those feelings without worrying about hurting the feelings of real-life people!

At the end of the day, I am glad that I was able to get through Middlemarch. Not only because it’s another book off the list, but because it’s teaching me how to look for the things that are missing, how to name the things I’m looking for in a great reading experience – and while I’ve been blogging and talking about books for a while, I’ve never actually slowed down and really looked at those two skills.

Now, I’m thrilled to say, I’m moving on rather nicely through Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind which, to be honest, I had a hard time not reading while I was trying to finish Middlemarch. I’m only a few chapters in but, to be honest, the sweeping nature and the lazy Southern tone of the book are really what I need right now, as spring has set in and spring break has started! And you, darling fellow reader? What book is putting that spring in your step? Any big reading plans, as spring breaks hit nation-wide?