Middlemarch. George Eliot.

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.IMG_9632

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’.

Witty lines;

‘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.




Back and Forth.

November weekends don’t come much better than this last one. The weather co-operated beautifully with my plans.IMG_7871

Rain lashed the windows on Saturday morning  giving me all the excuse I needed to pile up the pillows and snuggle up to a chunky book.

I’m attempting to read George Eliot’s Middlemarch. I’ve tried and failed before but I hate to let a book defeat me. Dr. Zhivago and Ulysses both look down from my shelves and gloat at my failing will-power but I will not add to their number. I’m only on page 40 but, so far, Middlemarch is like  golden syrup; overly sweet and hard to get through. Also, the print is miniscule. I have a feeling that, after forty-three years of book-lovin’,  this will be the tome which leads me to the optician for my first pair of glasses. If I get to the end of this without bi-focals I might race back and try Ulysses again just so that I can say it was James Joyce who wrecked my eye-sight. IMG_7870

The clouds were miraculously blown away at lunchtime so I transitioned, with relief, from heavy reading to light weeding. The ground was so soft that foot-long dandelion roots pulled out, whole, in my hands. Oh, the satisfaction of it. What compares? I’ve no idea. More than half of my gardening time is spent weeding and dandelions are the most pernicious of weeds. I break my fingernails scraping earth from their necks, poking down their spines with my fork and rarely am I rewarded with more than a handful of leaves and an inch of stumpy root.

To give a little wiggle and steadily extract the whole tormentor, all the way down to his toes, satisfies every mean bone in my body. 

By four o’clock, my hands were thorn-scratched and my bones, mean and otherwise, were tired. I had coffee on the patio. Such happiness it brought, on a soggy-bottomed day, to have hard sandstone underfoot. We revelled in it, Husband and I, as we hugged our mugs and felt the chill nipping. IMG_7868

Meanwhile, in the toasty kitchen, a brisket was roasting, ever so slowly, and bread was gently rising. I’m telling you, it was all a model of domestic harmony.

That is, until the Husband and I attempted to cook side-by-side. I’m a control freak and Husband’s culinary style might best be described as individualistic. Words were stern and silences sullen. Whisks were rattled and pans crashed. Nevertheless, despite generous splashes of sauce and flurries of flour, a hearty meal was presented to our adoring public, ie; the kids. Slow-roasted brisket with a Jameson sauce, garlicky-yogurty-tomatoey-cucumber salad, stove-braised red peppers and warm cumin-hinted flatbreads. It was so good, and we were sooo hungry, the thought of taking a photograph never entered my head. You’ll just have to believe me. It was good food.

Sunday spelled relentless rain. A proper, squalling, volleying deluge.IMG_7874

Middle Girl and I retreated to our armchairs, picked up our knitting needles and settled to Stage Two of our Gilmore Girls marathon. I missed The Gilmore Girls first time around. Maybe I wasn’t the right age for it or, perhaps, I was busy having a life. I read a list of all the books that Rory Gilmore read over the course of the series. I’ve read 79 of the 339 books (see the list here). It includes Ulysses but not Dr. Zhivago or Middlemarch so I don’t feel too bad! It’s a great list and my interest was piqued.  I also read that a Gilmore-catch-up is in the making which gave me a deadline. We have six months to watch seven seasons…easy peasy. Now, if I gave myself seven years to read the remaining 260 books, that would be a real challenge. No, no, no. Shooting down that idea right now.IMG_7885

My mother was nineteen when she had me and there were intervals when it was just she and I living together in a very Lorelai/Rory relationship. Even my Granny fits right into the Emily role. Sadly, we had fewer sparkly fairy lights in our lives and I don’t recall any cute guys offering to carry my books. Regardless, I am very much enjoying the rose-tinted version. Middle Girl is delightfully enthusiastic which is all the justification required.IMG_7879

As I write, a gusty south-westerly wind is driving the rain horizontally across the garden.IMG_7884

I ran out just now and rescued the final, valiant rosebuds.IMG_7888

I have a candle lit at my side, dog asleep at my feet and soup simmering on the stove. It would all be quite delightful if I didn’t have to face the school run.IMG_7887

That’s the very last of the roses. Let me just say to Husband one more time: Best Birthday Present EVER. Thank you.

My apologies for the aimlessly wandering post. One of these days, but no time soon, I might actually get to the point.