Wednesday, July 27, 2016

#Eliotalong Week 4 - Chapters 43-56

Ssh, let's just ignore that I'm late. Which is quite funny, because this is the first week I've had all the chapters read well in advance of Monday, thanks to the 24in48 readathon. I took part completely on the DL, with no online presence whatsoever, mostly because I didn't expect to read much- I was working two night shifts and spend most of Sunday with my girlfriend- but I actually managed a very respectable 592 pages in just short of seven hours. It was nice to just sit down and read a massive chunk of Middlemarch- I'll have to try it again with this week's reading!

Ding dong, the witch is dead! I don't think any of us were sad to see Casaubon go. But the condition of his will is just gross on so many levels that I don't think I even appreciated the first time I read this. It's not just essentially forbidding her to marry Will (because Dorothea doesn't see him that way... well, yet anyway...;) ) but the fact that it's motivated by his ridiculous jealousy that has the result of making her the talk of the town when absolutely nothing was going on between them. Ugh. Even dead, Casaubon continues to ruin everything. 

Lots of stuff about the hospital and Lydgate's medical methods in this section. I actually found it pretty interesting! It's really not something I think one would expect going into this book. Eliot's like, I'll give you small town gossip and relationships between people BUT ALSO historical context and politics, and I'm liking this approach a lot. 

But oh, that furniture bill he couldn't pay. I can't watch, this is just too much. Especially now Rosamond's pregnant too!

Well, that took an interesting turn this week. It would appear even more people in this town are related than we first thought! Things seem to be going pretty badly for Bulstrode. I'm wondering what effect this will have on the town, and of course on Will as well.

On the contrast, things seem to be looking up slightly for these two! I think Fred's learned his lesson and is prepared to do what needs to be done to grow up and marry Mary. I hope it works out for him, I really do.

We also had the first (I think.. first major, anyway) reference to the railways, which is one of the things I remember most about this book. It seems ridiculous to us now of course, but I can kind of understand how mad people though they were back in the day. Cutting up the countryside to send people whizzing about the place in boxes on metal rails? So weird. 

Like some of you have said, it's pretty startling the way Eliot skips over seemingly major events like pregnancies/Bulstrode's purchase of Stone Court, but I quite like it. She directs our attention where it needs to be, and this book is long enough as it is (just kidding- honestly, I wouldn't mind an extra few hundred pages at this point!)

So that's this week in the bag! Things are definitely developing as we enter the final third of the book. I can't wait for more :)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#Eliotalong Week 3 - Chapters 29-42

I'm a little late this week- I'd like to say it's because I've been out enjoying the good weather, but sadly no! I've mostly just been working and then coming home exhausted and going to bed early, rinse repeat. 

Anyway. I can't believe we're halfway through! There's still lots to go down... Most of my strong memories come from the second half so I'm looking forward to getting into that stuff. 

  • Casaubon/Dorothea/Will Ladislaw- I think this week's chapters really just emphasised what a disaster this marriage is. Poor Dorothea, she seems totally crushed. The jealousy thing is just incredibly gross. Jealousy issues are kind of a deal breaker in a relationship for me- if you can't trust someone not to cheat on you, why are you with them in the first place?!- so that's incredibly irritating, especially as Dorothea needs someone to support her. I liked how Eliot dedicated some time to Casaubon's point of view- it didn't make me feel any sympathy for him, but it gave a little insight into his head and his motives which was interesting. 

  • Featherstone's death and will business- Such drama with the second will! I think Mary should have just burned the will like Featherstone told her to. Sure, there's the legality of it but surely a dying man's wishes trump that to some extent? I suppose it would have looked awfully suspicious though. Especially if her relationship with Fred was more widely known. Still, it's pretty painful for the two of them. Hopefully it'll work out. In the mean time though, who is Joshua Rigg? It's pretty startling to have a mysterious newcomer thrown into the mix. I'll keep my eye on him.

  • Lydgate/Rosamond- I feel like I'm watching a car crash in slow motion. And that's all I have to say about that.

  • Brooke/political drama- It's nice to have some local politics thrown into the mix- it's interesting from an historical point of view and it just makes the whole book seem wonderfully rounded. This is another thing I'll be sure to keep an eye on.

Monday, July 11, 2016

#Eliotalong Week 2- Chapters 15-28

I think this week I finally got properly settled into the book and remembered why I love it so much. It's just so engrossing! I'm caught up in the lives of the characters and the fact that I've got more than 600 pages left with them isn't a bit disheartening. I'm starting to remember certain plot points a bit more, so I'll have to bite my tongue a bit for spoilers here... ;)

  • Lydgate- I'm liking Lydgate a lot so far. It's hard not to sympathise with him as an outsider to Middlemarch. Small towns are weird. Anyone else need a diagram for who's related to who? I feel like everyone's related by marriage... Anyway. I'm less sure about Rosamund's schemes for him and how completely oblivious he is to them- she's planning the furniture in their drawing room, he barely even considers her a love interest. This will not end well.

  • Religion- I'm starting to see a thing with zealousness/puritanism versus a more laidback approach in this book. Dorothea's super pious, but it does her no good; Farebrother is probably a terrible clergyman but seems like a nice guy; Tyke is super strictly religious and not a particularly nice guy. It's interesting in regard to GE's experiences with religion- she was brought up pretty strict but relaxed later in life, what with her relationship with a married man and all. So it's interesting to see her explore those ideas here.

  • Dorothea- oh man, I feel bad for her. It's like she's finally woke up and realised what a horrible mistake she's made. Casaubon is such an ass. Meanwhile, Will Ladislaw is going up in my estimation, and I just wish Dorothea could have married him instead.

  • Fred- I'm torn with Fred. I kind of can't stand people who are terrible with money, being an obsessive budgeter myself. And Fred is the worst when it comes to money and it's starting to mess up other people's lives too, which is Not Cool. Still, he's not malicious or anything about it. I think he's just genuinely naive and stupid. Hopefully he learns from his mistakes... but let's face it, he probably won't. Oh, and Mary Garth is an absolute angel.

So that's this week! Next week I'm hoping to see more of Dorothea and see if Fred really can get himself sorted out. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Summer mini-reviews, #1

Because why dedicate myself to reading all summer if I'm not going to talk about what I'm reading? Here's the first (hopefully) batch of mini-reviews of my summer reading!

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Ooh, this was good. I kept hearing about Helen Oyeyemi so I picked this up at the library for a try, and I think it'll easily make my 2016 top ten. For such a short book, there's so many layers- a shifting point of view, a creepy house that may or may not be trying to kill people, family issues and pica and going to university and magical realism... it's creepy without really being able to pinpoint why, and I'd like to read it again soon as I think I'd be able to pick up on even more. Highly recommended.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny HanThe Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han 

This isn't really my usual fare, but I believe it's always good to branch out! So Belly (not her real name, obvs) and her brother spend every summer with her mum's friend and her two sons at her beach house, and this is probably the last summer they'll do that before the older boys leave for college. Belly kind of has a thing with both brothers, so this is about their last summer and which boy she picks. This really isn't the sort of thing I normally read, but I liked it all the same. It's a quick read and super summery, really the ideal beach thing. It's also somehow not as fluffy/inconsequential as it sounds. Also, I may think she picked the wrong boy in the end, but anyway... ;) 

Possession: A Romance (Vintage Classics) by…
Possession by A S Byatt

  I'd heard a lot of hype about this book, so I think it's inevitable that I was a little... underwhelmed? Don't get me wrong, it's a good book- really good even. It's about two Victorian literature academics who discover a letter which leads them to find out things about their two favourite authors that have been buried in the past. I'm an English lit Master's student, specialising in the Victorian period and probably going into academia, so this was super relevant for me! I liked this a lot- it didn't, like, change my life or anything, but not every book has to, and I need to stop paying attention to hype, basically.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of…Once upon a time, as a baby queer, I would pick up literally anything which even remotely involved a gay character. I'm a bit pickier now (and LGBTQ YA is much more popular now than it was when I was a teen, which wasn't even that long ago!) but it still gives me so much pleasure when I find a really decent, unique LGBT-themed story. So, Aristotle (Ari) is a teen boy who is kind of angsty and has a brother in prison who his parents refuse to talk about, and he meets Dante who is a slightly quirky teen boy who turns out to be gay, and this is about their friendship and their relationship. This was such a refreshing read in so many ways- it's set in the 80s, no-one gets kicked out of their parents' house for being gay, no-one kills themselves, and the main characters are both Mexican-American. I loved this.

The Danish Girl by David EbershoffThe Danish Girl by David Ebershoff

I've talked a little before about how I happened to be researching an essay about the Danish Girl, Lili Elbe, around the time the movie came out (well, it was actually about Virginia Woolf's Orlando, but somehow I ended up talking about Lili Elbe a lot) and therefore, despite my deep love of Eddie Redmayne and LGBT-related things, I didn't go see the movie as I was sick of her, haha. Months later, I've recovered enough to read the book. So this is loosely based on the life of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo medical gender transition way back in the 1920s. Mostly this book deals with Lili's marriage, how her wife Greta (as she's called in the book) encouraged Lili's birth and then had to deal with losing her husband to her. I liked this. It's a quiet, beautifully written, fairly quick read, kind of a romance with a twist which was nice.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

#Eliotalong Week 1: Ch 1-14

I'm a bit late on this as I always am with readalong posts, but nevertheless, I'm here!

1. Is this your first encounter with George Eliot? How are your finding it? Did you have any preconceptions about the Eliot or the book before you started?

This is actually my second read of Middlemarch! I read and loved it back in 2012, though I actually don't remember it all that well. Since then I've read The Lifted Veil, which was so weird I still don't know what to make of it, and earlier this year I read The Mill on the Floss which was great although highly depressing. 

2. How do you feel about Dorothea?

See, one of the few things I remember about this book from my first time round is really liking/having sympathy for Dorothea. This time around, I'm... not entirely sure. She is very pious and has some weird beliefs (wanting her husband to be a father figure, ick) but I still can't help but root for her a bit. She's a weirdo, and I like weirdo characters. Besides, her motivations for wanting the sort of marriage she wants comes from her intellectual longings, and I understand her from that point of view, because really, what other options are available to her?

3. Who is your favourite character so far and why?

I basically already answered this above, so... yeah, it's Dorothea. She's kind of quirky and I have vague memories of loving her last time.

4. The place of women is mentioned a lot in the first few chapters. Discuss.

Like Bex says, it's kind of early to tell. I know more opportunities/education for women was a big preoccupation of Eliot's and this comes up a lot in her writing. The thing about George Eliot's life that always sticks out to me was that she was crazy educated and her father basically let her learn anything she wanted- but this was only because she was considered plain and ugly and would probably never get married. Seriously. Of course, she ended up in an almost-marriage of 20 years, so, shows what they knew.

Anyway. I know this comes up some more, especially in the Dorothea bits, so we'll wait and see...

Bonus note: kind of loving how the names Lovegood and Bulstrode both came up this week. I love finding names from Harry Potter in literature; it's like following a secret trail J K Rowling has left :)