Monday, May 4, 2009

Middlemay 1: Miss Brooke

Hi everybody! How did people do finishing their pages for the first week? Congrats to those who've finished, and to those who haven't, as the Japanese would say, "Gambare!" (Keep fightin'!)

Some pre-reading discussion happened over here, wherein it was revealed that George Eliot was a woman, and also some other fun things.

If you have stuff you want to talk about, please post a comment! For those who like some prompting, activities I would like to suggest for posting inspiration:

1) Declare yourself proudly in the comments if you finished the first book! Or offer your lame understandable excuses if you didn't. (I'm just kidding; it's a pretty tough read, and I'm very sympathetic!

2) Offer up your favorite line (or two) if you have one.

I'm really grateful for this group; don't think I would have had as good a time reading it if I weren't anticipating checking in here today.

(ps I made a "group read" label for this post; hope people like it/agree with it.)


Scattie said...

I am still reading book 1, at first I found it pretty hard going, but with using the notes in back, I have found it easier, and I am now really enjoying it so far! I will finish book 1 today! Promise!:-)

CT said...

I have to admit that I haven't even started Book 1... I meant to! Honest! I had the book on the couch yesterday and everything, but I instead watched movies that made me dumber and chatted on the phone. It's not often I have the house to myself on a Sunday, and I really felt the need to take advantage of it.

But I'll catch up. Sooner rather than later, I hope. Please don't flog me.

moonrat said...

The reading gods smile favorably on honesty ;)

Scattie-it is pretty dense. I had to keep myself pinned to it to get anywhere. But then I got there--which means there's hope for anyone!

PurpleClover said...

What notes in back?? Oh my have I been missing something??

I've been moving and studying for school this weekend so it will be another three days before I start on Book 2.

*runs to find moving box with Middlemarch*

Emily Cross said...


I haven't even started it.

*looks sadly at assignment list on the wall*

soon . . . very soon. . . .

Freedom (and middlemay) will be in my grasp!

PurpleClover said...

Hey guys,

Shameless plug here...I am introducing my sister (just finished her memoirs) on my blog! Please come over!

Gina Black said...

Hi everyone!

I'm about half-way through Book 1 (although it's hard to tell geographically where I am because of reading on a Kindle and my file is without a TOC). I seem to be somewhere in Chapter 5.

I watched the BBC production recently, so I am acquainted with the characters and storyline and that's helping because I'm finding the narrative dense and heavy-handed--full of tell. I have the modern reader's (and especially writer's) sensibility with that, which means I find it very boring. I can't find any notes "in the back" so I'm just toughing it out with the references to Milton etc. As the story starts to gain some momentum, and the long passages of narrative are becoming interspersed with dialogue, I'm finding it more interesting.

I like the sisters, although I find I like Dorothea less. While initially drawn to her, I find her fixation on Mr. Casaubon--especially in light of his disinterest in her cottages--quite disappointing. Certainly Celia's description of his physical appearance as having two white moles with hairs on them is only slightly worse than Dorothea's own description: his deep eye-sockets made him resemble the portrait of Locke. To my twenty-first century romantic eye, those images do not bode well for a romantic hero!

One of my favorite passages (and it was in the narrative) so far is toward the beginning:

Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them. It is almost Austenesque in its bite.

Will finish up today or tomorrow and will possibly have more to say. :)

Scattie said...

I am reading a Penguin edition, it is quite old ( I got it from a charity shop for 50p!, I love a bargain)!The notes in my copy start 0n p897, there is also notes on the notes lol ( which I havn't read) I have just noticed that the copy I am using was published in in 1994 as a film and book tie in.
Hugs, bethxx(Scattie)

PurpleClover said...

Mine is a Barnes & Noble's Classic that I got for like $6 on Amazon (I feel dirty for admitting that...hmm).

Anyhow, no extra notes. But it did have a blurb in the back about the pen name! haha.

Laza said...

Gina, my experience with Eliot's writing is that it is very dense with "talking". It seems like the narrator has more to say than the characters! Mill on the Floss was probably even more like that. But I'm enjoying it. It can be a nice change of pace.

And yeah, what is up with Dorthea? Is she nuts? She is going to hate that man very soon I'm sure. Unless he dies. I really have him pegged for dying soon.

I had a good quote, but I left my book at home. It was about pride, I'll have to come back and post it later.

moonrat said...

You know what I thought was interesting? That most of the book is in so deep with Dorothea and Celia--and I was quite enjoying that, although I TOTALLY agree that I see Dorothea's marriage--and then all of a sudden, she's off to her honeymoon and we're expected to be interested in this NEW family, the Vincys. It seemed totally out of the blue, and it was only with some effort that I drummed up pity for the poor hen-pecked flute-playing brother.

Perhaps this was set up as a cliffhanger scenario--I read (in the intro to my edition, the Oxford version) that each volume was published as a separate book in 1872, 1-2 months between volumes, so Eliot obviously felt some pressure to keep readers hoooked. But plotting-wise it seems a bit mean and uneven.

Linda said...

I'm reading the Penguin Classics version based on the second edition published December 1872 as four volumes and then again as one volume in 1874. Crikes - I didn't realize this baby was almost 900 pages long. I bought extra dark chocolate to help. Also, I have my hubber's college notes (yay!) which I will resort to after I read each book.

I'm 20 or so pages from the end of Miss Brook. I found myself yelling (out loud, how mortifying) at Dodo (and she is one when it comes Mr. C), "Don't do it! Go with Chettem - he is younger, cuter, sweeter. Definitely less involved than Mr. C." Anyway, she didn't listen, just like my kids...

The story clicked for me about 30 pages in; it takes a while to get into the heavy-handed narrative. Talk about authorial intrusion, but I guess it was the fashion.

I asked hubbers last night if we'd watched this on Masterpiece Theater, because it does seem familiar. And we did, and I do remember Chettem being rather a nice piece of eye candy. I also know better things are in store for Dodo, but enuf said on that.

Eliot certainly is forthright in her observations on womanhood, probably risky back in her day. She paints a very affectionate relationship of the sisters. All that touching, stroking, kissing - I can't imagine doing all that with my sister, though we are very close and I love her oodles. All that pent-up frustration, I guess; women weren't really allowed to be demonstrative with men back then.

I may have a tough time sticking with this. Not because of the writing (though I am wearing my waders), but because Dorothea annoys me to no end. So perfect, so do-goodly, so sanctimonious and self-righteous in her beliefs. I'm in it so far to see her tumble and see if her little sister Celia emerges into her own.

And, of course, to keep my eyes on that Chettem fellow. Back later, when I've finished my homework! Peace, Linda

Anonymous said...

I read Book One. Every word.

I guess I'm a throwback reader because I enjoy the "Dear Reader" POV and a novel that starts slow. I mean it has to be well written enough that I trust the intentions of the writer, but I find so much pleasure in a meandering that leads through the characters lives and then snaps bits of plot down around you.

And how funny is Mrs. Cadwallader? Even when she says things like "family quarterings are scuttle-fish sable and a commentator rampant" and I think "huh?", I just know Eliot's contemporary readers were ROTFL.

Oh, and here are a list of words I had to look up – hustings, nullifidian, vide supra, mawworm (of bachelors), custos rotulorum, pilulous. And I have to ask, revealing my lack of a religious education, what do the references to Sara and Dorcas and new and old dispensations mean?

Jolie said...

I finished Book 1 and am well into Book 2 now. Yay for me!

The reading gods smile favorably on honesty ;)Then I will confess that while I love the story and many of the characters, and that I LOVE Eliot's prose style, I get irritated when she spends too much time philosophizing. I will also admit that I don't comprehend a lot of it, and I usually don't make much of an effort. I'm in it for the story, not so much to improve my mind. Does that make me a shallow reader?

I hope it just means that I'm too fresh from the rigors of university (and I'm about to dive right back in with my MFA, so this summer it's all about reading for pleasure and not thinking too hard about anything).

Anonymous said...

I haven't finished book one yet (I blame the small child who sat behind me on the plane on Sunday who did nothing but whinge for 45 minutes. Also, the man who sat next to me watching the football who nearly got kicked off the plane for cheering the game in the middle of the safety demonstration.)

I am struggling to get into Middlemarch, but hopefully it will click on the train in this morning and I can report back :)

Laza said...

I found the passage that I liked. It's the last lines of chapter 6:

"We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinnertime; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, 'Oh nothing!' Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it urges us to hide our own hurts--and not to hurt others."

Linda said...

Yay! Done. And happy to say I am now totally in thrall with the story and even Miss Dodo.

Eliot has a wonderful command of language, and is not at all stiff. I laughed out loud quite a few times; Eliot's damn funny! Like this description of Mr. Brooke by Mrs. Cadwallader:
"Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy; he will run into any mould, but he won't keep shape."

And this, also by Mrs. C, about Mr. Causabon when asked if he had any "good red blood in his body."

"No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying glass, and it was all semicolons and parentheses."


Anyway, great stuff. I am enjoying these quirky characters immensely.

I do wonder though; had Ms. Eliot had to enclose a query and the first 5 pages, would this book have made it out of the slush pile? Because you do have to wade for a long while before getting to the meat of the tale.

Off to finish reading my Indie Pick for May, then order my June and July books. I'll be checking in... Happy Middlemarching! Peace, Linda

moonrat said...

yes!! i love the line about running into a mould but not holding the shape!! i remember really enjoying that.

i think my favorite line, though, is in ch 7, when Mr Casaubon is thinking about his impending marriage: "It had once or twice crossed his mind that perhaps there was some deficiency in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment." teehee.

00 Pisces said...

I finished Book One about ten minutes ago. I'll keep reading, but I'm not over-the moon about it. As one person mentioned, there is a lot of tell, and sometimes I feel lectured-to while reading and it makes me crabby. But I do find a good deal of humor, here, and I think Eliot writes incredible--or rather, highly credible--dialogue. Even when the conversation goes on a bit, you can tell from the writing and patterns of speech precisely which character is speaking. Also, as mentioned in the earlier post, the dialogue between women is particularly apt. Eliot nails passive aggression and competitiveness in a way that I think every women reading this would want to say "BITCH!" and every guy, upon hearing the cursing, would say, "What? What's the big deal? All she said was ___________. Why is that so bad? Women." But perhaps the men here are not quite so obtuse.

PurpleClover said...

Laza - That was my FAVORITE quote from book 1. When I read it I was like, OMG this really means so much to me and is spoken from true experience. It isn't an idea you can put into words so eloquently.

Moonrat - I totally agree on the plot change. I thought the same too (maybe a cliffhanger?). Either way I was annoyed. :)

I'm trying to like the characters though. Giving them benefit of the doubt.

Jen A said...

I finished the first book this morning before work...and then I had to go work so I didn't get a chance to post here until now. I'm with many of you on the style...the dialogue is fabulous, and I fly through that, but the narrative sections send my brain into daydream land. I think that it's interesting that there is so far not a single completely sympathetic character in the book. I'm waiting to feel affection toward one of them, and Sir Chettam is the closest I've got so far.

I don't like Dorothea's choice of husband either, I think we all sense that she'll be miserable quickly. But I don't know that Sir Chettam would have made her happy, either. She needs some sort of mix between the two.

I read a review of this on GoodReads that complained Eliot introduced characters that never appeared again - I spent the first book thinking that person was crazy until we were plunged into the story of the Vincys. But honestly, I'm already more interested in their story that I was in the Brookes.

I'm enjoying it mostly, though I am having to be strict with myself to keep at it - it's a little tedious at times. But really, really sharp dialogue, which is fantastic!

PurpleClover said...

I thought Dodo was really great right up until she agreed that nothing should be changed at all about her future home. I just thought...okay now she's showing her age. I really thought she was mature for her age and then that totally screamed "infatuation".

Girl needs a hobby and I'm not talkin' cottages.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I'm starting to enjoy it now - Mrs. Cadwallader is my absolute favourite by far. Dodo just annoys me and I like Celia but I feel that I won't continue to (I still haven't finished the first book. Damn work getting in the way!)

Andromeda Romano-Lax said...

Congrats to all of you. My lame excuse, which no one needs to read, but I feel duty-bound to log here rather than going AWOL: I jumped into too many books from this list at once (now reading Rushdie's Midnight's Children; still reading a Norman Mailer that's taking longer than I expected) plus am behind on several work reading assignments. So although I read the first few pages I think I may give up on keeping up. Maybe this just isn't the year for this one. But I am enjoying y'all discussing it.

Scattie said...

Ok, so I didn't quite keep my promise, but I have finished book 1 today. I am still finding it hard going, but I'm going to carry on reading! I can't help but like Dorothea, but I don't think that she will be happy in her marriage.Another character I am beginning to like is Fred Vincy!

Becky said...

I lack about forty pages finishing up the first book/assignment. But I'll keep going even if I'm a bit behind.

This is a reread, but it's one that I can barely remember from the first time.

Emily Cross said...

Can i just say that now that i'm reading this book, i truly appreciate middlemay! i really don't see myself finishing this book without some sort of support system.

I usually really like these sort of novel, but although the dialogue is excellent and i love her commentary about a woman's position (makes me thankful i was born in this time) - i'm finding that i'm either

a] carefully reading the narrative in an extremely slow way

b] rereading the same sentence over and over to make sure i actually understand it.

I hate it when a book makes me feel stupid LOL

I absolutely love contrast of what 'dodo's view and Celia's view of Mr. C is . . . hairy moles and all Lol

Becky said...

I finally finished book 1. I'm getting off to a slowish start, I admit. But I'm liking it so far. Or should I say up to a certain point :) Mr. Brooke does have a way of repeating himself. :)

I can't say I 'like' Dorothea. Or that I 'understand' her either. The letter/proposal left me underwhelmed. Not at all like the most-magical-letter ever which is found in Persuasion by Jane Austen.

Towards the end, there seemed to be a lot of new characters introduced. It will be interesting to see how all of these different characters and sub plots and sub-sub plots weave together. I'm assuming that they must at some point, right?

I like Eliot's style for the most part. Some phrases really resonate.