Wednesday, March 25, 2009

March Mojo: Book Reviews

Middlemarch - George Eliot. I love this novel even more than I loved it back in 1999. Where to start?

  • I'd forgotten how kind and good Caleb Garth is. The speech he makes to Mary about the nature of marriage is the kind of thing all daughters should hear from their fathers. My heart swelled as I read it. Eliot gives us to understand that Fred Vincy grows up a lot and is finally worthy of Mary, but it seems a lot more good luck than good management.

  • Speaking of the Vincys, they absolutely did not give their children any proper tools for negotiating the real world. Their type seems so prevalent in modern life -- spoiling their children rotten during childhood then being unsympathetic and annoyed (especially Mr. Vincy)when they have problems coping with adult life. What seemed to irritate the Vincys the most was that both children failed to "marry up".

  • I remember feeling a lot sorrier for Lydgate back in 1999. I remembered Rosamond being a piece of work, but forgot specifics. This time, I recognized that Lydgate came to the marriage with a buttload of self-interest and expected Rosamond to be just a pretty cipher. It was a pretty rude awakening for him when he realized that Rosamond was just as self-absorbed and there was a steadily ticking mind behind that face. I shuddered at his last words in the novel, when he referred to Rosamond as his basil plant, "a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man's brains."

  • I wasn't exactly sorry that Bulstrode wasn't able to outrun his past, but I agonized for him that he was hounded, blackmailed and exposed by such an extreme douchebag like Raffles.

  • As for Dorothea, I'm still turning her situation over in my mind, wondering if she did indeed marry foolishly both times.

  • Did I mention that I love this book? When it ended, I felt as if I'd been wrenched from that world. It's so rich; there's so much to chew on! I don't know if I can wait until 2019 to read it again.

Ned Kelly (Originally published as Our Sunshine) - Robert Drewe. An impressionistic look at Australia's version of Jesse James. He couldn't have been the prankish, lighthearted and misunderstood lad that captivated popular imagination, but he also couldn't have been the fiendish monster the media and police portrayed him as being. I first heard of Ned Kelly when I was about 10 years old from the song of the same name on Johnny Cash's 1971 Man In Black album, and it haunted my imagination:

Ned Kelly was a wild young bushranger

Out of Victoria he rode with his brother Dan

He loved his people and he loved his freedom

And he loved to ride the wide, open land

Ned Kelly was a victim of the changes

That came when his land was a sprout and seed -

And the wrongs he did were multiplied in legend

With young Australia growing like a weed.

Ned Kelly took the blame

Ned Kelly won the fame

Ned Kelly brought the shame

And then Ned Kelly hanged

Well, he hid out in the bush and in the forest

And he loved to hear the wind blow in the trees

While the men behind the badge were coming for him

Ned said, "They'll never bring me to my knees."

But everything was changed and run in cycles

And Ned knew that his day was at an end

He made a suit of armor out of ploughshares

But Ned was brought down by the trooper's men.

Ned Kelly took the blame

Ned Kelly won the fame

Ned Kelly brought the shame

And then Ned Kelly hanged.


Anonymous said...

It's always surprising how little sympathy I have w/some of the characters rereading the book years later. (Scarlet O'Hara and Heathcliff come immediately to mind).

Excellent March mojo!

Bybee said...

I definitely got to Heathcliff too late in life...I'm glad!

Susan said...

Yaay, you finished Middlemarch....and indeed, it does make a wrench to come back into this world, doesn't it? I love your review, too, especially about Caleb and *susan* and the girls (though she shows slightly less patience than I would have liked for someone with our name!) I'm not sure I can wait until 2019 to read it again, either!!

Susan said...

ps I forgot to mention Dorothea - you're right - did she make a mistake both times? Why, oh why, couldn't Will settle into something decent? He never seemed to have the backbone to be able to challenge Dorothea. I always thought Tertius was a better match for her, even though they made very good friends. That idealism....*sigh*, what a great, great novel Middlemarch is!