I really feel like I'm a part of Middlemarch Eliot has written this novel so well. I’ve even been dreaming ‘in period’ which is a first for me! The way that she has clearly defined each character is just a joy; their personalities are so individual that they feel like real people. I love Mr Brooke, even though he is a dodgy landlord, he’s so laid back and says ‘you know’ with every phrase and always repeats his last few words. It’s so endearing.
Dorothea, so young and miserable – she feels that her ‘every energy is arrested by dread’. All she wanted was to be of use and had such high hopes being married to the learned Mr Casaubon. But, Eliot has made us feel sorry for Mr Casaubon in his marriage too. Here is a man who has been a bachelor and in his later years felt the need for a wife; he thought a young wife would be malleable but not so with Dorothea. She is a young woman who has opinions (though lately inclined to keep them to herself) and is critical of him. He knows that he is not a loveable man, but was hoping that he could pull the wool over the eyes of a younger woman. His intense jealousy of Will Ladislaw may become his undoing. Will has been banned from visiting the Casaubon’s mainly because he has been visiting Dorothea alone (his visits were the only light in her grey world).
Mary Garth is another lovely character, thinking of others over herself. Prepared to go to teach in a school to earn enough money to pay for her brother to study Engineering, she is given a last minute reprieve when her father is asked to manage some Middlemarch estates. Mary’s mother had saved enough money but Mr Garth had signed his name to a promissory note to help young Fred Vincy out with a debt. But Fred’s schemes had come unstuck and he was unable to pay. A lot can be said for Fred though, he is absolutely filled with remorse and knows that he has ‘robbed’ those that could least afford to pay.
Fred’s hopes of obtaining land through the death of Mr Featherstone collapsed when it was found there was a more recent will and Fred was left nothing. Mr Featherstone had asked Mary to burn the new will just before he died, as she sat with him through the night, but she declined feeling that anything to do with wills and money should be done in front of a solicitor. She feels guilty that she has done Fred out of 10, 000 pounds which would have been left to him in the original will. Her parents deny her guilt stating that she did what was exactly right however they wish this event to be kept secret from Fred who is now thinking of finishing his degree to prepare him for entry into the clergy.
There are political elements to this novel too with regards to the reform bill, but as I’m not to fully versed with that period it’s gong over my head a bit. I want to read the intro to the book which will explain it more but as there’s usually plot spoilers in introductions I can’t inform myself until after I’ve finished.
I’m also really enjoying Violent Exposure by Katherine Howell. It’s easy to read, fairly realistic and is filling me with anxiety for some of the characters! One of the sub-stories has Mick, a paramedic, stealing some money from a deceased drug dealer that he attended to. He was alone at the time, but he is convinced that trainee paramedic Aidan (who has been known to snoop through private bags) has found out. Howell is a trained paramedic so the call-out scenes really do have a very realistic feel to them. The unrealistic part of the novel stems to the suspect of a supposed domestic abuse case. His story is being released in parts throughout the narrative but it does just feel like that ‘a story’. The mystery however is a good one as it’s becoming obvious that this isn’t just a domestic abuse situation, which we as the reader are becoming aware of but the cops aren’t, and their investigation is taking some unexpected turns.
We have a couple of new successful Australian novelists writing in this genre – the other being Kathryn Fox. I read a couple of Fox’s novels after meeting her at a library event but, based on this novel, I feel that Howell is the more superior – she does write like a professional writer – the dialogue is good for a start which is promising as I find that a lot of new novelists fall down with their dialogue. Watch this space as Katherine will be talking to Caffeine and Chapters Social Book Club on the 24th February, and it will be interesting to hear about the inspirations for this novel!
Melmoth the Wanderer