Book Meme Challenge:
A Book Once Loved But Not Anymore
I am going to assume that this discludes books like the Nancy Drew series. Or other sundry works that one reads only to start reading and then upon going back is quite shocked at the quality.
But then again, how could Nancy ever hold up after reading about Lord Peter? It is inevitable. So, anything read before the age of ten doesn’t really count. Right?
So. That leaves little reasons for changing my opinions of the book. Maybe I read it far too often and got rather weary. Maybe I reread it when not in the teenage emotional state and realized that I now prefer my books a tad less saccharine. Or maybe some other reason . . .
There is a book that I adored. While I was reading I was floored by the descriptions and the characters. It had pathos, dilemma, social structure in contrast with spiritual good, and the sweet whisperings of a romance. It held in an imperfect family a deep and abiding love between siblings.
I was almost sure that it would become a perennial favorite.
And then I read the final two pages.
Mill on the Floss
By George Eliot
I should have screamed. Or threw the book. Or at least wept.
As it was, I sat in blank shock. When the stupor wore off, I then reread those last paragraph, trying to make sense of what happened.
Even after almost 10 years – 10 years?? already? ahhh! – I cannot make myself go back to this book and relive that heart ache.
Which is sad, because it really is a beautiful book. Eliot has a skill in drawing characters that are idealistic but real enough to keep the reader’s sympathy.
To my 14-year old self, the heroine Maggie seemed almost to be my alter-ego: the shy, awkward teenage girl who loved reading books and thinking. Much of the action of the book is internal, and a few outward clashes with cultural norms. Maggie is brave, considerate, whole-hearted, and honestly earnest. The challenges that she faces bring her to a deeper contemplation of who she , who she ought to be, and she practically can be.
[Maggie] added that early experience of struggle, of conflict between the inward impulse and outward fact which is the lot of every imaginative and passionate nature […]. [Her past] had been filled with so eager a life in the triple world of reality, books, and waking dreams, that Maggie was strangely old for her years in everything except in her entire want of that prudence and self-command. [It] was rather that she felt the half-remote presence of a world of love and beauty and delight, made up of vague, mingled images from all the poetry and romance she had ever read, or had ever woven in her dreamy reveries.
When I began to read, I did not realize that George Eliot was actually a women. This confused me for most of the book, because there is a sensitive, intuitive, absolutely feminine quality that permeates the story. From the style ad texting of the characters to the insights to human nature and the interior life of Maggie. I kept blinking at passages and thinking, “A man wrote this? Not possible!”
(A friend recently told me that she had similar experience when reading Brideshead Revisited. She had thought that “Evelyn” was a girl, and upon discovering otherwise had to go back reread. The reread made so much more sense.)
Eliot is an amazing writer, who brings the drama of the human soul to the foreground of her tales. But I can never, ever, read this books again.
It was not the sadness of the ending. It was the utter, random, sudden absurdity of it. After the Great Reconciliation scene, to go and . . and . . and . . gah!!!! If you read it, I recommend that you skip the last pages, and simply believe that everyone lived happily ever after.