~ Dorothea, in George Eliot's Middlemarch.
Appropriate, that, from a book in which I was barely present for the majority of it. It has to be said, reading it was an utter disaster. Did I hate it, was I bored? No. I read it wrong.
I think, sometimes, a book can simply be read badly. Sometimes, the writer fails to engage you, sometimes the characters fail to interest you, sometimes the plots fail to grab you, but sometimes, sometimes, you fail the book. Everything is there waiting for you, and you just mess it up. And that is what I did with George Eliot's Middlemarch.
I don't like hating someone's favourite book, but on the occasions that I do, I will write about it. It is my reading journal after all. But this post? I nearly didn't write it. I finished Middlemarch a few days ago, and I was prepared to gloss over it. But no. I will tell you honestly what went wrong, or rather how I went wrong.
I can't read slowly, for a start. I like to lose myself in a book. I like to live it. For me, that does not involve putting it down much! Reading it as I intended: reading it as published, at the rate of one book a month, was too slow. Between reading the first part in early January, then picking it up with the intention of finishing it at my own pace, I have read over thirty other books. I simply could not remember what happened, and as I wasn't terribly fond of it to begin with, and given that I very rarely re-read, I was unwilling to start it again. I should have. It was like beginning a book two hundred pages in and going on from there.
I have began a book disliking it, then grown to love it. The best example right now is Les Misérables. I read the first chapter and did not care for it in the slightest. But, somehow, it got better. I have loved reading it, and I can't wait for spring where I intend to just read. No plans of attack, just sit down and read it at my own pace, take it in, and love it. Reading a chunkster slowly doesn't work for me. Even with Tom Jones, which I, on the whole loved, I had the feeling of, "Oh, you again" when I picked it up. This is perhaps my failing as a reader: my lack of patience.
So I picked up Middlemarch and was at a loss, but I kept going. My eyes saw every word, but my mind didn't. I found myself thinking of other books, or mundane, day to day things like what time I was going to make the tea? Are there shirts to iron? What time are we going out? And I would look at the page number and see I'd gone through ten pages.
And this is not the fault of George Eliot: this one, I have to say, was on my head. And it's a shame. I may re-read it in the future, perhaps, and I am eager not to make the same mistakes with The Mill on the Floss, which I am planning on reading within the next month.
So, sometimes, not often, but sometimes, it's not the book that fails me: sometimes I fail the book.