Completing Reading “North and South” Like No Other Previous Novels

When I was about to begin today, I suddenly had an idea of delaying doing my daily job to resume reading ‘North and South’. I remembered only 50 pages left till the novel came to a close. Reading the novel would be the best thing to entertain my mind before writing things on gadget and technology.

The simple mission was going a bit further as I was on the reading process. My mind said, “Why didn’t I finish it once and for all?” I couldn’t help dealing with pain and sadness coming on the life of Margaret Hale over and over again in the course of months.

So, the final reading process was a bit on freeing myself from reading the problems faced by the heroine. Another aspect was being curious how she and John Thornton finally end up in happiness.

The book does put my mind at ease. In fact, the finale relieves me like no other previous books ever do. Elizabeth Gaskell’s description on the life of Margaret isn’t as extremely heartbreaking as Thomas Hardy’s Tess. In Tess’s ill-fated life, Hardy depicts her journey as very saddening, too much to handle within a book. Her story stresses me out.

Hale’s life is as dark as Tess in different ways, though. Tess’s problems mostly deal with romance, public view on her virginity and how she reclaims her dignity. Margaret Hale’s is more complicated and diverse. I can’t say the deaths of her parents as problems, by the way. That’s the way how life is, every human being will pass away sooner or later.

Margaret Hale’s tender and kind heart puts her in difficult situations for she can’t ignore the poor around her in Milton. The problem is, as the book progress, she has to “enlighten” Nicholas Higgins, a rebellious, alcoholic worker. The scene where she and his daughter, Bessy, share conversations until the latter dies peacefully, cuts me to the heart. After Bessy dies, Margaret Hale takes Nicholas to her father, once a parson. She even recommends him looking for a job to John Thornton.

I guess that’s the way she has to pay for all the care that she has for the poor and poverty around her. I mean like, she could have shut her eyes, right? I thought this part would take little portions of the book but that wasn’t the fact. Sometimes I wonder why didn’t Gaskell place more romantic scenes between Margaret and John for the sake of refreshment.

I thought, too, as Margaret left Milton for staying with Edith and her aunt, what was left to be revealed was how she and John reunited then lived happily. And I was curious how that would happen because of Margaret’s undesirable to get married to any man and John’s decision not to force his feeling upon her.

How wrong was I then! After the death of her father, Margaret was even more sentimental and miserable. She could cry every now and then remembering all the things that went so fast. She was very sad after knowing her brother, Frederick, couldn’t come back to England because of his mutiny problem. I couldn’t imagine her emotional turmoil, especially when she heard her father passed away. She was numb; her mind was going nowhere even when her aunt, Mrs. Shaw, was talking to her.

When she was buried so deep in sadness, her godfather, Mr. Bell, came and soothed her feeling. I was amazed by the bond between the two for Mr. Bell was very caring to her although they didn’t meet frequently. He then invited her to revisit Hellstone and met some people there. I myself really loved this type of plot because I believe that in life, to brush off lingering pain left hidden in the heart, one must go back to the place where everything starts off. Once, this will make them realize they are brave enough to feel the wound again. Secondly, doing this will somehow make the scar no longer that painful. And third, who knows that things change for the better.

I was surprised that the third one occurred to her. I was happy when reading this part although, yes, in the beginning Margaret recalled all memories, especially when she was inside the parsonage, her home for 20 years. But as she was feeling the pain, she noticed things changed for the better, nothing stayed the same. Not even the flowers. I love how Gaskell put a lot of nature elements here to encourage her living the life again in good light.

Just when I fancied the very last thing to be waiting for was the part of her and John another blow hit me quite hard; the sudden death of Mr. Bell. I was gloomy again because I had a sympathy for this character. And no.. she was sad, again and again.

The last ever problem was the bankruptcy of John’s business. Again, I loved the scene where he and his mother was conversing so deeply when things were going so tough. Their love was beautiful to be imagined.

As the novel was two or three pages left, it was really the part of Margaret-John remained to be seen (oh finally). They met unintentionally in a dinner hosted by Edith. It was Edith who invited John via Henry Lennox. So they met but not many words exchanged between the two.

After Margaret knew his failed business, she was willing to give him some unused money she had from Mr. Bell. There, they couldn’t stand of feeling the love. Not many flowery words or whatsoever. They just knew they were meant to share what they had kept, the longing for each other, at that very moment.

Thus, the book ended. Hence, the problems stopped. Now, I can breathe deeply for eventually I don’t lose that magic speed reading for books I completely admire, like this one, and no more matters for Margaret. Thank you very much, Elizabeth Gaskell.

 

 

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Currently Reading: “North and South”

I am amazed that I can read “North and South” this quickly. I buy the novel three weeks ago and now I am 70s pages away from the ending (the book is 478 pages in total).

Reading the book relieves me relieve because I start getting addicted to smartphone, reading online stories is one of the activities that I often do. I even question myself if I still have the ability of speedy reading when it comes to enjoy books that lure me so much. My not-so-good experience with Great Expectations adds to my own doubt. Though I initially savor half of the story, I find it difficult to finish the remaining half of it. So, right now I abandon the book though I actually look forward to knowing what the romance of Pip and Estella becomes. Too many minor characters, Pip’s too sentimental traits are some reasons that draw me away from the novel.

And when I purchase Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, I feel not good of buying a new title while leaving unread books at the bookshelf back at the rented room. But it’s North and South, man. The writer of the book is Gaskell, one of my most favorite authors whom I simply love her because of her beautiful way of telling sentences. At the back of my mind, as long as the writer is Gaskell, the story will be a good one. If the essence of the book is ordinary, I will totally enjoy her words, her writing style. In addition, I once see the title at the Kinokuniya bookstore long time ago but I don’t buy it then it’s gone. So I won’t lose the chance this time around. Priced at IDR132,000 I keep buying the novel despite the fact I have to save money.

I bring it back home and damn! I love every page of the story. My excitement of reading decent novel remains the same. I still can read like a maniac. I can still spend hours reading for the sake of the words and of course for the story itself.

And man! North and South way exceeds my expectation. It’s way better than Mary Barton and Wives and Daughters in terms of story, characteristic, moral message and plot. I can’t believe the book runs so quickly without being in rush. It’s compact and solid but her lovely descriptions are still there.

The novel is surprisingly heavy, in terms of themes. Poverty and effects of industry for the Miltons, to be exact. So I can say the novel is bleak and sorrowful in overall. Good point about the book is the characterizations of the major people here, Margaret Hale and John Thornton.

Here, Gaskell crafts her heroine to be a very memorable figure, a complicated person in her simplicity. Loving, caring, empathetic yet carrying a lot of burdens inside her heart. Margaret is a very strong woman, independent but naïve at the same time when it comes to her feeling to John.

That’s all that I can write at the time being. I can’t wait to finish reading the book to be put as another topic for the next post. The thing is I don’t regret buying it, using it as an intermezzo after leaving Great Expectations unread.

And best of all is that I can still read physical books, good ones, in enthusiastic manner as I usually do. Smartphone doesn’t take that away from me. I am beyond happy!

“North and South”: Novel Muram yang Bikin Aku Ketagihan (Spoiler Alert, Of Course)

Untuk kesekian kalinya dengan bermodalkan ingatan gaya kepenulisan Elizabeth Gaskell yang sungguh indah aku mantap membeli “North and South” sekitar dua minggu yang lalu. Meski sudah berniat ngirit tapi begitu melihat judul ini mejeng di toko buku Kinokuniya langsung runtuhlah tembok yang sudah aku bangun, tidak membeli barang yang memang sedang tidak dibutuhkan.

Karena jaminan tulisan Elizabeth Gaskell yang memang sudah terbukti di dua judul yang pernah aku baca, termasuk “Wives and Daughters” yang tebalnya 800an halaman, aku yakin tidak akan menyesal membeli “North and South”. Dan benar saja.

Novel dibuka dengan adegan Edith, sepupu Margaret Hale (tokoh utama dalam novel ini), yang malah tiduran padahal seisi rumah sedang ramai memperbincangkan rencana pernikahannya dengan Kapten Lennox. Bab awal novel ini tipikal karya romansa klasik abad ke-18/ke-19. Jika kalian pernah membaca novel atau film seperti “Emma” atau “Pride and Prejudice” kaya Jane Austen, kurang lebih seperti itulah atmosfir yang bisa ditangkap dari “North and South” ini. Santai, lucu, dan cewek banget.

Dimulai dengan pembukaan yang menyenangkan seperti di atas, aku pikir “North and South” bakal setidaknya mulus tanpa konflik berarti seperti dalam “Wives and Daughters”. Yang aku harapkan dari “North and South” pun akan puas aku nikmati, yakni bagaimana Elizabeth Gaskell bakal membuaiku dengan kata-kata puitis tanpa kesan berlebihan yang bisa aku baca berulang-ulang kali saking aku terpukaunya. Kalimat-kalimat yang bakal aku bisa tulis ulang di ponsel pintar aku agar kapan pun aku bisa menikmati kedalaman indera pengamatannya mengenai alam, karakter atau tempat.

Aku begitu menyelami keunggulan kepenulisan Elizabeth Gaskell di dua judul yang pernah aku baca, terutama “Mary Barton”. Dan sebenarnya misiku membaca “North and South” sesederhana sekaligus sesulit itu (sebab aku selalu merasa menulis manis menembus relung hati tanpa sama sekali terkesan hiperbolis itu susah banget).

Hanya saja, isi, karakterisasi dan konflik yang ada di “North and South” sigap menutupi keinginanku itu, hal yang membuatku mengagumi Elizabeth Gaskell sebagai seorang penulis yang piawai sekali bercerita menyampaikan pesan yang sangat penting melalui tokoh dan topik yang ia pilih.

“North and South”. Utara dan Selatan. Selatan berarti Hellstone, desa kecil yang berdekatan dengan London tempat keluarga Hale tinggal. Tempat yang mungil, banyak pohon rindang, indah dan rimbun. Tempat tinggal yang damai bagi keluarga kecil ini dimana sang ayah, tuan Hale, bekerja sebagai seorang penceramah bagi warga sekitar yang memang baik, ramah dan sopan.

Disebabkan perbedaan pandangan agama, tuan Hale, pindah ke kota Milton, daerah utara, kota industri yang penuh polusi, kebisingan, kesemrawutan dengan penduduknya yang blak-blakan.

Dalam hitungan beberapa hari saja, keluarga Hale merasakan hidup yang jungkir balik dari Hellstone ke Milton. Dari yang tenang ke tempat yang ramai, lengkap dengan masalah di dalamnya.

Dari tokoh tuan Hale aku melihat sosok yang cukup kompleks. Ia adalah tokoh bapak yang baik, penyayang, suami yang baik yang mempunyai idealisme yang sukar sekali digoyahkan. Tak heran ia tidak berkonsultasi kepada istrinya saat memutuskan meninggalkan pekerjaannya. Ia malah meminta putrinya untuk memberitahukan ke istrinya bahwa mereka akan pindah. Maka ketika sang istri pada akhirnya sakit-sakitan lalu meninggal dunia, salah satunya akibat tidak betah tinggal di kota pengap seperti Milton, tuan Hale hanya bisa menyesali keputusannya sendiri tetapi segalanya sudah sangat terlambat.

Nyonya Hale bukannya tokoh tanpa cela. Semasa hidupnya ia beberapa kali mengeluh menjalani hidup yang sederhana di Hellstone. Beberapa kali pula ia mengingat masa saat masih muda, bebas dan hidup berkecukupan. Ia sendiri justru paling dekat dengan pembantunya, Dixon, bukan putrinya sendiri.

Margaret agak terlambat menyesali ia pernah memilih hidup bersama keluarga Edith di London selama beberapa tahun sehingga menjadi “jauh” dari ibunya sendiri. Ia sedih mengetahui ibunya lebih senang dekat dengan Dixon ketimbang dirinya sendiri. Maka pada beberapa saat terakhir jelang kepergian sang ibunda, Margaret mengabulkan apa pun yang ibunya minta. Termasuk menulis surat untuk kakaknya, Frederik, seorang pelaut yang sudah bertahun-tahun pergi lalu menetap di Cardif, Spanyol, akibat terkena kasus hukum yang membuatnya tak bisa mengunjungi Inggris. Ia kena cekal, singkatnya.

Barangkali satu-satunya hal yang bikin novel ini mempunyai pelangi adalah kisah cinta Margaret dan John Thornton, walau sebenarnya menurut aku cerita saling suka di antara mereka lebih banyak diwarnai perdebatan, kesalahpahaman dan gengsi (yang biasa baca novel klasik sudah paham hal beginian).

John Thornton, pria pengusaha tampan, sukses, cerdas, murid yang paling disayangi oleh tuan Hale, guru privatnya. Walau tuan Hale dan John banyak menemukan kecocokan tetapi tidak halnya antara Margaret dengan John pada awal mereka saling mengenal, apalagi hal yang membuat mereka sukar nyambung lebih ke bersifat prinsipil.

John adalah pebisnis yang sebenarnya paling dibenci oleh kalangan pekerja, salah satunya Nicholas Higgins, dimana salah satu putrinya, Bessy, adalah kawan baik Margaret. Di satu sisi Higgins membenci John karena ia adalah salah satu yang tidak mau menaikkan gaji sedangkan John menganggap unjuk rasa oleh Higgins dkk lebih ditunggangi kepentingan kelompok tertentu.

Toh, meski sering silang pendapat, John mengagumi kecantikan dalam kesederhanaan sikap seorang Margaret. Aku sendiri suka sekali dengan karakter John di dalam novel ini, tipikal pria yang tidak suka mengumbar kata mesra atau mengirimkan hadiah mewah ke Margaret. Dalam novelnya, Elizabeth Gaskell beberapa kali menulis “mata John memang tidak tertuju langsung ke Margaret tetapi dia selalu tahu apa yang Margaret lakukan. Dia tidak pernah kehilangan fokus.”

Meski awalnya menganggap John kaku, Margaret mulai menyukai pria ini sebab kecerdasan, pendapat dan pandangannya mengenai banyak hal. Juga bagaimana dia begitu baik kepada ayahnya dan keluarganya selama ini.

Sayangnya, hingga halaman ke-320 dari total 478 yang aku baca ini, John masih sedih usai ditolak cintanya oleh Margaret. Margaret sendiri semakin terbenam dalam rasa bersalahnya setelah ia mengetahui John menyelamatkannya dari usaha investigasi atas kematian Leonards, seorang kriminal yang sedang membuntuti kakaknya Frederik. Padahal John tahu Margaret sedang bersama kakaknya tersebut saat kakaknya tidak sengaja mendorong Leonards hingga ia terjatuh ke dalam rel kereta api lalu meninggal dunia.

Pada bagian inilah aku terakhir membaca novel ini.

Tak henti-hentinya aku takjub bagaimana novel ini mengecohku dengan kandungannya. Plot mengalir cepat, mungkin menjadi yang tercepat dibanding kebanyakan novel klasik yang pernah aku baca. Menariknya, Elizabeth Gaskell menjahit semua konflik dari bagian satu ke bagian berikutnya secara mulus, tidak ada lompatan, tidak tergesa-gesa. Jadi tetap ada bagian indah yang bisa dinikmati di setiap transisinya.

Elizabeth Gaskell juga menuliskan banyak dialog yang terbaca sangat oral, yang menunjukkan perbedaan kelas, antara kaum terdidik dengan buruh (keluarga Higgins). Di sini aku jadi belajar banyak tentang perbedaan kelas sosial pada masa itu.

Yang paling bikin sendu dari novel ini tentu saja ada banyak sekali adegan yang memilukan, seperti saat kematian Bessy dan pastinya nyonya Hale. Elizabeth Gaskell detil sekali menceritakan suasana menjelang dan saat kematian tokoh-tokohnya jadi sedih itu begitu terpatri di hati pembacanya.

Belum lagi, pada beberapa halaman terakhir yang aku baca, tokoh Margaret cukup menguras emosi dan energiku. Di balik sosoknya yang tangguh, anggun dan super baik, Margaret banyak menyimpan duka dan cemas. Saat kakak dan ayahnya sedih terpuruk ketika ibu mereka meninggal dunia, Margaret menjadi satu-satunya yang justru menguatkan pria-pria itu.

Jadi ketika dia dicurigai ada sangkut pautnya dengan kematian Leonards, beberapa kali Margaret dituliskan ambrug, seolah benteng ketegaran yang ia bangun hancur, tak sanggup lagi dia jaga kekokohannya. Tak dinyana, orang yang menolongnya justru orang yang paling ingin dia hindari, yakni John.

Sudah sampai di sini dulu sebab masih ada 100an halaman lebih untuk dilahap, hehe..

 

 

Fly me to the UK for a literary adventure I’ve always dreamt of

Quoting famous speech from Martin Luther King Jr, ‘I Have a Dream’, well, I have a dream, too, which is to launch what I call as a literary adventure to say hello, take inspiration for writing then say thank you for these literary genius whose works not only entertain my soul but their imaginations and voices have helped me finding my own place in this hectic cum wonderful modern life.
Thomas Hardy
I have been longing for paying a visit to the places that play significant roles in the works of Thomas Hardy, one of my most-beloved authors. If you have bumped to this messy blog then you realize how much I admire his works as his name becomes the most-tagged word in this place, hehe..
If you ask me why do I love Hardy so much, one of my answers is because he knows how to appreciate nature then put them into beautiful words. Reading his novels soothe my heart because his words are indeed pieces of arts, beautifully-crafted.
I would really love to go to the house he was born in a house in Stinsford, a village and civil parish in southwest Dorset, one mile east of Dorchester. Stinsford is the original ‘Mellstock’ in his ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ and ‘Jude the Obscure’. I haven’t read ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ but I have enjoyed ‘Jude’.
The first site I wish I can visit is Hardy’s cottage as you can see from the below picture. This is where the poet was born in 1840 then writing ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’ in 1872 and ‘Under the Greenwood Tree’ in 1874. I can fancy how peaceful it was when he was working by looking at the cottage and its surroundings. No wonder he was able to produce very fascinating words as its neighborhood was providing him a lot of inspirations to write. Hardy was staying in the cottage until he was 34 years old.

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He once moved to London but never felt at home in the big city. As such, he built a house namely Max Gate, which is just a few miles from the cottage where he was living before. He and his first and second wife inhabited the house, which I think is quite large and exquisite, from 1885 until his death in 1928. This is the house where he was creating his best fictions; ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’, ‘Jude the Obscure’ and ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’ as well as most of his poems. While general fans mostly applaud ‘Tess’, ‘Far’ or ‘Jude’, my most favorite fiction is yes, ‘The Mayor of Casterbridge’. I really really admire the book. Anyway, this is Max Gate.

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George Eliot
Mary Anne Evans or mostly popular as George Eliot (12 November 1819 to 22 December 1880) is my second most-adored Victorian novelist. Until now, I don’t know how Eliot produces such an extensive, rich in terms of issues, imaginations and characterizations as in Middlemarch. By the way, my personal favorite is ‘The Mill on the Floss’ as it becomes my first ‘real’ experience reading her works. I read ‘Silas Marner’ back when I was a university student but I don’t consider it as a ‘concrete’ experience because the book that I was savoring was its simplified version. I don’t want to read the unabridged version of ‘Silas Marner’ though because the story is really sad.
So this is Arbury Hall estate. In its South Farm, the very smart baby girl namely Mary Anne Evans was born in 12 November 1819. The estate was belonging to the Newdigate family where which her father was working as a land manager there.

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In early 1820, the author family moved to Griff House where Mary Anne was living for 20 years. After that, she was travelling and moving to some places. Here is the Griff House:

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Elizabeth Gaskell
For any Victorian enthusiasts, you should try Gaskell’s books, which move very soft and smooth. ‘Mary Barton’ is my favorite book from her. No wonder she is able to produce elegantly-made words. Gaskell is described as a lady-like person, tidy, well-mannered one. Oh, I can totally associate with her writings, in terms of word choice and placement, characters (esp in ‘Wives and Daughters’) and issue selections. If I have a chance, it will be delightful to stop by in this house, where the author and her family were living for some years. Let me put the address here: 84 Plymouth Grove, Manchester. Oh I love the building. What a lovely sight!images (3).jpeg

The Bronte sisters
Of course, the Bronte Parsonage Museum must be in the list! This is the house where the Bronte family was staying which is in Haworth, West Yorkshire. Looking at the building, I think the family is quite wealthy. My favorite Bronte is Anne because her traits much like mine, hehe. Who is your beloved Bronte, my friend?

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Charles Dickens
So far, I have read ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. I honestly say I’m not really into his works which is a matter of writing style reason. But if I were in UK, this Charles Dickens museum as you can see below is a temptation I can’t resist, hehe.. The address is on 48 Doughty street, Holborn, London. It became the home for the author from 25 March 1837 until December 1839. Though it was relatively short, the house saw him producing best fictions, ‘The Pickwick Paper’ in 1836, ‘Oliver Twist’ in 1838, ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ between 1838 and 1839 and Barnaby Rudge in 1840 and 1841. How prolific Dickens was!

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Jane Austen
And here is the queen of all romantic women out there, I included, is the one and only Jane Austen. The picture shows Jane Austen house museum in the village of Chawton, near Alton in Hampshire. She and her family were occupying the house for the last eight years of her life. It is assumed she was revising the drafts of ‘Sense and Sensibility’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ here. Austen also wrote ‘Mansfield Park’, ‘Emma’ (I love Emma!) and ‘Persuasion’ here.
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Wilkie Collins
And the last author who recently spurs my adrenaline is Wilkie Collins. He is chubby anyway by looking at his picture. Collins and his wife, Caroline Graves, were occupying Harley Street 12, Marylebone, in the central of London, from 1860 to 1864. I’m not really sure whether he owned the entire building or just rented some rooms of it. Collins is said to have written most parts of one of his best mysterious novels, ‘The Woman in White’, here. I currently look for reading the title after I am so immersed with ‘The Moonstone’. images (5)
So, those are a number of sites that completely attract my desires to go there. I think my bucket-list is already full even before I have enough money to make it, hehe.. Well, never mind. Hopefully the bucket will be filled. Till then, let’s dream again!
Thank you very much for Wikipedia, Wikimedia and Wilkie-Collins.info for providing all the lovely shots.

This mind wrestling after bidding farewell to ”Middlemarch”

I complete reading “Middlemarch” a few days ago, much faster than my expectation. Overall I take about two months reading the masterpiece’s 688 pages. It isn’t the thickest novel I have read so far. ‘’Wives and Daughters” runs more than 800 pages. But ‘’Middlemarch” is way more difficult to read. It takes a lot of efforts than the other title which is written by Elizabeth Gaskell. A lot more characters, more serious issues, much more detailed descriptions about the people and the places in ‘’Middlemarch” are some of the things that make Eliot’s way above ‘Wives and Daughter’. Anyway, I am not going to compare the books in the post, well ever, because each of them gives different nourishment to me, or readers in general.

It has been two days since I close the last page of “Middlemarch”. Call me sentimental but I feel like I have lost my best friend in the past two months, especially when I commute. The fact is I read almost all of its content in a train and public transport vehicle. I carry it when I go to the office. I intentionally use it to shield me away from my smartphone. The book is so thick that I find it hard to put it into my brown bag. So I bring it on hand.

Something breaks my heart when the book is coming to an end. A small crack that still lasts until now. The novel leaves mixed feelings. I am contented that Eliot provides clear and fair fate to each of the book’s major and semi major characters, particularly about Dorothea and Will Ladislaw. I feel so, so sorry with the life of Dr. Tertius Lydgate (will talk about this topic later on in a separate post). Even when I write this I don’t know exactly how to properly express my feeling about the book.

The novel is so remarkable, a wholeness that gets me thinking “how she does this?”

I can’t imagine her writing process hence she can put her imagination into this sort of complete tale. She creates vivid places as the settings of the book. Each and every character is described in detailed ways that they look as if they were real. Eliot also mentions political and social backgrounds that happen in larger scale, not only in Middlemarch. Small gossips, scenes in gambling house are alive, too. Eliot pays a lot of attention to even what look like trivial things.

Every time I get bored when it comes to minor figures which I am hardly able to memorize, the plot quickly shifts to major people whom I follow closely. So the boredom immediately goes away.

Eliot puts quite a lot of wise sentences, which miraculously don’t bother me, as a reader who doesn’t like books that sound preachy. And the most praised aspect of the book is character development. Eliot invites readers to get knowing very humane characters that for myself, will stick at my heart for very long time.

Whenever I look for a female character who is generous, overwhelmed with her wealth, I quickly come to the name of Dorothea. Her interest of helping others is so great that she makes it as one of the factors that makes her accepting the marriage proposal from Edward Ladislaw. She wants to make her life useful to her husband. The reason that later on proves inadequate to make her marriage life a happy one.

When I think about a figure who is too social that he becomes poor, I put Caleb Garth as the perfect example.

Rosamund Vincy, later Rosamund Lydgate, is the typical model for a beautiful woman who cares much about image, social pride, levelling.. as in ‘he is on par with my level’ sort of thing.

I can’t believe there is a man namely Fred Vincy who, despite his gorgeous looking that becomes his mother’s pride, is such a useless man. The kind of person who doesn’t know what to do in life.  An undecisive person, a dumb one. It is so sweet that he has Mary Garth by his side. She is not pretty but her intelligence and vision of life rescues him. Fred and Mary are such a perfect blend where Fred’s physical beauty meets with Mary’s intelligence and cleverness. Thank God, their strong love unites the two. Thank God.

And personally, the character that suits me most is Edward Casaubon. I write about much about him in previous two posts, much earlier than Dorothea and Tertius. I haven’t written about the two leading characters in details (will later work on them).

I can’t think how Eliot makes this book, her creative process. How many books she read so that she can come up with fragments from a lot of poems, proses not only in English Language but also in French Language. How many hours per day she dedicates her time making this story. Does each and every character that she puts into the book goes through thorough research?

Those are some questions that emerge when I read the book then after I conclude it. Too many questions, curiosities that I wish I could get her answers as the book is done reading. The last one is I would like to know how she can make this balanced overall story that makes it so round that finishing reading the novel leaves me a void I don’t know how to fill it up. The book is so exceptional that I find it hard to part with no matter how relieved I am that it ends fairly.

 

On the 7 greatest Victorian writers

Oscar Wilde

This Irish playwright, writer is notable for his plays. ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, which I studied back at the university, is one of my most favorite plays other than ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.’ Oscar, as I read from his ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’, is a the kind of writer who doesn’t like going in circles when it comes telling stories. His way of writing is straight-forwarded, you may find a lot of descriptions, idiomatic phrases but it won’t take long for readers to get the point of what he says. His writings is deep, sometimes thrilling, breathtaking as in ‘Dorian Gray.’

Elizabeth Gaskell

A little bit too bad that Elizabeth Gaskell is not as highly lauded as her compatriots, such as Thomas Hardy or Anthony Trollope. The fact is that her writings is so beautiful, vivid, authentic, as you can read in ‘Wives and Daughters.’ Her ‘Mary Barton’ is one of the most magnificent books I have ever read so far. In addition, the novel says a lot of the struggles of the poor, especially laborers. For those who are seeking books by Victorian writers which touch serious issues but are delivered in lighter languages without losing its charming, lovely words and phrases, Elizabeth Gaskell is definitely the best option. What I love most from Gaskell is that she includes day-to-day, small, simple things as mode of observations in her works.

Anthony Trollope

Trollope doesn’t showcase beautiful language as Gaskell or Hardy, at least as seen from ‘The Warden,’ but readers can still enjoy his profound values in the novel. Indeed, he is a serious writer who doesn’t apply pleonastic approach to convey his messages. If you look for uncomplicated story lines then Trollope’s works may be the best for you.

George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans or George Eliot is probably the most difficult Victorian novelist I have dealt so far. On the surface, her language is as delicate as her compatriots but on the deeper level, she writes difficult topics, even more sorrowful than Hardy’s. While you can label Hardy as a realist novelist, Eliot is a dark thinker. She clearly puts her personal stories in her books, for instance ‘The Mill on The Floss’ where many say tells her troubled relationships with her brother, Isaac Evans. I also believe Eliot is a complicated writer who takes religion as a serious theme that influences her work, as in ‘Adam Bede.’

Anne Bronte

In my opinion, Gaskell and Anne Bronte are two Victorian writers who are ‘on the similar lane’, which means that they are both lovely novelists in terms of language, fair themes. They voice topics that are not overly controversial at that time. Anne Bronte’s writing is much simpler than Gaskell. If I can compare ‘Wives and Daughters’ and ‘Agnes Grey’ since both of them talk about feminism and women roles in the society, the latter is more straightforward.

Charles Dickens

Now I know why some call Charles Dickens is a difficult writer after I finish reading ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’. His labeling as a difficult one is different with Eliot. Dickens brings serious topics in his books, which is different with Eliot who experience personal turbulence in relation with her affairs and also her religious views. While Dickens discusses many topics on the life where industry takes its toll in London. Apart from his concerns about industry, child laboring and poverty in general, Dickens’ way of writing is sophisticated. Though he uses circular plots, his story lines are not straightforward, his writing requires me to devote a lot of focus and time. His writing is not the kind of words that will soothe your soul or blow your mind away like what you may feel when reading Gaskell’s or Hardy’s despite Dickens’s splendid narration. I think this is because heavy topics he is about to deliver.

Also, credit to his characterizations. Completely rigid, each character seems alive.

Thomas Hardy

Hardy is my most beloved Victorian novelist. Although he uses a lot of idiomatic phrases, his story lines are not straightforward mind you for his plot is mostly linear, doesn’t bring up many characters. And his language is really beautiful that usually doesn’t bore me even when I feel a few of his story lines get out of the lines. Reading Hardy’s is truly what it means as enjoying the beauty of literature, savoring the peak of literature as many say happen in the Victorian era. Hardy is a realist or even sometimes pessimist. His writing reflects much of his views about life in general. He likes adoring women, he definitely uses nature as one of the sources of his imaginations. His writing is hard but once you get the flow of his ideas you’ll get hypnotized, just like I.

Finally… Charles Dickens!

I can’t remember how many times I pass through the Charles Dickens section at the Kinokuniya bookstore, Plaza Senayan shopping mall, Central Jakarta, without buying one of his titles until a couple of days ago my mind suddenly shifted from Elizabeth Gaskell’s ‘Cranford’ to Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop.’

I have wanted to read ‘Cranford’ not long after I was so head over heels for Gaskell’s adorable language in her ‘Mary Burton’. I read the first few pages of ‘Cranford’ and as usual, Gaskell’s writing is so superb. She can always craft a gold out of straws. What seems to many of us as ordinary, boring views can instead be her rich resource. ‘Cranford’ is no exception.

But how didn’t I purchase it right after ‘Mary Barton’? Ok, let me be honest here. It’s because ‘Cranford’ features spinsters. No matter how light and cheerful the book is, as suggested by reviewers, becoming spinsters is by all means gloomy. I tend to avoid novels that touch spinsterhood. Apart from private matter about spinsterhood, I faced a very limited option to read after I had completed reading ‘Agnes Grey’ in the bookstore. Knowing that I didn’t have many choices since I have read almost all novels from my favorite authors that are in the store, I immediately remembered ‘Cranford’ once I had decided to read more materials in the Victorian era.

“Better to read a book that will satisfy my hunger on beauty amid personal issue than experiencing something I know it won’t even ignite my imagination,” my mind said at that time. So, I forced myself taking a very tough journey from office in Ciputat, South Tangerang, to the mall. It was a very tiring trip for I had to pass through some traffic jam points all along the journey. But I must not give up and directly went back at home because there was a good book awaiting me.

After a few hours on the road, I reached the store and found out ‘Cranford’ remained at the same point the last time I spotted it. I looked at ‘Cranford’ for a few times and almost brought it to the store’s cashier for payment but the spinsterhood issue moved my mind to reconsider the would-be decision. So, my eyes shifted to a tall bookshelf next to the ‘Cranford’ section. George Eliot, Sir Arthur Conan Dyle and definitely Charles Dickens. Prior to this visit, I have read at some initial pages of Dickens’ most popular novels, such as ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, ‘Great Expectations’, ‘Hard Times’, and ‘The Pickwick Papers’, none of which wowed me by the words. My most wanted masterpiece from Dickens is ‘Our Mutual Friend’. I love it from the first words I read, giving the kind of sensation after I just read books by Thomas Hardy. Unfortunately, the store does not sell ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and I know not when it will be available.

I have read the title of “The Old Curiosity Shop’, definitely but I never thought of it until that evening. I made use some valuable seconds to check some first pages of the novel at the internet given the battery of my smartphone was running out. I was not really awed with them but somehow I made a compromise. I was considering that I should try reading books from first-person narration as the reading experience with ‘Agnes Grey’ that applies such method proved to be impressive. Besides, it was time for me to seek books with complex plots with not many drama focusing on major characters. It was time for me to read novels that would overwhelm me with conflicts.

A refreshment from usual preference of beautiful, magical language as in Thomas Hardy or Elizabeth Gaskell’s masterpieces. So I bought the novel at the end. I was prepared for the long reading journey given its 500-something pages and by the time I currently on the page of 134, I am deeply immersed by the book.

The first page captured my heart. It keeps me wondering what the book will be at the end. Despite the many characters on the book, I can still follow what it has to offer because I know beforehand the core of the book. The characters of Nelly Trent completely touches my sympathy. I suddenly associate her with Hardy’s Tess. Then, I can feel the good humor sense of the book and finally………..

I applaud Dickens’ unquestionable writing skills, his vivid imaginations and his overall mind and heart put in the book. The book is so wealthy by far. In terms of story plots, language, human emotions and all important elements that readers want to digest within one book.

Thank you for myself. Thank you for eventually getting touch with the British most-beloved, prolific author after some years launching a journey into the Victorian literature. I am so relieved that I come to this point where I read books from Dickens, who can be said is the pivot of the Victorian literature.