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10 November 2021
So there was an illuminating article about Middlemarch in the New Statesman last month, by Johanna Thomas-Corr, called 'Why Middlemarch still matters'. Lots to think about there, especially when she defines the main theme of the book: 'Middlemarch is surely the greatest novel ever written about disappointment, sordid, meagre or otherwise: disappointment with your spouse, your children, your elders, your siblings, your employers, your politicians and, most cuttingly, yourself. Dorothea peers into Casaubon’s soul and realises there’s not much to see; Lydgate realises the “blank unreflecting surface” of his wife’s mind; Casaubon realises he might die with nothing to show for his scholarly labours; Rosamond realises she isn’t actually at the centre of everyone else’s world. Then there’s Harriet Bulstrode, who realises the terrible truth of her husband’s past; the Vincys, who realise both their children will make ill-advised marriages; and Will, who realises that his employer, Mr Brooke, isn’t serious about political reform.' Very well put and in this so many Persephone books (eg. Princes in the Land by Joanna Cannan or Hostages to Fortune by Elizabeth Cambridge are just an echo of Middlemarch; although when a novel is about the war, eg The Happy Tree by Rosalind Murray, it's far more than mere disappointment, it's acceptance that's needed, life has become far too tragic for disappointment to be relevant. The picture above is of Juliet Aubrey as Dorothea in 2010 and here we can announce the excellent news that even as we speak she is recording The Squire by Enid Bagnold as an audiobook.
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