Books to Read: Middlemarch

May 10, 2012

Emily is a genius right?  She's so great at playing with her kids and coming up with fun activities for them.  I probably shouldn't admit this is a public forum, but I'm not always great at playing with my kids.  Sometimes I get so caught up in taking care of my children (and keeping our home running) that I don't take the time to sit down and play with them.  My four-year old especially craves and asks for this.  Recently he's been asking me why I spend so much time on the computer.  As a result of him calling me out like that, I've been trying hard to spend less time online and more time on the floor building lego spaceships (he's a four-year old boy remember).  This is part of the reason it might seem like I've dropped off the face of the earth, but I'm sure you understand.

I don't know about you, but when I was a little kid, I was a capital "R" Reader.  I didn't have many friends at school (again with the public confessions, but it was a really small school and I had some rough kids my age), and so I filled my afternoons reading.  I read less in junior high and high school (I finally made some good friends), but I was often found reading a book late into the night.  During college, I read so much for my classes that I got out of the habit of reading for myself.

For the last two years I've been part of a really amazing book group.  My group is made up mostly of ladies from my church family, but also a few others from the neighbourhood.  I feel pretty lucky to be part of this group for a number of reasons.  First, it motivates me to read a really great book every month.  For me the hardest part is deciding what book to read, so it's nice that I don't have to worry about this part.  We don't have a hard and fast rule about what we are reading, but it's mostly consisted of classic or newer award-winning books.  The other great thing about my group is that the other ladies are all really bright.  Several have doctorates, a few more master's degrees, and all are women that I admire.  Our discussions are always intellectually rewarding, and since some days I fill all my time building lego spaceships, potty training, and keeping house, I crave this opportunity for my brain to get some practice.   

One of the books we read recently was Middlemarch, by George Eliot.  This book wasn't on my radar before hand, but I'm so glad I read it.  It's not a fast read, my edition was 924 pages, but it's the kind of book that you savour as you go along.  The story is interesting, but it's not exactly a page-turning plot.  Her language is beautiful and so insightful.  George is a man's name of course, but was written by a women publishing under a man's name like many other's did when she was writing in 1871 and 1872. 

My very favourite quote from the book is the last paragraph:
But the effort of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
Reading this has really made me reflect on why I do what I do.  I think most of you know, but I stay home with my three kids.  As a teenager and college student, I didn't always anticipate that I would make this choice.  I felt like I was bright and had much to offer the world, and I didn't want to waste it on something so ordinary as taking care of kids.  But after my first son was born, I knew that I wanted to stop getting a regular paycheque, and spend my time taking care of him and his future siblings.  What I love so much about the Middlemarch quote is that I think it really captures the positive value of smart people caring for others (and particularly their children).  I don't think you need to be a stay-at-home parent to do this, but I completely agree that some of the people that do the most good are those performing quiet "unhistoric" acts.    

Are you part of a book group?  If not, you should start one.  Need help knowing what to read?  Here are a few books we've read that I highly recommend:
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • Angle of Repose, Wallace Stegner
  • The Brother's Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky 
  • David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
Do you have any recommendations of books to add to our queue?

1 comment:

Becca said...

Same thoughts exactly about book group!

And I'm so sad I didn't get in Middlemarch!

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