Book Review: Middlemarch

Middlemarch is a book by George Eliot, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, following the lives of a huge range of characters.

From Wikipedia:

‘The narrative is variably considered to consist of three or four plots of unequal emphasis: the life of Dorothea Brooke; the career of Tertius Lydgate; the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy; and the disgrace of Bulstrode. The two main plots are those of Dorothea and Lydgate.’

Middlemarch addresses topics such as courtship and marriage, as well as politics and facing the prospect of unwelcome change as a community.

I enjoyed the beginning of Middlemarch; Eliot’s writing is witty and sarcastic, which is particularly noticeable when characters quip about the sexes.

“I don’t see how a man is to be good for much unless he has some one woman to love him dearly.”

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“We must not have you getting too learned for a woman, you know.”

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Middlemarch is not a romance, unlike Austen’s works for instance. Subsequently, Eliot’s characters are more realistic than Austen’s stereotypical romantic characters. The people in Middlemarch speak and behave like real people, in ways that Austen characters never did, making foolish choices which then impacted the plot.

Having said that, I didn’t actually enjoy many of the characters in Middlemarch, or their respective storylines. I liked seeing the life of Dorothea unfold, but I simply did not care for the seemingly endless chapters set in offices, reading about Lydgate and Bulstrode discussing various administrative duties.

As I got about halfway through the book, Middlemarch became much more of a challenge to read and complete – creating a similar experience to when I read Anna Karenina or War and Peace.

I was glad to finally finish Middlemarch but ultimately, I don’t think it was the right book for me.

– Judith

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An Interview With Christina Philippou

This week, I interviewed Christina Philippou, a writer and university lecturer from the UK. She enjoys playing and coaching sport, spending time with her family, and reading.

Chris used to be a fussy reader, and read only contemporary or crime novels. She has since learned to develop her appreciation for a wider range of genres. “Now that I’m less picky, I’ve discovered books that I love, in genres I never would have considered in the past.” she explained, “I will read pretty much anything, except pure horror or incredibly upsetting stories. I’m quite new to the romance genre, although I think erotica novels are still a step too far for me!”

Chris began her own blog about a year and a half ago, although it feels like much longer. “Blogging is ingrained in my routine now; I have been doing it all my life!” she said.

 “I realised that I was reading and reviewing so many books that it would nice to be able to share my reviews on my own platform. I also like to document thoughts on my own writing journey.”

Chris is also a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team. Although RBRT’s policy is to only publish book reviews with 3* or more, Chris believes negative reviews have their place.

“This may sound controversial, but I think negative, constructive reviews are useful to both writers and readers. As a reader, I always look out for negative reviews, as I feel they tell me far more than the positive ones.” Chris said.

Yet despite her stance on negative reviews, Chris has had bad experiences in the past with authors who demanded she removed 3* reviews from her blog which were deemed ‘unfavourable’.

 “Nowadays, there are so many books available in the marketplace, that you simply can’t rely on the number of reviews to judge a book by.” she said, “I find looking at 1* and 2* reviews enlightening, and I can take away important lessons about how it was written, how well the plot developed, and so on.”

“Providing they are non-malicious, negative reviews are important, and that is why I give them.”

Chris is also the second writer I’ve spoken to who has a love of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. “The BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice is my favourite book-to-film adaptation, but there’s also a brilliant adaptation of Persuasion too!”

However, not only is Chris a blogger and book reviewer, she is a debut author. Her first novel, Lost in Static, was published in September last year. “I’ve always enjoyed writing; my book began as a simple creative writing project whilst I was on maternity leave, but now it’s developed into a novel!”

Lost in Static is the same story, told from four different perspectives. “I would describe the writing style as short and sharp, which is most likely a by-product of my previous job as a forensic accountant, where succinctness is key.” Chris revealed. “I’m a ‘no-frills’ kind of person, and I think my writing definitely reflects that aspect of my personality.”

Chris uses her blog to promote her book, as well as posting book reviews, interviews and suggestions for other writers. I asked her for her most important piece of advice for any aspiring writer reading this interview. She told me, “Write for yourself. It’s the best and most enjoyable way.”

You can find Christina Philippou on Twitter at @CPhilippou123 and her website is cphilippou123.com.

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Thanks for reading!

– Judith

An Interview With Georgia Rose

I interviewed Georgia Rose, a writer and blogger from Cambridgeshire, England.

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As well as reading and writing, she has a lifelong passion for horses, and her family. Her two dogs, Poppy and Ruby, delight in accompanying Georgia to book events.

In addition to writing, Georgia runs her own business, which provides companies with book-keeping and administrative services.

Her first book, A Single Step, was published in 2014. A Single Step was succeeded by Before the Dawn and Thicker than Water, forming The Grayson Trilogy. Georgia said: “They are a series of mysterious and romantic adventure stories, written from the point of view of my heroine, Emma Grayson.”

“Completing my trilogy is one of my biggest achievements. I struggled desperately getting the last one done as it was terrifically hard work, so it was an utter relief to finally have it finished. I loved the entire writing experience – even the difficult parts.”

All three books currently have at least a 4 star rating on Amazon or Goodreads, one of the most popular sites for book reviews.

However, Georgia agreed that negative reviews are as equally valuable as positive ones. “Negative reviews do exactly what reviews are meant to do, which is to inform potential readers.”

“For example, someone reviewed my book recently and complained about my use of the F word and the descriptive sex scene. It was a well written review and provided me with helpful feedback. If another potential reader read that review, and decide they don’t like that type of book, they can save their money by finding something more appealing to them.”

Georgia is a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team, a group of readers and bloggers dedicated to reading new books and sharing their reviews. She also has her own blog.

“Someone told me I should have a blog, so I started one. I had no idea how it worked and I scrabbled around for quite a while trying to work out what I should put on it.” Georgia admitted. “My blogging style is a bit patchy; I post odd reviews and share others’ too. I think I’ve got better this year though, as I’ve committed to posting at least once a month!”

Georgia revealed her frustration with blogging to me. “I find that blogging is just something else that takes me further away from writing my next book. I see myself as an author first and a blogger second.”

Georgia’s favourite genres to read are serious romances, psychological or crime thrillers and mysteries.

“My favourite book is Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – I’ve always said Pride and Prejudice because I was converted into liking it, I think!” she joked. “I had to study it during my O Level years, and really disliked it at first. However, because I had to pay attention, think about it, and write about it, I grew to love it! I have reread it many times since.”

I asked Georgia which author she’d most love to meet. “There are so many!” she gushed. “If I had to pick one it would be Sue Grafton. I love her Alphabet Series and how she has managed to work her way through almost the entire alphabet, keeping the fabulous protagonist Kinsey Millhone intact. We would have so much to talk about!”

Grafton’s Alphabet Series are a series of crime novels, following the private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Her most recent addition to the series, X, was released on the 2nd of August last year.

However, whilst I love finding new book-to-film adaptations to talk about, Georgia Rose isn’t so keen. “If I’ve ever enjoyed a book, I won’t watch a film adaptation because they always ruin it for me.” she explained. “There are some exceptions however; I’ve enjoyed both the books and films of the Harry Potter series with my children, and I think the 1940 adaptation of Pride and Prejudice was utterly perfect.”

In her reading, Georgia also steers clear of the fantasy genre. “I soon get bored with the overly complicated place names and character names, and fictional creatures just can’t hold my interest.” she said.

“I’m also not keen on frothy romances; everyone is beautiful and you can see the happy ending from a mile away!” she continued. “I need something more than just boy meets girl, which is probably why I write romantic suspense.” Since the release of The Grayson Trilogy, Georgia also published a short story, The Joker, which expands the storyline of one of her characters.

Finally, I asked Georgia if she had any advice for aspiring writers who may be reading our interview today. She said, “Yes: stop calling yourself an aspiring writer!”

She explained, “If you write, you are a writer. Believe in what you do. If you want to write a book, stop putting it off – no-one else is going to write it for you. Sit down and start typing. It’s that straightforward.”

You can find Georgia Rose on Twitter at @GeorgiaRoseBook and her website is www.georgiarosebooks.com.

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Thanks for reading!

– Judith