A review of Middlemarch

Hello chemicals,

I finished Middlemarch last month and am now going to post my views, thoughts, feelings and everything else – including spoilers! *warning in advance*

This book didn’t make me cry. This is indeed a book written for adults and I tried to soak as much wisdom as I possibly could. There are a range of characters in the book, mainly three couples and they do unite in the end. I was worried this book might have a somewhat tragic ending like ‘The Mill on the Floss’ but no, it was a happy ending and it was happy not for the sake of cheering up the reader. Happiness was well deserved by those who attained it in the end.

Goodreads comments mostly indicated that the book is about people wanting to change the world but failing and the message is that we should get on with our lives and forget about trying to change the world – I don’t agree.

I think what this book teaches is when you change a life, when you change an outcome, when you change youself, you change the universe. The magnitude of the change might be minute but it is noticeable and is well pronounced in the lives of those that are affected by it.

I understand Lydgate didn’t get to pursue his dream in Middlemarch but that was because he didn’t listen to Mr Farebrother who had warned him beforehand. Message: listen to your friends/ family advice. They want the best for you. Pay attention if they warn you against something. It is important!

Some might wonder why but I admire Mary Garth more than Dorothea. I really liked how Dorothea was driven by kindness and passion and brought about so much change but I absolutely adored Mary Garth’s strength and wisdom that she had inherited from her father. There was wisdom in her lifestyle too but just a stronger and more concrete form not weakened by desires or passion but one that resulted in Fred Vincy’s success. Success, perhaps, not in terms of wealth but he got what he wanted and she made him the best he could be. Here genuinely the strength of a partner was defined – helping you to grow and become better.

Also, when Featherstone wanted to give Mary his wealth, I couldn’t believe it that she didn’t think about it! She didn’t pause for a moment to consider what was being offered to her and flatly refused. This is pride, self-respect but most importantly satisfaction. This is truly success: a sense of contentment – being able to live with what you have and finding happiness in it (because there are many who don’t even have that).

Rosamond was the character that was least admired by myself. I don’t understand what sort of admiration she had for Lydgate when she only really began to respect him after Ladislaw disrespected her as much as her vanity could handle. She made it all the more difficult for Ladislaw to handle things and perhaps when he needed support, some form of compromise with regards to personal desires from Rosamond, she would start crying making it seem like Lydgate was doing it all on purpose. I suppose one goes blind when the world begins to seem ideal and when reality hit Rosamond, she couldn’t handle it –– a fine example of someone who never read classic novels in their life.

Some quotes that I particularly admired:

Here is another quote from the book that really touched my heart:

“… 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.”

Isn’t this beautiful? – especially “rest in unvisited tombs”  Dorothea had no clue how many lives she changed by her one decision: of, for one day, forgetting about her own sorrows and trying to benefit three lives. She ended up fixing so many!

So next time, someone says you can’t change the world, tell them to read Middlemarch!

Something I learnt from the book:

I don’t think I can explain which character inspired me to think this however I can say that this is a combination of feelings evoked by Middlemarch as well as some personal experiences in life. This might not be wholly true but how is man to know the real disposition of somene anyway? Vanity, insecurity are only true when you believe they are. You never quite know what it is anyway.

Middlemarch feels like a different Universe I studied where it currently rests on my cupboard shelf (yeh I keep my books with clothes but on a separate shelf because I don’t trust anyone with my books). It has a beautiful crack in the spine which shall be forever adored for it is a must read! No idealities. Only realities.

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

A review of ‘Great Expectations’

Hello chemicals,

I finished my first novel of 2017 yesterday. I finished reading ‘Great Expectations’. Not a great accomplishment since we’re already into mid-March and I have a Reading Challenge 2017 of reading 12 books. Don’t know how this is going to work out but at least my expectations aren’t as great as Pip’s were! 😉

Before I begin writing my reflections, a quick warning: spoilers! spoilers! spoilers! So if you haven’t read the book, go read it first!

Firstly, perhaps the very first thing. Joe Gargery. The kindest man I have ever read about and I am so happy that regardless of the general ending(s) of the book, Joe’s story ended with a ‘happily ever after’. And I would say that this was because of his kindheartedness and because he never had any expectations of his own (not saying that he had no hopes but no desires). He was well-rewarded in the end with a loving wife and two kids!

Pip’s own expectations were a tragedy. He wanted to become a gentleman for a woman he loved. Indeed, he managed to become a gentleman but never got the woman. Good anyway since he should have realised that she must either accept him for who he genuinely was or she wasn’t quite the right one. His other expectations of smuggling Provis out of country, Miss Havisham being his benefactor, Miss Havisham having chosen him for Estella, all these expectations that he had, without any valid reason to feel convinced about their success, failed. None of this happened. Provis was arrested and died (although a happy death I would argue; I felt happy for him), Miss Havisham had not been his benefactor but Provis — a criminal, and Estella got married to an undeserving man.

It was quite interesting to see how the failure of expectations was portrayed in the book and how hope gets you everything and expectations only ever get you disappointment (message).

One of the sweetest things in the book was Pip’s love for Estella. He loved her from the moment he saw her until the end. Very beautiful to read but quite sad that Pip loved a woman just for her beautiful face. Don’t personally understand how that worked since I thought this emotion is concerned with the character of a person rather than their characteristics — again, suppressing any of my own expectations here but I hope in life that love works that way I like to think of it. I’d imagine that it has to click somehow but it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone’s beauty. It could be but would it confirm that they have an equally beautiful heart? Well, in the book (and I love Dickens for this), Estella didn’t quite have a very beautiful heart. She was stone-hearted and completely numb when it came to emotions. It wasn’t her fault— Miss Havisham had raised her up in such a way but Dickens probably wanted to pass on this message to everyone to not fall for people’s faces lol.

It was in the end, almost a decade later, that Estella truly learnt the meaning of kindness and became gentle but it was too late. She was married although Pip wasn’t (obviously). Deep down she understood what a real gem she had lost but it was too late to even mourn the loss. Pip, likewise, only meditated upon the thought that Estella had become kind due to her harsh experiences in life but I suppose when one doesn’t fight for you, you reach that point where the love for the bond (that might have formed) is still alive but you lose the desires to be with that person. Almost as if Pip had fallen in love with his own love for Estella and now he was immersed to an extent that his expectations of ever having her had died.

Miss Havisham’s character amazed me the most because she did what I always think about:  how can you pass on that pain to someone that you had to endure once? Surely, you would want no one to ever go through that agony again?

But she raised up Estella to become harsh so she may play with men’s feelings and hurt them like Miss Havisham’s had been hurt. She didn’t regret this until towards the end when she saw in Pip’s eyes the same passion, the same love that she ones had herself felt for a man. It was the intense emotion that reminded her of her own blind devotion and made her realise of the fault that she had committed of not only turning a woman into a numb statue but playing with the genuine feelings of a man. She begged for apology for this (what else could she do? It was too late. She had married Estella off) and thanks to Pip’s kindheartedness, she died receiving it.

Thoughts in our minds have many themes: some are dreams, others are hopes, some are desires and some are expectations but it is always important to remember the difference between them and meditate upon your own thoughts to realise what they are. Know what you want better. Know what you deserve, better.

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

The Mill on the Floss – a review

Hello chemicals,

This posts contains spoilers.

Finally, I managed to finish The Mill on the Floss two nights ago. It was a book that really left me in agony. Not because it was sad or because I didn’t enjoy the ending of the book but because this book is actually an introduction to the harsh realities of life. It was not a fairy-tale sort of book where the female protagonist was some graceful, delicate darling. She was truly a warrior. She defeated her worldly desires and renounced whatever/ whoever tried to seduce her or distract her from remaining true to herself and her values.

I tried to write a review of this book but I just cannot get my thoughts together. There is simply so much that this book teaches me that I can easily write a book on the book and what it taught me. However, it is, I believe, critical that I note down the main points so I may look back at them later on in life and refer to them when I need to.

The battle between love and duty is a common one, at least, I think. Like other emotions, love is also one that is difficult to define. You get many definitions, many interpretations. I have never been able to understand it myself. But if love is what Maggie showed it to be, then I do admire the beauty of this emotion.

Maggie’s love wasn’t selfish. She loved wholeheartedly but she never went blind. She remembered her duties, her commitments and her integrity before anything else. For this, she happily renounced her happiness, her life, her dreams, her desires.

Maggie loved two men the most in her life. This was her father and her brother. She renounced everything just to keep them happy and in the end, she got the reward for her perseverance and wisdom. In the end, her own brother felt a pang of humiliation when he realised what his sister had done for him. She got to hear ‘Magsie’ for the final time before they died together – Maggie got to die with her brother. I don’t think anything else would have pleased her more.

Often books you read emphasise on the love that exists between two people. The Mill on the Floss was a different one – it discussed family life. It discussed the extent to which a woman goes to simply keep her family together. It discussed the extent to which a woman goes for her integrity, her values and to keep her word.

The letter that Maggie received from Philip truly teared my heart apart. Indeed, you get two types of lovers in this world: you get those that are ready to give their life up for you, and then you get those that would take someone’s life for you. The beauty of Philip’s love is that he decided to not take his life, he decided to live with Maggie’s memories. That takes a lot more courage than to simply take your life. Surely, a moment’s pain that results in permanent numbness is nowhere near as agonising as going through that same pain every moment and spending your life with someone’s memories.

To me, the big take home message is that duty takes precedence over love. Not just love for someone but love for worldly desires. Perhaps the reason why this message is so close to my heart is because it overlaps so strongly with what Sikhism teaches you. Hurting others’ feelings, breaking their heart, breaking their trust only poisons your life, your love. Maggie lived most of her life in agony. I felt it in every word of the book, in every page, every chapter. But she died with dignity. She died with superiority. Her brother always thought his sister was unreliable, that she was unfaithful but she still remained true to him. She highly esteemed him, trusted in him, loved him and eventually, proved to him that she was always right.

The true reward was given to Maggie for her struggles.

This book really left me worried about the complexities of life. I was left panicking about whether life really is this difficult, whether it really tests you this harshly. No book ever left me crying this much. Never had I hugged a book with such affection. This one was truly special.

Finally, to just reflect on the book – it is absolutely amazing. I really enjoyed the wisdom of the narrator although I always thought that the narrator will turn out to be some character from the book, in the end. This was however not the case. This book goes very slowly. What I mean is that there aren’t lots of events happening. Often there is a lot of focus on little events therefore you really get to live the book. I personally never felt like a lot had happened when I had finished over 70% of the book. What I instead felt was how much the characters had developed. I was often amazed to learn how in a short period of time, their lives changed and their dispositions changed but everything else seemed to have stayed the same and indeed this is what happens in real life as well. In society, we change but the society doesn’t change. Collectively, people don’t change. Life doesn’t stop. Just, individual characters develop and change. Right?

Enjoy reacting,

The Chemicalist

 

Book review: The Great Gatsby

Hello chemicals,

NOTE: This post contains spoilers.

Only yesterday, I finished the book – The Great Gatsby. my seventh book of this year. It is a very short book. Only 115 pages if you read the Wordsworth classics edition. I rated it four stars on Goodreads.

I would describe the book as thought-provoking. I don’t think I could ever live the life of any of the characters. It was more like learning about a bunch of people and feeling bizarrely amazed at their different dispositions.

Gatsby’s love is remarkably devoted but blind to an extent that it could be called ignorance. He found himself in love with someone who once loved him, then loved another man and then five years later, says she loves Gatsby again. This should have been enough to convince Gatsby that he’s too good for her.

Gatsby threw large parties that everyone attended. Enjoyed their evening. Had drinks and snacks. He allowed people who back-chatted about him. But his funeral…who attended? How many came? Three people. And that was Gatsby’s father, his neighbour and the drunk man from the library. This depicts the true nature of society. No body ever comes. No body cares.

What upsets me the most is that Gatsby lived a lie for five years. He lived for the girl who was never worth it. He wanted to show her his house, his clothes, his money because he knew that’s what she wanted but he was so blinded by his love.

Is this love? If so, I hope it never ever passes near me. To me, what’s more important than affection is morals. The difference between right and wrong, between truth and a lie. That lie that Gatsby lived and passed onto Tom Buchanan with his death. The lie that Tom might never ever find out about.

Nevertheless, I would highly recommend you all to read this book. It is a very short novel compared to some of the other ones that I have read. In terms of the writing, I really enjoyed the imagery used. Very vivid with many similes and metaphors.

I’m moving onto read Gulliver’s Travels now.

Enjoy reacting!

The Chemicalist