Book: a book that changed me

Bel Mooney on George Eliot's 'Middlemarch'

When did you first read it? I first read Middlemarch when I was in the sixth form at Trowbridge Girls' High School. My wonderful English master, Denis Boulding, advised me to give it a try. I had read Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss but he said that to read Middlemarch was a different order of experience and that he felt me "mature" enough. The lure of flattery is easily as powerful as that of literature.

I can still remember the heady, addictive fall into George Eliot's provincial world, the greedy reading in the solitude of my bedroom, the desperation that Dorothea should not marry Casaubon nor Lydgate be trapped by the poisonous Rosamund Vincy. Still I can revisit, in imagination, the powerful emotions aroused by my first reading of George Eliot's sublime closing paragraphs. They never fail to move me to tears, and I do not believe there are finer words in the whole of our literature.

Why did it strike you so much? It spoke to me of the vast dignity and potential of what is ordinary, and of the imaginative sympathy with all living things, part of the redemptive function of art. Its sweep was equal to Doctor Zhivago's, even without the framework of great political and historical events. I read with awe Eliot's account of how the vainglorious Mrs Bulstrode finds humility and love in forgiving her husband the disgrace he brought upon them: " ... now that punishment had befallen him it was not possible for her in any sense to forsake him". Was any other writer capable of such knowledge and such compassion? At 17 I doubted it - and still feel the same. I heard Martin Amis dismissing the morality of Eliot, maintaining she tells people what not to do. What arrant nonsense! She says, "This, right and wrong, is what people do, how they are and willy nilly, it is all capable of being understood."

Have you re-read it? I have re-read Middlemarch four or five times, and writing this, itch to revisit its world soon. Each time I find the novel even greater, discovering things in it as if for the first time.

Do you recommend it? Like a religious fanatic I would convert all to my faith; read Middlemarch and hold a glass to your own soul, in its infinite possibility of greatness.

Bel Mooney's fifth novel is 'Intimate Letters', Little, Brown pounds 15.99

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks