Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 11

Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet is the first of his novels about the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and his partner Dr Watson.  I turned to the physical centre of the book to find its change of direction, and came across a long paragraph describing a Mormon caravan of wagons, horses, walkers, and toddlers,… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 10

Today I’ve found a book on my shelf which I’d forgotten about because it’s not memorable, despite its fame as a prizewinner.  I’d bought it and read it because of an excellent piece I knew by the same author;  it was about translating, a thing I love to do.  So, I know he’s a great… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 9

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë is the first adult novel I ever read.  I remember the moment when I was thirteen and found it on the school library bookshelf, and I remember how grown-up I felt reading it. In my $1 edition I bought at a flea market, I searched today for the pages at… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 8

This morning I pulled from my bookshelf a translation of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.  I flipped to the end, p. 1,463!  Then I backflipped to the middle, where I read on p. 731 the essence of Hugo’s message about the miserable poor of France.  Next to it on the shelf was a five-volume set… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 7

Sometimes at the centre of a novel a new character is introduced who changes everything.  In John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, it’s not until the middle that we meet the title character.  And it’s then that everything changes for the German boy, Bruno: “The boy was smaller than Bruno and was sitting… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 6

Half-way through Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, the patient arrives at the point in his tale where his tough personal barrier was penetrated.  ‘I am a man who kept the codes of my behaviour separate,’ he says on p. 144.  Then the turning point:  we learn why and how he ended up in hospital (well,… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 5

The War of the Worlds. Read the blurb on the front cover of this 1910 edition: ‘It is a story which no ordinary reader can possibly put down half finished.’ And that’s because when you’ve half-finished reading it, you’re at a point of suspense that drives you onwards through the chapters.  I’ve been reading this… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 4

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (translated by Carol Brown Janeway) is 216 pages long and the middle page (of my edition) is p. 108, where Hanna, a former guard in a Nazi concentration camp, is on trial for her part in locking women prisoners in a church which was then bombed and burnt down.  Two… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 3

Today, telling my daughter-in-law about the turning point at a novel’s centre, I picked up a book lying on her table, Wuthering Heights, to demonstrate.  I calculated the number of pages in the story, then halved it and turned to that page, ending up at p. 166, the early part of Volume Two where Heathcliff… Continue reading


Journey to the centre: Great middle lines – 2

To find the centre of The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (translated by William Weaver), I have to begin by counting the pages of the first prologue which precedes the second prologue. The first one appears to be a kind of introduction by the author, an account of how Eco came to write… Continue reading