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Middlemarch (Book Center)

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Vast and crowded, rich in irony and suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in character, with two of the era's most enduring characters, Dorothea Brooke, trapped in a loveless marriage, and Lydgate, an ambitious young doctor.


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Vast and crowded, rich in irony and suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in character, with two of the era's most enduring characters, Dorothea Brooke, trapped in a loveless marriage, and Lydgate, an ambitious young doctor.

30 review for Middlemarch (Book Center)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

    I'm thoroughly embarrassed to admit that this book was first recommended to me by my stalker. Subsequently, I avoided MIDDLEMARCH like the plague, because it became associated with this creepy guy who thought the fastest way to my heart was to stare at me, follow me home, and leave obscene messages on my voice mail. Flash forward 2 years, when I'm purusing yet another of my favorite tomes, THE BOOK OF LISTS. I'm intrigued to see that the one book that consistently turns up on the "Ten Favorite N I'm thoroughly embarrassed to admit that this book was first recommended to me by my stalker. Subsequently, I avoided MIDDLEMARCH like the plague, because it became associated with this creepy guy who thought the fastest way to my heart was to stare at me, follow me home, and leave obscene messages on my voice mail. Flash forward 2 years, when I'm purusing yet another of my favorite tomes, THE BOOK OF LISTS. I'm intrigued to see that the one book that consistently turns up on the "Ten Favorite Novels" list of various authors is -- you guessed it -- MIDDLEMARCH. With recommendations from James Michener, Ken Follett, and William Trevor, I figured this was a book worth reading. What a beautiful surprise. Nobody depicts the depth and breath of society better than George Elliot. She shows both how people are shaped by their times and vice-versa. Add to this an intriguing story of Dorothea Brooke, a well-meaning woman who wants to make a positive mark on the world. Despite her best intentions, Dorothea soon learns that the world will go on, with or without her help. This book is a sobering lesson for dreamers like myself who are always pondering, "How can I make a difference?" After reading MIDDLEMARCH, I suspect George Elliot would answer, "Stop taking yourself so seriously and get on with your life. Nobody wants your help, so mind your own business!!" A refreshing attitude, particularly in this self-important culture. So, long story short: If someone starts stalking you, change your phone number. File a complaint with human resources. Get a restraining order. But before you do, be sure to ask el nutjob for some book and movie recommendations. Because chances are, after obsessively watching your every move, this freak probably knows you better than you know yourself.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

    Best. Goddamned. Book. Ever. Seriously, this shit's bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. 750 pages in, and you're still being surprised. It's 800 pages long and EVERY SINGLE PAGE ADVANCES THE PLOT. You cannot believe it until you read it. This is a writer's book. By which I mean, and I say this with love, that if you write, but you do not love Middlemarch with everything that's in you, then stop writing. Yesterday.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melanie

    Oh, the slow burn of genius. I always tread lightly when it comes to using the word "genius" but there is no way around it here. It took me a good 200 pages to fully get into the novel and its ornate 19th-century turn of phrase but very quickly, I was so completely spellbound by its intelligence and wisdom that I couldn't put it down. George Eliot's astonishing authorial voice is something to behold. It takes the (mis)adventures of a handful of characters and peels their layers one by one with so m Oh, the slow burn of genius. I always tread lightly when it comes to using the word "genius" but there is no way around it here. It took me a good 200 pages to fully get into the novel and its ornate 19th-century turn of phrase but very quickly, I was so completely spellbound by its intelligence and wisdom that I couldn't put it down. George Eliot's astonishing authorial voice is something to behold. It takes the (mis)adventures of a handful of characters and peels their layers one by one with so much subtlety that you often have to reread a sentence several times to fully grasp the keenness of its observations. The entire novel feels like a giant lens zooming in and out of human follies with such gusto and empathy that you cannot help but feel privileged to witness the inner workings of people's thoughts and (re)actions. Not only does "Middlemarch" make you ponder many aspects of our motivations, desires, aspirations, limitations, ideals, dreams, behavior and inclinations but it keeps you on the edge of your seat like a ferocious psychological thriller. The end will leave you teetering on the brink, revisiting all of your personal, deep-seated assumptions about people, what is a successful life, what is a good marriage, how you measure goodness and your impact on others' lives. A work of vertiginous beauty.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

    Page 97: Ugh. I'm trying, guys, I really am. But right now I'm about 100 pages into this book, and the thought of getting through the next 700 is making me want to throw myself under a train. And I almost never leave a book unread, so this is serious. However, since it's on The List, I feel I should at least try to give it another chance. But it's not going to be easy. Here, in simplified list form, are the reasons I really, really want to abandon this book: -It's everything I hate about Austen - Page 97: Ugh. I'm trying, guys, I really am. But right now I'm about 100 pages into this book, and the thought of getting through the next 700 is making me want to throw myself under a train. And I almost never leave a book unread, so this is serious. However, since it's on The List, I feel I should at least try to give it another chance. But it's not going to be easy. Here, in simplified list form, are the reasons I really, really want to abandon this book: -It's everything I hate about Austen - boring dialogue and background information, endless nattering on about who's marrying whom - with none of the dry wit that makes her stories enjoyable. -Dorothea is an insufferable, stuck-up know-it-all and I hate her. Also, her sister calls her "Dodo" in a horribly misguided attempt at affection, and every time I have to read it it's like a cheese grater to the forehead. -She's nineteen years old and is marrying a forty-seven year old. I...I just can't. I know it's going to end badly which makes it slightly better but come on, Eliot. -Simply put, I don't care. I don't care about these characters. I don't care about their boring lives. I don't care who marries whom and who is happy or not happy, and I really don't care about Dorothea's stupid cottage designs. -I get the sense that none of the things I listed are going to change. I'm strongly sensing that the next 700 pages of this book are going to be the same exact stuff about marriage and unhappiness and Dodo and blah blah blaaaaahhhhh. Unless something really interesting is going to happen, I don't think I can keep going. At this point, it would take a zombie uprising at Middlemarch to make me invested in these characters and their lack of struggle. Page 190: Okay, I need to get to Part 5 before I can reasonably stop reading. Hopefully something resembling a plot will happen soon. Page 300: Nope. Nothin' yet. Page 370: OH MY GOD I DON'T CARE I DON'T CARE SHUT UP SHUT UP WHY ARE YOU TELLING ME ALL OF THIS GEORGE ELIOT WHHHHHHHYYYYYYY Page 409: Okay. I tried. No one can say I didn't give this book a fair chance. But I'm halfway through and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. I just read 400 pages of some boring people going about their boring everyday business, and I'm DONE. Maybe I'm just not sophisticated enough to understand this book's genius. Maybe I can only be happy with a book if the characters are likeable and doing interesting things besides sitting around and thinking about how fucking miserable they all are. Maybe it's just my fault for having a bad attitude about this book from the beginning. Who knows. But what I know for sure is this: I got to my designated halfway point on the flight back from vacation, and when we landed I made sure to leave Middlemarch on the plane. Hopefully it's adopted by someone who will love it more than I did. ADDENDUM: I just consulted The List to check this book off, and I decided to see if there were any other George Eliot books on it. Including Middlemarch, there are five Eliot books I'm supposed to read before I die. FIVE. Goddamn it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ilse

    Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency, has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind; and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel’s heart beat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity. When Alexandra suggested to participate in this year’s alphabetical challenge of reading women, I admit the prospect of finally reading Middlemarch for the ‘E’ was the decisive element for me to embark on the journey –and I had been keeping the novel aside as a precious reward, to be touched if and only if I would manage to finish a demanding work project in time. When that blissful moment came, I couldn’t have dreamt of a more exquisite treat than reading this masterpiece, of which I enjoyed every minute. Although Virginia Woolf called it ‘one of the few English novels written for grown-up people’ reading this novel made me feel sixteen again, catapulting me back into memories of spending hours of reading delight during school holidays in the small kitchen above the grocery store where my mother worked, only having to interrupt reading to wash the dishes, then plunging again into some fat Russian 19th century novel, greedily gobbling up the sentences, floating on cloud nine. Isn’t it odd how memory singles out and connects to some of our experiences as the most delightful ones of our lives, of which we were barely aware when we were living them? Needless to say books which are that overwhelming are rare, and this novel is such one, one that swallowed me whole, only desiring to be in the book, curling up with the characters – I revelled in Eliot’s prowess in bringing to life her wondrous characters and particularly in the strength of her women (most of the men in the novel seem no match for the women, at certain moments some sound like a tenor in an opera who’s faint voice renders his nonetheless beautiful lines and alleged heroism at times perhaps somewhat implausible but all the more human). As so much has been written on this magnum opus (I so far have only skimmed through a few of the magnificent hymns readers here have written to this so well-loved book and hope to read them more thoroughly now having finished the novel) and the issues worth analysing seem boundless – I feel it could easily feed my reading group’s discussions for a year - reading the novel a first time I soon sensed it out of my league to consider writing anything about it and so surrendered to reading instinctively, plunging in naked and unarmed, floating smoothly on Eliot’s fabulous sentences, the gentle waves of her wisdom. If I would focus on one theme for further exploring in a second read it would be marriage as seen by Eliot, to find out if and in which way her views concurred with or differed from the conventional ones in her time, and what her views on relationships tell us today. Young love-making—that gossamer web! Subtle interlacings are swung— are scarcely perceptible: momentary touches of fingertips, meetings of rays from blue and dark orbs, unfinished phrases, lightest changes of cheek and lip, faintest tremors. The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness, indefinite trust. And Lydgate fell to spinning that web from his inward self with wonderful rapidity. As for Rosamond, she was in the water-lily’s expanding wonderment at its own fuller life, and she too was spinning industriously at the mutual web. One of the themes which propulses the finely spun narratives and intrigues (Middlemarch has been compared to an intricate emotional spider web, the omniscient authorial voice repeatedly using the web metaphor, considering the recounting of the tale a task of ‘unraveling certain human lots and seeing how they were woven and interwoven’) is the tension between reconciling the vows and demands of marriage and one’s personal vocation in life – a tension mostly conveyed by unfurling and paralleling the vicissitudes of two characters who precipitate themselves headlong into wedlock, a state on which they both harbour illusions which seem to echo each other and which will turn out at odds with their highly idealistic vocations and ambitions in life. We find the 19 year old Dorothea Brooke passionately wanting to devote herself to an scholarly clergyman, many years her senior, Edward Causabon, seeking wisdom and enlightenment herself - while the young doctor Tertius Lydgate dreams of a life of science, to be venerated and supported in this dream by the dedicated wife he sees in the mayor’s daughter, Rosamond Vincy (’his old dreamland, in which Rosamond Vincy appeared to be that perfect piece of womanhood who would reverence her husband’s mind after the fashion of an accomplished mermaid, using her comb and looking-glass and singing her song for the relaxation of his adored wisdom alone’). Both will bump into bitter reality (as in a sense for both marriage serves as a means to an end, the only possible outcome might have been disillusion on the nature of marriage). Dorothea finds her assistance unwelcome to her husband, while Tertius learns a ravishing appearance can hide a disgraceful (and to this reader appalling) selfishness. Their misfit marriages will eventually be counterpoised by a third, wonderfully balanced relationship, one of strong bonding based on ratio as well as emotions, a couple building a future on what could be seen as fundamental resemblances and complementary differences – complementarity far more subtle painted by Eliot than in a simple traditional division of the gender roles. Here is a relationship of mutual support and understanding for which both Dorothea and Tertius - good-natured, but dreamers - longed for in vain – however the initial pangs of disenchantment for both will have quite different consequences. Eliot’s presentation of what seems ideal marriage as a union of free-spirited individuals, united by true companionship as loving comrades, struck me as rather progressive or modern for her times (but I could be wrong in that assessment) as well as touchingly relatable. Reading Middlemarch to me not felt as escapism. As Julian Barnes wrote in his essay A Life with Books ‘Life and reading are not separate activities, When you read a great book, you don't escape from life, you plunge deeper into it. There may be a superficial escape – into different countries, mores, speech patterns – but what you are essentially doing is furthering your understanding of life's subtleties, paradoxes, joys, pains and truths. Reading and life are not separate but symbiotic’. His words ring quintessentially true with regard to Middlemarch – with its gorgeous, gossamer prose, the plethora of fascinating characters, the manifold references to art, the perceptive dictums wearing an aphoristic suit showing a tremendous insight into the human psyche, its subtly humorous asides, its wisdom and sympathy for humankind, this brilliant novel might simply be a reader’s dream, a way of experiencing the harmony of spheres. Following the thread to light and life Eliot is weaving, reminded me that life in all its depth at times can be pure bliss.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    "It is one thing to like defiance, and another thing to like its consequences." Middlemarch is a towering achievement. It's tough to find words strong enough to describe it; I mean, I just finished Madame Bovary and called it perfect, so where do I go from there? Middlemarch is almost three times as long and it's still perfect; that's more impressive. But Anna Karenina is pretty close to perfect too, so now what? Here's what: Middlemarch is the best novel that's ever been written. That's the trut "It is one thing to like defiance, and another thing to like its consequences." Middlemarch is a towering achievement. It's tough to find words strong enough to describe it; I mean, I just finished Madame Bovary and called it perfect, so where do I go from there? Middlemarch is almost three times as long and it's still perfect; that's more impressive. But Anna Karenina is pretty close to perfect too, so now what? Here's what: Middlemarch is the best novel that's ever been written. That's the truth. Tolstoy is a realistic writer: his characters are real, complicated people with real lives. Among other things, that means that they don't always get neat little character arcs; Tolstoy's plots don't always come together in a tidy bow. By comparison, guys like Hugo and Dickens operate in slightly surreal worlds; their characters' stories weave in and out of each other, often by means of coincidences that would be unlikely in real life. That's very satisfying from a plot point of view, but I know it bothers some people who can't get over its unlikeliness. And here's Eliot, walking a tightrope right over both of those methods. Her characters do intersect: they all come together - eventually - and they have enormously satisfying arcs. But it all happens completely naturally. She sets up each person's personality so carefully, so exquisitely, that everything that happens subsequently feels perfectly inevitable. It's one of the most tightly plotted books I've ever read. Not a thread out of place. It's an astonishing feat. There are times when I put the book down just to say, "I can't believe she's pulling this off." It's like the first time you get a handjob. "Technically, this is something I've experienced hundreds of times before...but holy shit, is it better!" You can borrow that comparison for your thesis if you want. I don't mind. And her writing! I threw a few of my favorite lines here and there in this review. She's hilarious and brilliant, and her mastery of language is staggering. "The troublesome ones in a family are usually either the wits or the idiots." So okay, yeah, we should mention that it does take a while to get going. I didn't really figure out what Eliot was up to until about 400 pages in. That's a very long time. I had fragmented reading time during that period, so it's partly my fault, but I'm not the first to mention that Middlemarch isn't quick off the blocks. Normally I would say that prevents a book from being called perfect - but Eliot's so aware of what she's doing, and what she's doing is so brilliant, that I think Middlemarch actually earns the right to be a little boring for a while. The return on investment is extraordinarily generous. "He felt the scenes of his earlier life coming between him and everything else, as obstinately as when we look through the window from a lighted room, the objects we turn our backs on are still before us, instead of the grass and the trees." A few years ago I had this flash of insight about a new friend I'd been making. We'd been hanging out for a couple of months, and one night she said something dismissive about someone else and all of a sudden, all the pieces I'd gotten to know fell into place and I knew her. "Oh!" I thought. "She's a narcissistic twat." I'm sure we all know how it feels, that moment when you finally really get someone. And Eliot works like that. Character spoilers, and also a very bad word, ahoy: (view spoiler)[I went back and forth on Dorothea several times before I finally realized what Eliot was showing me: a naive but good person groping for meaning, and fucking it up several times along the way. And it took me a while to realize that Rosamond's not just vacant: she's my favorite villain since Heathcliff. God, what a cunt. (hide spoiler)] "The tender devotedness and docile admiration of the ideal wife must be renounced, and life must be taken up on a lower stage of expectation, as it is by men who have lost their limbs." Okay, Middlemarch requires some patience and commitment. But it's so worth it! Ten stars, guys. A hundred stars. Millions and millions of stars. This book is a unicorn. It doesn't reveal itself easily, but when it does, it's magic. You will never read a better book, because one doesn't exist. ----------------------- Edition notes: this Penguin edition has a serviceable intro, but it's very short on endnotes. For example: each chapter begins with an epigram, but many of them are unattributed. I now know that the unattributed ones were written by Eliot (thanks Carla!), but an endnote to clue me in at the time would have been lovely, yes?

  7. 5 out of 5

    °°°·.°·..·°¯°·._.· ʜᴇʟᴇɴ Ροζουλί Εωσφόρος ·._.·°¯°·.·° .·°°° ★·.·´¯`·.·★ Ⓥⓔⓡⓝⓤⓢ Ⓟⓞⓡⓣⓘⓣⓞⓡ Ⓐⓡⓒⓐⓝⓤⓢ Ταμετούρο Αμ

    Το Μίντλμαρτς είναι η νουβέλα της προόδου και της κοινωνικής αλλαγής. Βρισκόμαστε στην Αγγλία την εποχή ανάμεσα στην Πρώτη και τη Δεύτερη Μεταρρύθμιση (1832,1867). Έχει αρχίσει ήδη η ανεπαίσθητη βαθμιαία αλλαγή του κοινωνικού τοπίου απο ραγδαίες επιστημονικές και τεχνολογικές ανακαλύψεις αλλά και παρακμάζουσες ανθρωπιστικές αξίες. Το Μίντλμαρτς όμως είναι πάνω απο όλα ένα έργο σιωπηλής,διαχρονικής,ιδιωτικής σύγκρουσης ανάμεσα σε δυο αντιμαχόμενα στρατόπεδα, τον άντρα και τη γυναίκα. Τα δυο στρατ Το Μίντλμαρτς είναι η νουβέλα της προόδου και της κοινωνικής αλλαγής. Βρισκόμαστε στην Αγγλία την εποχή ανάμεσα στην Πρώτη και τη Δεύτερη Μεταρρύθμιση (1832,1867). Έχει αρχίσει ήδη η ανεπαίσθητη βαθμιαία αλλαγή του κοινωνικού τοπίου απο ραγδαίες επιστημονικές και τεχνολογικές ανακαλύψεις αλλά και παρακμάζουσες ανθρωπιστικές αξίες. Το Μίντλμαρτς όμως είναι πάνω απο όλα ένα έργο σιωπηλής,διαχρονικής,ιδιωτικής σύγκρουσης ανάμεσα σε δυο αντιμαχόμενα στρατόπεδα, τον άντρα και τη γυναίκα. Τα δυο στρατόπεδα λόγω βιολογικών,φυσικών,ιστορικών, θεσμικών οικονομικών και πολλών άλλων παραγόντων,βρέθηκαν μπλεγμένα σε μια άνιση κατάσταση με θύμα πάντα τη γυναίκα. Το βιβλίο αυτό με απόλυτη βικτωριανή υποκριτική ευγένεια,υπεροψία,επαρχιακά κατεστημένα,ταξικά άλλοθι,κοινωνικά ταμπού και καθωσπρεπισμό,εκφράζει μια κοινωνική νομοτέλεια...Το δράμα της επιβολής της υποταγής της γυναίκας. Ουσιαστικά πρόκειται για μια δαιδαλώδη μελέτη με σημαία το ρεαλισμό,πάνω στις ανθρώπινες σχέσεις,σε μια βρετανική επαρχία-το φανταστικό Μίντλμαρτς-γύρω στα 1830. Η Έλιοτ ψυχογραφεί με γλυκιά ευαισθησία αλλά και καυστική ειρωνεία τους ήρωες της και ιδιαιτέρως τις γυναίκες στην αγγλική επαρχιακή κοινωνία της Βικτωριανής περιόδου. Σε μια εποχή που δεν επιτρεπόταν οι προσωπικές επιλογές των γυναικών αλλά σιγά σιγά η ανάγκη για ελευθερία ύψωνε μέσα τους το ανάστημα της. Η εξέγερση αυτή διαγράφεται -όπως αναφέρεται χαρακτηριστικά-ανθρωπιστικά στον ορίζοντα και σατανικά στο υποσυνείδητο. Η κεντρική ηρωίδα προσπαθεί να ξεφύγει απο το κατεστημένο και τις συμβάσεις της κοινωνίας,θέλει να ακολουθήσει την ατομική της βούληση, όμως είναι εφοδιασμένη μόνο με ρηχές γνώσεις λογοτεχνίας και ρομάντζα κοινωνικού λουστραρίσματος όπως απαιτούσε το πνεύμα της εποχής, με σκοπό η γυναίκα να διακοσμεί και να ψυχαγωγεί τον μελλοντικό σύζυγο. Η συγγραφέας τονίζει με μεγάλη ευστοχία και τραγική ειρωνεία στο προσκήνιο αυτού του κοινωνικού λαβύρινθου πως η αφύπνιση παντός είδους,η χειραφέτηση,η πραγματοποίηση ονείρων,επιθυμιών και ικανοτήτων,αρχίζει απο την παιδεία. Μέσα απο την συναρπαστική,αν και πολύ αργή πλοκή και την πυκνή,αν και λίγο κουραστική αφήγηση,παρακολουθούμε τους ήρωες που γίνονται πλέον "δικοί" μας άνθρωποι,να δρουν,να ζουν,να ονειρεύονται και να ερωτεύονται σε αυτό το σεμνότυφο και υποκριτικό επαρχιακό περιβάλλον. Εντέχνως κρύβονται οι βαθύτερες σκέψεις τους και τα αισθήματα τους μέσα σε αραχνοΰφαντες πολυπλοκότητες. Το Μίντλμαρτς είναι ένα είδος λαβυρινθώδους μαγικής εικόνας. Ένας ρεαλιστικά μοντέρνος μύθος που δύσκολα αναγνωρίζεται το πραγματικό και το αντίθετο του. Η παλινωδία μεταξύ φαινομένου και νοούμενου. Το τραγικό και το κωμικό. Το σοβαρό και το παράλογο. Το έγκλημα και η τιμωρία. Ο Αντρας και η Γυναίκα. Το μυστικό όλου του έργου κρύβεται στο μαγικό κλειδί που ανοίγει όλες τις Μυθολογίες ανά τους αιώνες. Το κλειδί είναι ο ρεαλισμός και η αφύπνιση συναισθημάτων,ικανοτήτων και σκέψεων με τη βοήθεια πάντα του Έρωτα. Αυτό το κλειδί του μυθοποιημένου φόβου απέναντι στις "αυθεντίες" και τις ανισότητες, ανοίγει την πόρτα του υποσυνείδητου και αντικρύζει το Μύθο νεκρό. Αιτίες θανάτου : η θεμελίωση ισοτιμίας του Εγώ του άλλου και η κατανόηση της βαθιάς αλληλέγγυας αγάπης. Καλή ανάγνωση ( παραίνεση υπομονής ενεργοποιημένη) Πολλούς ασπασμούς!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Samadrita

    Take this for granted. Middlemarch will haunt your every waking hour for the duration you spend within its fictional provincial boundaries. At extremely odd moments during a day you will be possessed by a fierce urge to open the book and dwell over pages you read last night in an effort to clarify newly arisen doubts - 'What did Will mean by that? What on earth is this much talked about Reform Bill? What will happen to poor Lydgate? Is Dorothea just symbolic or realistic?' And failure to act on y Take this for granted. Middlemarch will haunt your every waking hour for the duration you spend within its fictional provincial boundaries. At extremely odd moments during a day you will be possessed by a fierce urge to open the book and dwell over pages you read last night in an effort to clarify newly arisen doubts - 'What did Will mean by that? What on earth is this much talked about Reform Bill? What will happen to poor Lydgate? Is Dorothea just symbolic or realistic?' And failure to act on your impulses will give rise to irritation. The world all around you will cease to matter and you will be forced to perform everyday tasks on autopilot mode, partly zombified, completely at the mercy of this wonderful, wonderful book. Even hours after you turn over the last page, Middlemarchers and their manifold conundrums and self-delusions will maintain their firm grasp on your consciousness. What I mean by these not at all far-fetched generalizations, is that Middlemarch is engaging, suspenseful and readable. Profoundly so. Despite its dense outlay of character arcs dovetailing into the politics of the community, subplots jostling against each other for primacy and the reader's attention, vivid commentary by an omniscient narrator who interjects often to shape a reader's perception, and the painstakingly detailed inner lives of its zealous hero and heroine struggling to hold on to their lofty ideals in the face of sobering reality and suffocating marriages, everything moves at a breakneck speed. I never knew when I ran out of pages to tear through. There are few happy coincidences here and certainly no deus ex machinas to bestow easy resolution on conflicts. Characters do not stumble upon gentrified fulfillment accidentally, those persecuted because of their 'lower birth' do not magically acquire status and wealth, thereby proving beyond doubt that Mary Ann Evans meant to contravene the most fundamental of tropes created by her more celebrated contemporaries. Instead they wrestle with their own conscience, hypocrisies, prejudices, mortal desires and fatalistic judgments. The day to day grind deepens their spiritual crisis, derails their noble mission of being a part, however insignificant, of the progress story of the world at large, makes them realize the futility of the individual's struggle against the forces that govern society. Some emerge victorious, able to cling to the passions and ardors that drive them ahead in life despite the inclemency of their circumstances. While others flail and flounder, succumbing to the tyranny of material wants and demanding, selfish spouses. If that's not bitter reality served up on a plate I don't know what is. If I am asked to pick one flaw with the plot and characters, I must confess I had considered withholding a star initially because of the book's treatment of Dorothea and the infuriating Ladislaw-Dorothea arc which made me want to quit reading out of pure frustration. Evans' fascination with subjecting every character's mental makeup to her trenchant irony seemed to expire every time her beloved heroine came into the picture. Frequent comparisons with the Virgin Mary and St Theresa and references to her queenly grace made me skeptical about her credibility as a character of flesh and blood in a narrative otherwise populated with believable, fallible men and women. Is she merely symbolic then of a life dominated by a 'soul hunger', completely immune to the mundane concerns of quotidian living? Why must her womanhood be almost deified and worshipped? But thankfully Dorothea is salvaged and humanized in the end, when she lets her own romantic passions overpower her altruistic zest. ...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. Many may disapprove of the choice but if I had to name one book very similar to 'Middlemarch' in thematic content and in terms of a multiple-perspective narrative structure set against a modern backdrop, then Rowling's The Casual Vacancy comes to mind. In fact, it is hard not to figure out the connection after having read both books. If the slew of unfavorable reviews on GR and elsewhere nipped your interest in the bud, I urge you to give it a shot. Unworthy of literary immortality as it maybe, perhaps, it still offers an intricately detailed portrait of a small town and how individual choices shape the destiny of a society. Of course it is no Middlemarch as no book ever will be but it is where Rowling shows her true calibre as a novelist. And really, it is not as horrid as most reviewers made it out to be. Far from it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eve

    If I told you that my obsession with Middlemarch began with a standing KitchenAid mixer, you'd expect me to elaborate. It started one summer day when I was a teenager. My friend had invited me over to her house for a movie night and sleep over. Though our families had known each other since before either of our births, my friend and I had just recently reconnected with the help of a graduation party and AOL. The joys of dial up Internet. When I arrived, I was shown into the kitchen where my fri If I told you that my obsession with Middlemarch began with a standing KitchenAid mixer, you'd expect me to elaborate. It started one summer day when I was a teenager. My friend had invited me over to her house for a movie night and sleep over. Though our families had known each other since before either of our births, my friend and I had just recently reconnected with the help of a graduation party and AOL. The joys of dial up Internet. When I arrived, I was shown into the kitchen where my friend was in the midst of baking a batch of cookies with her mother. Her dad sat at the kitchen table reading an economics book, throwing in teasing remarks about our childhood antics while we all got reacquainted. It all seemed so...perfect. I was uncomfortably envious of my friend and her family. Two things in particular heightened this feeling. The gleaming navy blue standing KitchenAid mixer enshrined on the granite countertop. It was a recent gift to my friend, Gabby from her parents, since she was the glorified baker in the family. The other was an enormous, well-loved tome called Middlemarch, not far from the mixer, with a small scrap of paper protruding from the center of the spine, no doubt a thoughtless book marker. I had heard about this book from a few English teachers. It was said to be "the quintessential British novel" but that it was overly long, had too many characters, and was overall a political novel. This too was said of other books like Anna Karenina and War and Peace (not the English novel part, but the other stuff). It was such a discouragement! Comments like these made the books seem almost beyond my reach and comprehension. I asked about the book, wondering if Gabby was reading it for her advanced English class, and was relieved when her mom, Linda said that it was she that was reading it, and for the fifth time nonetheless. It was her favorite book, she said, and I learned that she was also a high school English teacher. When we started discussing it, and my love of Thomas Hardy, everyone else just disappeared. She took me into her study, and I had a look around her library. I was overwhelmed that Gabby could have parents that loved reading and encouraged their children to read too. Not only that, but they loved classic literature right along with Danielle Steel and James Michener. Looking back now, I realize it was probably the first bookish discussion that wasn't penned in an essay for my teachers' eyes alone or some other assignment. It was refreshing. From that day on, I vowed to myself that I too would one day own a standing Kitchen Aide mixer (because what kitchen is complete without one?), and I would undertake the reading of Middlemarch. It's essential that you know this back story because it would explain why I own three hardcopy editions, two kindle editions, and an audio edition of the book. It's almost as if I wanted to prevent any excuses I might have for putting it off, and I have for fifteen years. That I've finally read it feels like such a huge accomplishment! I can say with certainty that up to today, this is my favorite book. I adore Dorothea. She is such a unique character, often described as an odd type of woman; one that is both reverenced and respected as a man. I also admire Mary Garth and her father, Caleb, my two other favorite characters. The rest of the townsfolk that round out the novel create a tasty gumbo of gossip and family histories. While politics and reform had a bearing on many of the storylines, it wasn't difficult to understand with the help of a few online tools. On the whole and in my humble opinion, this is a novel of marriage–its disappointments, challenges, and triumphs. It's about the sacrifices people make and the mistakes they make in choosing suitable mates. Having made a poor decision in my previous marriage, so much about this book touched me deeply. Not that one has to be married, unhappily married or divorced to appreciate the book. So many of the genial characters were singletons, and served as a sort of control group, who although having their own share of difficulties, were still quite happy. "Marriage, which has been bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic–the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax and age the harvest of sweet memories in common." A friend's review urged that one should really take their time in reading this book, because once finished, the characters would be greatly missed. I've already felt a strong twinge of sadness at saying goodbye, even if only temporarily. Like Gabby's mom, Linda...I'm sure I'll revisit this book quite frequently. As for the KitchenAid mixer? I've never been able to excuse the purchase because I don't bake a lot...but it's still up there on my bucket list, along with "Become a finalist on The Great British Baking Show."

  10. 5 out of 5

    Traveller

    Since I've been told bigger is better, and long reviews are better than short ones, I've decided to update my short Middlemarch review with a long one: Although Eliot started working on the serialised chapters of Middlemarch around about 1868 (they were published three years later), it is set in roughly 1829-1832, (so writing it took place roughly 40 years after the setting) which gave her the advantage of hindsight. It is partly this, and the fact that Eliot did a lot of conscientious research, t Since I've been told bigger is better, and long reviews are better than short ones, I've decided to update my short Middlemarch review with a long one: Although Eliot started working on the serialised chapters of Middlemarch around about 1868 (they were published three years later), it is set in roughly 1829-1832, (so writing it took place roughly 40 years after the setting) which gave her the advantage of hindsight. It is partly this, and the fact that Eliot did a lot of conscientious research, that enabled her to render the period with such historical accuracy. Aristophanes, Plato, and Goethe, Feuerbach, Spinoza, and Auguste Comte all had an influence on Eliot's thought; -though she seems to illustrate in Middlemarch a kind of social determinism. It seems to me that she is saying that your class will to a large extent determine how you live (which was largely true still in the era that the novel is set in). Individual character and 'moral fiber' is important to Eliot, but in her novel personal ideals easily become shipwrecked on the rocks of what the forces of society has pre-ordained for you. 19th Century determinism was to a large extent due to Darwinism: The question to be considered in this regard is, do people lack all free will - are their actions predetermined by their genetic make-up, and/or their psychological background, or do people have a real opportunity to make an impact on the world, and to be responsible for their actions? Eliot seems to lean towards the idea that good intentions don't necessarily spell success, and not only character plays a role: choices and environment do too. However, the choices of Eliot's characters are subjugated by the forces of society. The characters play out what seems to be pre-set "roles" for them; no matter how they struggle, like flies in a web, they eventually have to conform to the role society has laid out for them. The portrayal of marriages play a large role in Middlemarch, in illustrating various things. In the marriages that Eliot portrays, we see mainly personal character coming into play with the strictures of society, and the ways in which the latter confines these people decides on the final happiness or not of the characters. The good outcome of the marriages don't depend on divine providence anymore, as it tended to in novels written before the realist/humanist/rationalist style that Eliot to a large extent pioneered, came into being; it is now the forces and expectations of society. Material wealth and affluence play a large part, too, in how the characters manage to handle the forces society exerts upon the individual: at least four of the marriages are "made or broken" in part by how the protagonists manage to attain their wealth, but there is a very complex interplay regarding how the characters manage or attain their wealth. An important early influence in Eliot's life was religion. She was brought up within a Low Church Anglican family, but she soon rejected religion in favor of the aforementioned schools of thought. The importance of morals and 'duty' still remained deeply ingrained in her belief system, though. The possession of knowledge, and the use of that knowledge is highly praised by Elliot. She makes a distinction between the dead and irrelevant knowledge that her character Casaubon displays, and the living and useful knowledge that her characters Lydgate, Farebrother and Mrs Garth possess. The 19th century saw a great move towards more "practical" thought. Scientific thought was starting to revolutionize every sphere of human life. It is probably of use to take cognizance of the industrial sociopolitical background to the period that the novel covers: The 19th century was the age of machine tools - tools that made tools - machines that made parts for other machines, including interchangeable parts. The assembly line was invented during the 19th century, speeding up the factory production of consumer goods. There was a lot of resistance towards automation from the lower classes, since many people were displaced from their work by machines, especially in the textile industry. In rural areas the remains of the feudal system could still be seen in that land tenants gave labour for the right of tenancy, but didn't receive much as payment, and often lived in very poor conditions. The industrial revolution saw a sharp rise in population, and resulting increase in a poverty-stricken lower class. There were groups agitating for reform, but most of them confined themselves to lawful, non-violent means of supporting reform, such as petitioning and public oratory, and they achieved a great level of public support. The many social injustices such as young children working exceedingly long hours in mines and factories, and being made to do very dangerous work; industrialists preferring to employ women and children because they could get away with paying them less, etc, as well as the aftermath and influences of the French Revolution and humanism on general thought, was stirring winds and thoughts of political revolution throughout English society. The upper classes, as quite humoristically portrayed by Mr Brooke in Middlemarch, would, according to Eliot's portrayal, albeit reluctantly, prefer to "go with the times" than to be "caught up in, or going against an avalanche" ..and lose their heads as had so many of the French aristocracy. The period also saw the rise of wealthy capitalists - all of these are represented in the novel, there is a family from each walk of life represented in Eliot's cast of characters. Middlemarch also illuminates many aspects of scientific thought at the time. The novel exhibits an extraordinary interest in medical politics, especially. General influences here, were Bichat, Lyley, Claude Bernard, Auguste Comte T.H. Huxley, John Stuart Mill, William Whewell, Herbert Spencer,and G.H. Lewes, Eliot's companion. The 19th century gave birth to the professional scientist; interesting to note, is that the word 'scientist' was first used in 1833 by William Whewell. In Middlemarch, Eliot pays a lot of attention to what is happening to the medical profession at the time. According to her various biographies, she did quite a bit of research into what was happening on the front of medical science. For instance, one of the historically true incidents reflected in Middlemarch, is that in 1932 a worldwide Cholera pandemic reached Britain. Lydgate, one of the protagonists of the novel, is involved in and very much interested in studying and treating fevers, such as Typhoid and Cholera. A note of interest: In 1819 René Laënnec invented the stethoscope, one of the instruments mentioned in the novel; - at that point in time, this was something quite cutting edge and new . Before the advent of the 18th century, the medical profession had not progressed much since classical times. In fact, people were probably even worse off in places like Christian hospitals, where the main cure given to patients was prayer. There had been, throughout the Middle Ages, a belief that the human body should remain intact after death, since it would rise up to heaven in a glorified state. In Middlemarch, we see this sentiment to some extent still prevalent, something which Eliot seems to deplore. Incidentally, it was a common theme in Victorian literature to paint doctors and students of science who wanted to dissect human bodies as "evil". Of course, one needs to dissect the human body before you can research what it looks like inside, and how it works, so of course beliefs like these held back the progression of medical science. In the novel, Eliot also focuses on the aspect of gender inequality that existed at the time. Women didn't receive the same education as men, and especially upper class and aristocratic ladies were expected to be merely ornamental; (view spoiler)[ this is highlighted in especially the marriages of Dorothea with first Casaubon and later Will, as well as the marriage of Rosamond with Lydgate. (hide spoiler)] Time and time again, Eliot illustrates the frustration that an intelligent woman had to endure in Victorian England: "...there was the stifling oppression of that gentlewoman's world, where everything was done for her and none asked for her aid – where the sense of connection with a manifold pregnant existence had to be kept up painfully as an inward vision, instead of coming from without in claims that would have shaped her energies. " I noted Eliot's strong interest in Saint Theresa of Avila, whom she introduces in her prologue, and found it rather representative of Eliot's idealistic bent. Dorothea, one of the protagonists, is compared throughout the novel to her. Saint Theresa was an idealistic religious mystic, who fought for reform in the church; Dorothea is similarly an idealistic dreamer, bent on reform, but totally out of touch with the practical realities of life. I think Saint Theresa probably mainly represents reform to Eliot, but also someone who led a dramatic, even heroic "epic" life, as the conclusion to the novel suggests. In the latter, Dorothea fails, she never does anything large or heroic, but Eliot suggest that change can also be wrought in smaller, multitudinous pervasive acts. As far as Eliot's illustration in the novel of the institution of marriage is concerned, her different portraits of marriage is various and complex, so the message she seems to bring across is that a marriage can be beneficial to the partners only under a certain set of circumstances: if the marriage fits in with society, but above all, that the two partners be suited to one another. Eliot herself knew only too well the sting of social disapproval, since she was forced to live with a still married man (Henry Lewes could not divorce due to religious reasons), and society in general, even her own family, cut her off because of this. Eliot is known for attempting to establish realism in her novels, and I think she does that well, but for one little niggle I have - that loud very visible intrusion that she as author makes into the narrative. This might be a thoughtful and thought-provoking work, but the best in English Literature? Not quite, in my book. For me there is too much narration and "interference" by the author's voice. I know this is part and parcel of Victorian writing, but really, when it's pages and pages apiece, it just becomes unbearable. Victor Hugo, one of my favorite authors, was also guilty of this, but somehow he does it more interestingly, and in less of a schoolmarmish tone. The novel would be more enjoyable if culled by about a quarter of all the pages of narration, (some events and scenes are really carried on in too much detail, like for instance the comments and reactions of the townspeople regarding Lydgate - a lot of it gets repetitive) and the tedious didactic commentary. It's like Eliot hits you over the head with the same hammer a few times, to make sure that what she's trying to get across sinks in properly. Eliot as author/narrator just glares at you from every page. Well, I salute all of you who actually read every unabridged word and still had the mental and emotional energy at the end, to give this book 5 stars. I subtracted at least 1 star for my gripes as mentioned above. :) No doubt MS Eliot AKA Evans/Cross was a very intelligent and learned lady, delightful to those who knew her personally, I'm sure, but her tone is simply too didactic for my tastes. However, given the scope she achieves, this novel is certainly a huge achievement. Bottom line - I reckon that all the work and erudition that went into this novel deserves a 4 at least, in spite of my grumbles. I also laud Eliot's reformist attitudes, so I suppose one should try and look past a less than pleasing style.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

    The Author is not Marching hidden in the Middle. One could write a very long review just collating the various responses to this novel by subsequent writers. In my edition the introduction was written by A.S. Byatt who quotes James Joyce and John Bayley. I have also encountered somewhere that Julian Barnes thinks this is the best novel written in English. I will not attempt that collage, but I wish to begin with two other quotes. In a letter to his friend and painter Anthon van Rappard, from Marc The Author is not Marching hidden in the Middle. One could write a very long review just collating the various responses to this novel by subsequent writers. In my edition the introduction was written by A.S. Byatt who quotes James Joyce and John Bayley. I have also encountered somewhere that Julian Barnes thinks this is the best novel written in English. I will not attempt that collage, but I wish to begin with two other quotes. In a letter to his friend and painter Anthon van Rappard, from March 1884 (that is, just four years after George Eliot’s death), Van Gogh wrote: While Eliot is masterly in her execution, above and beyond that she also has a genius all of her own, about which I would say, perhaps one improves through reading these books, or perhaps these books have the power to make one sit up and take notice. And the second may seem at first from an unrelated book and matter. My suspicion, though, is that Mary Ann Evans would have been pleased for the connection between Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and her novel. A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called ‘leaves’) imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person—perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. (bold letters are mine) So we have one genius recognizing another and showing awareness of the artifice in which an artist engages (‘masterly in her execution’). And we have another genius drawing attention to the time-travel-artifacts that are books, because they allow us to be in direct contact with an Author from a previous age. Author? Yes, Author. And well alive thanks to the books authored. In spite of what Modernist artists and writers have been playing with, and what Roland Barthes defended in his Death of an Author, I felt the Author was very near and clear in the Foreground of this novel. Had I read this book years ago, I may have been irritated by the overt presence of the Narrator. All those morals comments and those directions to the reader would have seemed to me to interfere and hinder the advancement of the action, or obstructed my own independent view. Not in the least. Instead I found myself perking up and underlying whenever I heard or read the Narrator’s clear voice. Sitting up and taking notice, as Van Gogh had written. The utterances came in different tones and flavours. Sometimes warning or guiding the reader: The faults will not, I hope, be a reason for the withdrawal of your interest in him." Or: must not we, being impartial, feel with him a little? Or providing us with a little moral aedification: We are most of us brought up in the notion that the highest motive for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of the beings who would suffer the wrong." But fascinating were those of the Narrator’s claim to be acting as a natural historian: But Fielding lived when the days were longer (for time, like money is measured by our needs).... We belated historians must not linger after his example." Or even more astounding, to those which betray the notion that the Narrator is artificer: And here I am naturally led to reflect on the means of elevating a low subject. Which means that the Narrator is aware of the rivalry between a painter and a writer. Which of those two arts is more persuasive? …painting and Plastik are poor stuff after all. They perturb and dull conceptions instead of raising them. Language is a finer medium....Language gives a fuller image, which is all the better for being vague.. The true seeing is within; and painting stares at you with an insistent imperfection... as if a woman were a mere colored superficies.." And yet, even if this Narrator is also part of the fictional structure of the work, and serves as a mechanism for the reader to enter without participating on the world narrated, and is not the Author, nonetheless I cannot fail to hear that this voice has a very particular tone and timbre. And it was this awareness that kept me so excited during my read. For me this voice has a name: Mary Ann Evans. And I have heard her inside my head, as Sagan says.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Manny

    Since it's still Stalker Week here on Goodreads, I decided to create a new shelf, which I've called older-men-younger-women. I hope that's neutral enough that I won't get flagged. My criterion is simple: a relationship between a man and a much younger woman needs to play an important part in the story. Well, as I was saying to Meredith, I knew ahead of time that Twilight and Lolita would be there. I trust we've already absorbed all the lessons that can usefully be drawn from these books, so I won Since it's still Stalker Week here on Goodreads, I decided to create a new shelf, which I've called older-men-younger-women. I hope that's neutral enough that I won't get flagged. My criterion is simple: a relationship between a man and a much younger woman needs to play an important part in the story. Well, as I was saying to Meredith, I knew ahead of time that Twilight and Lolita would be there. I trust we've already absorbed all the lessons that can usefully be drawn from these books, so I won't dwell on them. My list also contains a considerable number of volumes from the wonderfully trashy Brigade Mondaine series. If you look at these, you'll get rather more offbeat advice: for example, don't get involved with an older man if he's investigating your twin sister for a grisly murder, or don't get involved with an older man if he's just using you to help get his regular girlfriend back from a gang of Chinese criminals who are threatening her with death by poisonous sea-snake. (Note: it's okay if poisonous sea-snakes aren't involved). But it was the classic novels that surprised me most. I'd quite forgotten that some of them belonged to this category, and Middlemarch is the star example. Girls, don't get involved with elderly academics. They'll try and get you to do things you really don't want to do. Disgusting things. I'm having trouble even saying this, but they'll... they'll... they'll try to make you promise to edit their papers posthumously. They will. It's true. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to shock you, but it was necessary. Just say no. And run.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    853. Middlemarch, George Eliot Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by the English author George Eliot, first published in eight installments (volumes) during 1871–72. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, and it comprises several distinct (though intersecting) stories and a large cast of characters. Significant themes include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and edu 853. Middlemarch, George Eliot Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by the English author George Eliot, first published in eight installments (volumes) during 1871–72. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, and it comprises several distinct (though intersecting) stories and a large cast of characters. Significant themes include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education. میدل مارچ - جورج الیوت (دنیای نو) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوم ماه نوامبر سال 1992 میلادی عنوان: میدل مارچ در دو جلد؛ نویسنده: جورج الیوت؛ مترجم: مینا سرابی، تهران، نشر دنیای نو، 1369؛ در دو جلد؛ جلد 1 در 626 ص؛ جلد 2 در 601 ص شابک دوره دو جلدی؛ 9646564178؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، بدیهه، چاپ سوم 1379؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نشر دنیای نو؛ چاپ چهارم 1383؛ چاپ پنجم 1387؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان انگلیسی قرن 19 م میدل مارچ دو جلد است در 1229 صفحه، و در مجموع هشت کتاب، که در هر مجلد چهار کتاب آرمیده است، کتاب اول: دوشیزه بروک؛ کتاب دوم: پیر و جوان؛ کتاب سوم: در انتظار مرگ؛ کتاب چهارم: سه مسئله عشق؛ کتاب پنجم: نفوذ مرده؛ کتاب ششم: همسر و بیوه زن؛ کتاب هفتم: دو وسوسه؛ کتاب هشتم: طلوع و غروب؛ ا. شربیانی

  14. 5 out of 5

    Luís C.

    I am spoiled at the moment with my literary discoveries !! I once again enjoyed George Eliot's Middlemarch, a pavement of nearly 1000 pages, a fantastic story of a small village in England where the destinies of several locals meet and where from the very first pages we embark In a great adventure! The novel focuses on several couples: Dorothea Brooke and M.Casaubon, a boring ecclesiastic, followed by Dorothea and Will Ladislaw, whom we follow throughout history; the unhappy marriage of Tertius L I am spoiled at the moment with my literary discoveries !! I once again enjoyed George Eliot's Middlemarch, a pavement of nearly 1000 pages, a fantastic story of a small village in England where the destinies of several locals meet and where from the very first pages we embark In a great adventure! The novel focuses on several couples: Dorothea Brooke and M.Casaubon, a boring ecclesiastic, followed by Dorothea and Will Ladislaw, whom we follow throughout history; the unhappy marriage of Tertius Lydgate, an ambitious but touching doctor, with Rosamond Vincy, a vulgar young woman wishing to arouse the admiration of all her neighbors; finally, the couple Fred Vincy/Mary Garth, whom I most appreciated ... In addition, the characters are all more interesting than the others, offering a variety of characters among the individuals that the reader has the chance to meet ... Personally, I preferred the character of Dorothea Brooke, so endearing through his choices, the difficult moments of his life, his generosity to the doctor Lydgate for example, and finally, access to happiness at the end of the novel ... I also liked all the male characters, including M. Lydgate, Will Ladislaw or Fred Vincy. Finally, George Eliot depicts the society of his time down to the smallest detail, which allows us to participate in some animated discussions, or to take part in scandals upsetting the village and its surroundings ... So I loved this wonderful novel by George Eliot, which despite some flaws (though very rare) is obviously one of the greatest of English literature.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Martine

    Widely regarded as the quintessential Victorian novel, Middlemarch is a superb study of life among the upper and upper middle classes of a fictional rural community in 1830s England. It takes 900 pages to draw its conclusions, but they're 900 pages of some of the richest realist writing nineteenth-century literature has to offer, full of insights into society, human nature, what to do in life when one can't quite make one's dreams come true, and how to make a marriage work. I've seen it describe Widely regarded as the quintessential Victorian novel, Middlemarch is a superb study of life among the upper and upper middle classes of a fictional rural community in 1830s England. It takes 900 pages to draw its conclusions, but they're 900 pages of some of the richest realist writing nineteenth-century literature has to offer, full of insights into society, human nature, what to do in life when one can't quite make one's dreams come true, and how to make a marriage work. I've seen it described as a book everyone should read before getting married, and I agree -- all the lessons you need to learn about human relationships are in here, and much more besides. To a large extent, the success of Middlemarch is due to its characterisation. A character-driven novel if ever I saw one, Middlemarch features some of the most memorable characters Eliot ever came up with: an earnest young lady who wishes to make a difference; her husband, a petty and jealous scholar; a hot-tempered doctor who is a little ahead of his time; his wife, a living embodiment of the fact that pretty girls don't always make the best spouses; a pious banker who is not the good Christian he has always professed to be; his nephew, who desperately wishes to win the heart of the girl he loves despite his mounting gambling debts; a talented outsider who doesn't quite know how to make the most of his gifts -- they're all here, and they're described in admirable detail. Like a scientist, Eliot puts her characters under a microscope, describing their every flaw and weakness, but always in a sympathetic way; even her worst characters have redeeming features, which makes it very easy to take an interest in their vicissitudes. Like an anthropologist, she then puts her characters into a socio-cultural context, showing the whole through the parts and the parts through the whole. The historical background (political changes, the industrial revolution, new medical theories) is magnificently drawn, and the stories (there are many here) are as fine as they come, featuring love triangles, thwarted prospects, intrigue, political aspirations, blackmail, gossip, characters meddling in other people's lives from beyond the grave, and a clash between old values and modern science and technology. Granted, the book takes a while to hit its stride, but once it does, it's unputdownable. As for shortcomings, one could say that Eliot is occasionally a tad too intellectual for her own good. Frightfully well-read herself, she sometimes has her characters refer to things which seem a bit outside their scope. Likewise, she occasionally loses herself in technical and political details which slightly detract from the main stories, and takes so much time setting the scene for the great developments which are to follow later that the first half of the book is a tad dull. The second half is brilliant, though -- up there with the great French and Russian realist classics of the period, and then some. It's not the easiest read, but a patient reader will be amply rewarded for his/her trouble, especially if he/she takes the trouble the read the book more than once. Middlemarch is one of those books which yield new gems every time one reads them, and I cherish it for that.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joey Woolfardis

    Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003. Once in a while a book comes along that I can't quite rate. Not because it's brilliant, or terrible, but because it has too many elements within it that make me feel different things-often polar opposites. This is one such book. When I first started reading it I was in a mental slump, which meant I was also in a reading slump. It is lengthy-at nigh on 900 pages-which contributed to the fact that I did Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003. Once in a while a book comes along that I can't quite rate. Not because it's brilliant, or terrible, but because it has too many elements within it that make me feel different things-often polar opposites. This is one such book. When I first started reading it I was in a mental slump, which meant I was also in a reading slump. It is lengthy-at nigh on 900 pages-which contributed to the fact that I didn't much want to read it. And, I must say, it is too long. There are some books that need to be that long but they are few and far between: this was written in a double-Dickensian manner. That made it pretty tough going. The characters were not of any interest to me singularly. I felt no sympathy for any of them, nor any empathy, and I didn't much care what happened to them as individuals. That's quite rare in books, but in this case it mattered less than it should have because collectively as Middlemarchers they were sublime creatures. Their intricacies and the way they were threaded together-relying on one another for everything-was spectacularly written. I felt the warm-heartedness and cold-aloofness of the community within my very being. Middlemarch itself as a place is so very intriguing. It was lacking certain elements of world-building in the guise of description, but if you can imagine the English countryside with rolling hills and brick farms and many a cow then you're half-way there. Middlemarch still exists almost today and I almost live there, which adds to the romance of the whole thing. The location of this book is one of the best things about it and, I suppose, the slow nature of the book reflects the slow nature of countryside life. The era is blameless, too. Regency England right through to the end of the First World War is the golden period of English when it comes to book eras. It is a magical period to look back on and the books actually written in those times are almost faultless when considering their era and setting alone. I had a hard time reading through this book but there were still so many little things to be enjoyed. It is quite the behemoth (and was recently voted as the number one best British book by non-British critics) and it can be daunting and perhaps a little tedious, but the way it draws you in a slows down time, lulling you in to a requiem of almost infinite repose is quite something. Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Shop | Etsy

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hadrian

    Reading Middlemarch was an acquired taste. This was a slow and deliberate read, at first from mild skepticism to more curiosity. What most interested me was the breadth of human experience in this novel. Eliot is a savvy and learned writer. She refrains from falling back on the worst of Dickensian caricatures, but instead attempts to sketch out what people are, and how they interact with and shape each other. The worst characters have some sympathetic face to them, the best have their own gashes Reading Middlemarch was an acquired taste. This was a slow and deliberate read, at first from mild skepticism to more curiosity. What most interested me was the breadth of human experience in this novel. Eliot is a savvy and learned writer. She refrains from falling back on the worst of Dickensian caricatures, but instead attempts to sketch out what people are, and how they interact with and shape each other. The worst characters have some sympathetic face to them, the best have their own gashes and flaws. They all stand out simply because they are so familiar. We know and recognize idealistic feelings or failings within ourselves, the impulse to try and 'save' another person, deflections or demurs. Our omniscient narrator truly is one. It is not just a literary definition, but the snarky wit and ceaseless descriptions are deeply impressing. It is like being a child again and taught by the most intimidating and brilliant professor you ever knew. They touch on Fate - but not Fate as the ancient Greeks do, but fate as the influences of our society and our neighbors and family. They talk about Religion and the Pilgrim's Progress, but how religion can blind as well as heal. There's also a staggering amount of historical context in here. This is a very big novel which wants to talk about everything, and in many ways it succeeds. A lot's been said about Middlemarch. I suspect a lot of it is true. I do know is that this is a place which deserves another visit, and I will return here again.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    During the last couple of months I've met the entire cast of characters George Eliot created for her novels. They are a varied bunch but the one thing they have in common is that they are very memorable. I just have to close my eyes to picture each of them, or better still, hear them speak, because the tenor of the voice Eliot gives each character goes a long way towards lodging them firmly in the mind - which makes it very odd that the character I find the most memorable is the one who speaks t During the last couple of months I've met the entire cast of characters George Eliot created for her novels. They are a varied bunch but the one thing they have in common is that they are very memorable. I just have to close my eyes to picture each of them, or better still, hear them speak, because the tenor of the voice Eliot gives each character goes a long way towards lodging them firmly in the mind - which makes it very odd that the character I find the most memorable is the one who speaks the least. But he does manage to express himself well in spite of his lack of volubility, and it is Eliot's description of these non-verbal communications that makes him live in the mind long after the story in which he finds himself has ended. Caleb Garth is not one of the main characters in Middlemarch but he is nevertheless a central character, linking the other characters together. By making him a surveyor, a builder and a farm manager, Eliot can move him easily from one part of Middlemarch to another which allows him to play a pivotal role in all the principal plot threads. His quiet wisdom is like a backdrop to the entire narrative. His wisdom reveals itself in the way he thinks carefully before speaking, and in his reluctance to repeat gossip or comment on other people's behaviour in a community in which gossip is everyday currency. He is an unusual character but not an unlikely one, I think. Indeed, I had the distinct impression that Eliot must have known someone like Caleb, that she had observed that person closely and perfectly understood his heart and mind. The impression is strengthened by the minuteness of her descriptions: the way he raises his spectacles to listen, or pushes his chair back to consider what he's just heard, or fits his fingertips together with much nicety. The way he moves his hat about the table, sticks his fingers between the buttons of his waistcoat, or stares meditatively at the ground to avoid an awkward question. It always seemed to him that words were the hardest part of “business.” Eliot catches his every facial expression, particularly the angle of his eyebrows as he peers over his spectacles. And she pays special attention to his hands: He looked at the ground, leaning forward and letting his long fingers droop between his legs, while each finger moved in succession, as if it were sharing some thought which filled his large quiet brow. Because Caleb has many thoughts, and even if the thing he most fears is having to speechify, when he does work himself up to deliver his thoughts, his eyes sparkle and his words come effortlessly. At such a moment he might pause to take a pinch of snuff but he will be so intent on delivering his thought that the snuff will remain between his fingers as if it were a part of his exposition. He was fond of a pinch when it occurred to him, but he usually forgot that this indulgence was at his command. At other times, the words simply won't come, and under pressure, he resorts to biblical phrases: It was one of Caleb’s quaintnesses, that in his difficulty of finding speech for his thought, he caught, as it were, snatches of diction which he associated with various points of view or states of mind; and whenever he had a feeling of awe, he was haunted by a sense of Biblical phraseology, though he could hardly have given a strict quotation. But in spite of quoting the Bible from time to time, he isn't a rigid or judgmental person: If he had to blame any one, it was necessary for him to move all the papers within his reach, or describe various diagrams with his stick, or make calculations with the odd money in his pocket, before he could begin; and he would rather do other men’s work than find fault with their doing. How can the reader not love such a character. And if all that wasn't enough, consider this paragraph: Caleb was very fond of music, and when he could afford it went to hear an oratorio that came within his reach, returning from it with a profound reverence for this mighty structure of tones, which made him sit meditatively, looking on the floor and throwing much unutterable language into his outstretched hands. I rest my case.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Aubrey

    I have not taken a bribe yet. But there is a pale shade of bribery which is sometimes called prosperity. The afterword to my edition compared one of its many cruxes, this one dealing with the slow grave robbing of sin, to the machinations of Macbeth. I will raise those stakes from plot device to the narratology of equivocation: Shakespeare, previously under investigation for suspected connection to the Gunpowder Plot, currently in the thrall of absolutist witch hunter King James, is made to wri I have not taken a bribe yet. But there is a pale shade of bribery which is sometimes called prosperity. The afterword to my edition compared one of its many cruxes, this one dealing with the slow grave robbing of sin, to the machinations of Macbeth. I will raise those stakes from plot device to the narratology of equivocation: Shakespeare, previously under investigation for suspected connection to the Gunpowder Plot, currently in the thrall of absolutist witch hunter King James, is made to write a play. Antigone is not Dorothea as Shakespeare is not Mary Ann Evans, but the ideal that spreads through science and reform and literature still bumps up against colonialism and antisemitism and orientalism with nary a flickering of the critical gaze. Blink and you'll miss this amongst the much, much, much else of the quotidian world there is to see, but when such a humanitarian intellect has its tropes, therein lies equivocation. Our sense of duty must often wait for some work which shall take the place of dilettantism and make us feel that the quality of our action is not a matter of indifference. I start with the lackluster to demonstrate how one may take in all without losing one's shit over the people whose differing personal stakes means taking this book at the usual level of academic would mean a sacrifice in their realm of the physiological. This work is great because of the effort, because of the reach, because "the sign of the times" wasn't used as an excuse to stick to the safety of domestic over here, politics over there, skimming the surface of the banal and forgoing pulling up the roots for generating the Other. If you want to assure me all's well and good in the land of canonical English literature, bring me the likes of this and Lear and Canterbury, where the existence of said Others does not preclude a lack of bashing one's skull into the rock in order to get at its maser, meaner, more equivocating instincts. Doctors do the devil's work, riots couldn't possibly fulfill an ethical purpose, the matters of politics must always be off limits cause no one died by keeping mum. You can't talk gender and class and heretical leanings in any way other than the prescriptivist in the halls of classical literature, let alone discomfort without offering an answer. It would be weak. It would be vulgar. It would be too close a demonstration of the author's own sleepless nights spent wrestling over the questions of the realities of women, the violence of poverty, and the part God plays in all of it. Obligation may be stretched till it is no better than a brand of slavery stamped on us when we were too young to know its meaning. Does Evans succeed? Does Eliot succeed? The world succeeds in calling her the latter, until I remind myself that my "world" is a tiny fraction of the population that has only been on top for an even tinier fraction of oblivion-exploded time. Then it, as it always will be until we've cracked the mathematical code of brain waves, fear chemicals, and the fabric of those apocalypses we like to pretend we've tamed into natural disasters, is natural selection. Write long enough of a tale that interweaves as many of those systems of order we fragile humans tuck ourselves to bed under as does Middlemarch, and you'll get a inkling what we've lost by splitting it into facts, then fields, then categories, then major requirements, then job description, then experience, then a way of putting food on the table. We may not yet be able to calculate the random to the point that purity or supremacy or hierarchy on the human level is intrinsically understood and may be taught from grade school to be the surest way to annihilation, we may still pay those to demonstrate understanding without an ability to transmute the most "difficult" concept to the grasp of a ten-year-old, but connection. But voice. I am not one of the ones who believe that a death of the old guard will guarantee the eradication of bigotry and all its cries of "rationality" (try reclaiming the mad and the crazed and the insane in the halls of the Millennials and see how far you get), but one who knows what it's like to live in a state where the smallest comment in the smallest corner of the Internet justifies the world entire. As Dorothea said, you would have to feel with me, else you would never know. Most of us who turn to any subject with love remember some morning or evening hour when we got on a high stool to reach down an untried volume, or sat with parted lips listening to a new talker, or for very lack of books began to listen to the voices within as the first traceable beginning of our love. Quality is running close to a thousand pages and finding it too short. --- 7/19/13 "No dear, you would have to feel with me, else you would never know." -Dorothea Any idiot can face a crisis; it's this day-to-day living that wears you out. -Anton Chekhov A week ago, I had been having a fruitful discussion with a dear friend about the wide reaching parameters of social justice (my favorite), when I noticed a reoccurring theme. Boil all the difficulties down into the components of society, then humanity, then the mind, and you get a single word of surprising power: perspective. It was an idea that I had never seriously considered in its fullest capacity, and it is a coincidental fortune that I had been reading Middlemarch at the time, a book that exemplifies this curious construct that belongs to all and as a result holds a mighty sway over the complexities of daily life. There are many books that choose an event of deep and bone-quaking significance and extrapolate, playing out through the combination of imagination and reasoning a story of coping with such and such disaster, crises of faith, function, and physical form. The severely destabilized environment offers a fireswept soil for fertile thoughts, which coupled with the reader's attempt to grapple with whatever disaster is in the pages makes for a powerful method of delivering lessons to a receptive mind, should they find them agreeable. However, the issue lies in the fact that whatever diabolical happenstance the author chooses, it is something that is not frequently encountered by the majority of audience, and the learning is less likely to stick if the occasion never arises. This is where books like this one, trenchant in the daily life and seeming mundanities with a concern no less piercingly compassionate than those who find success in concerning themselves with the more vicious calamities, become incalculably valuable. The grand experiment of life. You are as a result, as am I, and countless others. Many are collected in this book concerned with the English provincial life of the 1830's, a time long gone in a country that I for one have never lived in. What all these human beings hold in common with I and you, dear reader, are the rules by which they live, and the selves by which they are alive. What they may not have in common, or at least they do not with me, is the sensitive web of information that runs through their community, and the ways by which the inhabitants treat this information, their perspective of things. More often than not, if the title of Middlemarch been replaced with that of Vanity Fair, the implications would be no farther off from the story told. Men, women, and the disparate channels by which it is "proper" for them to run. Noblemen, farmers, and the methods by which those of different classes see fit to formulate their interactions. Priests, scientists, and the surprising paths faith will make itself known along the lines of knowledge both blessed and dissected. Youth, age, and the impossible question of determining who knows "best", and for whom. Intelligence, integrity, and the definitions of such valued institutions that choke on pride as quickly as they culture it. The character of hope, the calumnies of coincidence, and all the stories spawned out of a breath that breed as fast as flies and leech opportunities for triumph into broken faith and resignation no less despicable or undeserved than the severest injustice. Your sense of self, your lot in life, two dice that fall in an infinity of possibilities where success cannot define itself by the standards of society alone, no matter how much it may beg and plead. Then went the jury out, whose names were Mr. Blindman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, Mr. Implacable, who every one gave in his private verdict against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. -Pilgrim's Progress There is a power in seeing the story behind each and every one of these individuals, as great a power in seeing and accepting that the compatibility of one's self varies with each and every of these souls, by dint of the facts of their existence as much as one's own. There is a power in judgment in light of the fair and the true, as great a power as reserving said judgment in light of the lack of the fair and the true, despite the judge's inexperience with said lack of the fair and the true. There is a power in the viewing of the great events with careful consideration, as great a power in the viewing of the small highs and the small lows with as careful, perhaps even moreso due to the increased resonance one's own life may have with said small highs and lows. There is a power in resignation to the woes of tragic realities, and an equal power in acceptance of the small coincidences whose resulting happiness does not lower the possibility of their happenstance in the slightest. There is a power in saying that the author of this book is Mary Ann Evans Cross, and an equal power in saying that it is George Eliot, although this particular writer prefers the former for reasons fully reconciled with their being. As there is as great a power in saying, read this, and wipe all thoughts of soap operas and petty tales of petty concerns from your assumptions and standards of judgment. There is a voice here that occupies itself with empathy as much as it does with truth, with hope as much as despair, with faith in humanity as much as deep insight into the human condition. And she will not be denied.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tea Jovanović

    Ovo mi je jedan od omiljenijih klasika a super je i serija snimljena po knjizi... onako kako to samo Britanci majstorski prave... :)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bradley

    I shelved this as a romance on a whim, but if I'm being perfectly honest, this is just a work of brilliant realism. :) George Eliot, nee Mary Anne Evans, was a fascinating woman who lived a life by her own ideals, living out of wedlock with a married man in Victoria's England, working for the Westminster Review and writing novels under a man's name. And for all that, she brings it out pretty swimmingly in what appears, at first glance, to be a heavily moral tale surrounding a very moral Dorothy w I shelved this as a romance on a whim, but if I'm being perfectly honest, this is just a work of brilliant realism. :) George Eliot, nee Mary Anne Evans, was a fascinating woman who lived a life by her own ideals, living out of wedlock with a married man in Victoria's England, working for the Westminster Review and writing novels under a man's name. And for all that, she brings it out pretty swimmingly in what appears, at first glance, to be a heavily moral tale surrounding a very moral Dorothy who turns out to be an idealist of the first degree. Not idiotic in it, but always looking out for ways to make it work in a world that is quite as flawed as we all know it. You can guess how it might go. Decide everything on high ideals, let others walk all over you and grin and bear it because of your high ideals, get roped into truly atrocious circumstances where your lifestyle and your happiness is curtailed because you refuse to bend your high ideals... yeah. Well. That's a tragedy and pretty uplifting at the same time, assuming you, as a reader, can bear to sit through it. :) (Did it affect me? Yeah. It did.) But this isn't the whole story. It's just Dorothy's story and she remains a good person throughout it all. The rest of the tale is a whole village of characters, some of whom take front row seat during the tale, hopping from marriages to politics to deathbed wills to rumormongering, firesales on reputation, finance, and absurdity. This novel is pretty fantastic. It's just like our modern epic realist modern novels, dealing with almost every single important issue of the day while always remaining very grounded and it never becomes a spectacle. The thing is... it doesn't feel like Austen or the Bronte sisters or Dickens. It never comes close to Collins, either. It just feels comfortable with a very deft hand at personal philosophy and making the very best out of your life despite everything. Do not assume this has anything (much) to do with religiosity, for all that. She has plenty to say against the church, social conventions, and the idiocy of everyone, but it's not a satire. It's earnest, thoughtful, and really gorgeous. :) Am I a fan? Maybe a few minutes ago I wouldn't have said so, but as I wrote this review, being thoughtful about what I read, I suppose I am. :)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mala

    From this book, I learned that I'm not fit to hold a pencil.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phil Williams

    When I finished reading this book, I wrote in the front of it that 'This is the most rewarding book you will ever read' and left it on a bookshelf in Fiji, dreaming that someone would go through the effort of reading the whole thing based only on my comment. I doubt anyone's picked it up since then; Fiji is a strange and frightening place. I spake the truth, though. It strikes me that most of those who've read Middlemarch these days are hapless souls who resent it as the mammoth task some crooked When I finished reading this book, I wrote in the front of it that 'This is the most rewarding book you will ever read' and left it on a bookshelf in Fiji, dreaming that someone would go through the effort of reading the whole thing based only on my comment. I doubt anyone's picked it up since then; Fiji is a strange and frightening place. I spake the truth, though. It strikes me that most of those who've read Middlemarch these days are hapless souls who resent it as the mammoth task some crooked professor set them at university. I read it for myself, unwittingly, and was pleasantly surprised. George Eliot conjures a massive spectrum of characters, and gets into the head of every major player in the novel. We are shown what motivates the most despicable figures as well as those we are drawn to, and as a result there is no one in this book who you cannot relate to in some way or another, or at the very least understand. In my opinion that is what makes it such a grand read: George Eliot understood people. She shows you that everyone thinks in their own way, and it makes it hard to judge anyone when you can observe this. Though it is that lasting impression of how we might perceive one another that really makes Middlemarch stand out, the story itself is continually interesting for its sheer breadth. George Eliot set out to give a panoramic view of a provincial town, and she achieves this incredibly. It is a long read, but every step in the story builds up to the picture of the whole. Sometimes I found myself confused as to how I'd ended up in a situation where I was reading what should essentially have amounted to little more a 19th Century soap opera, but what confused me was that I was enjoying it so much. I was desperate to know what would become of these marriages and debts and everything inbetween. This is such a detailed character study that you become genuinely interested in their lives, no matter how mundane the details might appear if you stepped back and really thought about it. Middlemarch is not a book for everyone, I imagine. The insight George Eliot shows might bore rather interest many. But it interests me like hell, so a pox on the naysayers.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Made it Past Page 700, But Cannot Read Even One More Page of Telling (Compared to Showing) Reading this now seems akin to being impelled to eat an overcooked steak with a plastic fork and butter knife . After months of pain, I put my finger on one of the reasons why. It was published in 1871 before the literary realism of Flaubert's 1856 Madame Bovary gained a foothold in the lit world. For example, something that especially drives me to the brink is Eliot's constant long-winded commentary on the Made it Past Page 700, But Cannot Read Even One More Page of Telling (Compared to Showing) Reading this now seems akin to being impelled to eat an overcooked steak with a plastic fork and butter knife . After months of pain, I put my finger on one of the reasons why. It was published in 1871 before the literary realism of Flaubert's 1856 Madame Bovary gained a foothold in the lit world. For example, something that especially drives me to the brink is Eliot's constant long-winded commentary on the dialogue and acts, e.g., on how what was said or done makes this female character feel and how she might have felt if she knew what he felt or if he'd instead said or done it a different way, or what the male character should believe the female character might think her mum is going to do in reaction to what the female tells her mum that he said, which might in turn lead to "X" or to "Y." Instead of giving the reader dialogue, descriptions and characters' inner thoughts from which the reader may draw conclusions, she tells the reader what to conclude, how to feel, etc. ad nauseam, which makes me shout, " GRR ARGHHHHH ," and feel like the massive book would better serve as a doorstop or firestarter. I know this novel is much beloved, and I understand why. It just seems to me that I've gone over 700 pages and nothing much has happened, that there is no true narrative drive. Picking the book up has become as enjoyable as going for dental work or filling out my tax return. I am NOT saying this novel is poorly written or conceived. It's simply that I cannot read nearly 1,000 pages of this style of writing.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Grace Tjan

    " We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time..." Delusions, self-induced or otherwise, form the central theme that runs through Middlemarch. Dorothea Brooke, thirsting for knowledge and a meaningful occupation, deludes herself that she would gain those things by marrying Casaubon, a cold, obsessive scholar more than twice her age. Casaubon himself is mired in self-delusion about his life-long research, which Dorothea soon finds out to be obsolete. Th " We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time..." Delusions, self-induced or otherwise, form the central theme that runs through Middlemarch. Dorothea Brooke, thirsting for knowledge and a meaningful occupation, deludes herself that she would gain those things by marrying Casaubon, a cold, obsessive scholar more than twice her age. Casaubon himself is mired in self-delusion about his life-long research, which Dorothea soon finds out to be obsolete. The idealistic Lydgate deludes himself that by marrying the pretty but high-maintenance Rosamond Vincy he would gain both beauty and love, without having to give up the ideals that he lives for. Rosamond's delusion is that by marrying Lydgate, whose fledgling medical profession she despises, but whose aristocratic connections she covets, she would gain status while being maintained at the high standards that she has gotten used to. Bulstrode, MIddlemarch's banker and pious benefactor, has successfully deluded the whole town of his decidedly unpious past before it came back with a vengeance in the form of a certain Mr. Raffles. Mr. Brooke, who champions the liberal spirit of the Reform Act, is under the delusion that by merely being idealistic, he has changed the world, while neglecting to reform his own estate. The main interest of the novel consists of seeing how these very human characters cope with the consequences of their delusions. Dorothea soon realizes that Casaubon and his work are not what she thought they were, but she holds up her end of the bargain by being a loyal spouse to him, though her heart sinks when she imagines the loveless and futile years that stretch out before her. Casaubon's sudden death mercifully terminates the disastrous marriage, and Dorothea's integrity, after further trials and tribulations, is ultimately rewarded by her finding love with Will Ladislaw. Lydgate discovers how his love of a pretty face slowly compromises his ideals and ends up in mediocrity, very far from what he aims for as a young medical reformer. Rosamond selfishly persists in her delusions without any regard for what it costs her husband. She finally gets what she wants, but at what price? Bulstrode's past misdeeds eventually catch up with him and destroy the life that he has so painstakingly constructed in Middlemarch. Mr. Brooke's political dilletantism never change the world, but it successfully opens up a path to meaningful occupation for an otherwise aimless young man. Meanwhile, all of these characters' struggles are contrasted with the Garths' earthy integrity. Mr. Garth is an estate manager who does his job capably and honorably, without any pretensions to status or unearned wealth. Fred Vincy and Mary Garth are the only couple that is not under any delusions of each other's characters and goes on to a long and happy union. Eliot's writing is infused with penetrating insights into human nature without ever losing compassion and understanding for their frailties and errors, a quality that she shares with Tolstoy. She never sentimentalizes her characters, except perhaps for the idealized Garths. They are all believably human, and they drive the narrative instead of the other way around. Eliot also has a great eye for the ludicruous and her wicked sense of humor constantly enlivens what could have been a ponderous account of provincial English life. One may read Middlemarch for the portrait of a Midlands town on the cusp of industrial revolution in 19th century England, which Eliot admirably delivers, but ultimately it is Eliot's insight into the universal human condition that makes it eternally relevant. Finally, this book is a profoundly wise, if rather melancholic, reflection on the loss of youthful hopes and ambitions, and their replacement by the more realistic (and inevitable) compromises of maturity. Which, Eliot says, is not a bad thing in itself, as " 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".

  26. 4 out of 5

    El

    This is the book that I would answer if I were hypothetically asked what book could have single-handedly become the reason that my relationship would ever fall apart. More so than Infinite Jest or Proust, other examples of books that have consumed or are consuming my life in one way or another. I didn't realize I had a reading problem until I realized that my boyfriend was unpacking around me; literally unpacking boxes right from under my feet - while I sat there and turned the pages. Or when I This is the book that I would answer if I were hypothetically asked what book could have single-handedly become the reason that my relationship would ever fall apart. More so than Infinite Jest or Proust, other examples of books that have consumed or are consuming my life in one way or another. I didn't realize I had a reading problem until I realized that my boyfriend was unpacking around me; literally unpacking boxes right from under my feet - while I sat there and turned the pages. Or when I realized the house was suddenly quiet because he had taken the dogs out for a walk. He could have lit his face on fire and I'm not entirely sure I would have even noticed. Even while I was helping with the moving, or at work doing work-y types of things - I was usually thinking about Middlemarch. So, people in my daily life? The glazed look on my face, all of the, "I'm sorry, what did you say"'s? It was because of this book. And there's not even a good reason for that. Infinite Jest is the kind of book that it seems okay to let the rest of your life fall apart around you as you read it. It seems appropriate to become one of those people while reading Infinite Jest. It lends itself to that sort of behavior. But George Eliot? Middlemarch? Pshaw! I would have said before I read it. Are you kidding me? Get a life, woman! But, dude. I totally became that person. Admitting there is a problem is the first step to seeking help. So I'm here. Seeking help. Just like Infinite Jest it's a book that could be re-read numerous times and you'd probably get something different out of it each time. That Eliot was a whip-smart woman, and I bemoan the fact that I just don't know enough about history at times to keep up with a brain like hers. The notes in the end were exceptionally helpful, though annoying at times when they pointed out chronological mistakes - like the characters couldn't possibly have known about a certain popular book yet because in the real world it hadn't been published yet during the time in which the story was to take place. Whoops! I don't need to know those sorts of things, but thanks anyway. If you don't like details about every little thing, you won't like this book. There's so much detail it makes the whaling chapters in Moby Dick sound almost appealing. (Never mind, I just got over it. Whew.) I can't imagine writing a book like this, just like I couldn't imagine David Foster Wallace writing a book like Infinite Jest. The amount of time, and energy - holy cats, the psychic energy that must have gone into putting down so much information that covered such a wide variety of topics - it makes me need a nap just to process it. Middlemarch - the 19th-century answer to Infinite Jest? Hmm. Highlight: Oh dear, I just found out that there was a 1994 TV version of the story - with Rufus Sewell. You know how most women are all ga-ga over Colin Firth and none of them can really explain why? I'm that way about Rufus Sewell. He's the dreamboat in the red coat. Just in case anyone thought I was all drooly-cup over the old guy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    Middlemarch may look like 1000 pages of repressed English people who won't do exciting things, but in fact, it's a thrill ride (if the ride were called "Class Consciousness and How it Will Kill Your Love Life and Your Business"). This book has more action than all three Pirates movies. George Eliot was not messing around.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general discontent with the universe as a trap of dullness into which their great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self and an insignificant world may have its consolations. I did not think a book like this was possible. A work of fiction with a thesis statement, a narrator who analyzes more often than describes, a morality play and an existential drama, and all this in the context of a realistic, historical Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general discontent with the universe as a trap of dullness into which their great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self and an insignificant world may have its consolations. I did not think a book like this was possible. A work of fiction with a thesis statement, a narrator who analyzes more often than describes, a morality play and an existential drama, and all this in the context of a realistic, historical novel—such a combination seems unwieldy and pretentious, to say the least. Yet Middlemarch never struck me as over-reaching or overly ambitious. Eliot not only manages to make this piece of universal art seem plausible, but her mastery is so perfect that the result is as natural and inevitable as a lullaby. Eliot begins her story with a question: What would happen if a woman with the spiritual ardor of St. Theresa were born in 19th century rural England? This woman is Dorothea; and this book, although it includes dozens of characters, is her story. But Dorothea, and the rest of the people who populate her Middlemarch, is not only a character; she is a test-subject in a massive thought experiment, an examination intended to answer several questions: To what extent is an individual responsible for her success or failure? How exactly does the social environment act upon the individual—in daily words and deeds—to aid or impede her potential? And how, in turn, does the potent individual act to alter her environment? What does it mean to be a failure, and what does it mean to be successful? And in the absence of a coherent social faith, as Christianity receded, what does it mean to be good? As in any social experiment, we must have an experimental group, in the form of Dorothea, as well as a control group, in the form of Lydgate. The two are alike in their ambition. Lydgate’s ambition is for knowledge. He is a country doctor, but he longs to do important medical research, to pioneer new methods of treatment, and to solve the mysteries of sickness, death, and the human frame. Dorothea’s ambitions are more vague and spiritual. She is full of passionate longing, a hunger for something which would give coherence and meaning to her life, an object to which she could dedicate herself body and soul. Lydgate begins with many advantages. For one, his mission is not a vague hope, but a concrete goal, the path to which he can chart and see clearly. Even more important, he is a man from a respectable family. Yes, there is some prejudice against him in Middlemarch, for being an outsider, educated abroad and with strange notions; but this barrier can hardly be compared with the those which faced even the most privileged woman in Middlemarch. For her part, Dorothea is born into a respectable family with adequate means. But her sex closes so many paths to action that the only important decision she can make is whom she will marry. Dorothea’s choice of a husband sets the tone for the rest of her story. Faced with two options—the young, handsome, and rich Sir James Chettam, and the dry, old scholar, Mr. Casaubon—she surprises and disappoints nearly everyone by choosing the latter. Moreover, she doesn't even hesitate to make this choice, insisting on a short engagement and a prompt wedding. Dorothea does this because she knows herself and she trusts herself; she is not afraid of being judged, and she does not care about status or wealth. The first important decision Lydgate makes is who to recommend as chaplain for the new hospital, and this, too, sets the tone for the rest of his story. His choice is between Mr. Tyke, a disagreeable, doctrinaire puritan, and Mr. Farebrother, his friend and an honest, humane, and intelligent man. Lydgate’s inclination is towards the latter, but under pressure from Bulstrode, the rich financier of the new hospital, Lydgate chooses Mr. Tyke. In other words, he distinctly does not trust himself, and he allows his intuition of right and wrong to be swayed by public opinion and self-interest. Also note that, unlike Dorothea, Lydgate agonizes over the decision for weeks and only finally commits himself in the final moment. Dorothea’s choice soon turns out to be disastrous, while Lydgate’s works in his favor, as Bulstrode puts him in charge of the new hospital. Yet Eliot shows us that Dorothea’s choice was ultimately right and Lydgate’s ultimately wrong. For we cannot know beforehand how our choices will turn out; the future is hidden, and we must dedicate ourselves to both people and projects in ignorance. The determining factor is not whether it turned out well for you, but whether the choice was motivated by brave resolve or cowardly capitulation. You might say that this is the existentialist theme of Eliot’s novel: the necessity to act boldly in the absence of knowledge. Dorothea’s act was bold and courageous; and even though Mr. Casaubon is soon revealed to be a wearisome, passionless, and selfish academic, her choice was nonetheless right, because she did her best to act authentically, fully in accordance with her moral intuition. Lydgate’s choice, even though it benefited him, established a pattern that ends in his bitter disappointment. He allowed himself to yield to circumstances; he allowed his self-interest to overrule his moral intuition: and this dooms him. (Eliot, I should mention, seems to prefer what philosophers call an intuitionist view of moral action: that is, we must obey our conscience. Time and again Eliot shows how immoral acts are made to appear justified through conscious reasoning, and how hypocrites use religious or social ideologies to quiet their uneasy inner voice: “when gratitude becomes a matter of reasoning there are many ways of escaping from its bonds.” Thus the authentic Dorothea acts unhesitatingly while the inauthentic Lydgate constantly vacillates.) Eliot’s view of success or failure stems from this exploration of choice: success means being true to one’s moral intuition, and failure means betraying it. Dorothea continues to trust herself and to choose boldly, without regard for her worldly well-being or for conventional opinion. Lydgate, meanwhile, keeps buckling under pressure. He marries almost by accident, breaking a strong resolution he made beforehand, and then goes on to betray, one after the other, every other strong resolution of his, until his life’s plan has been lost entirely, chipped away by a thousand small circumstances. Dorothea ends up on a lower social level than she started, married to an eccentric man of questionable blood, gossiped about in town and widely seen as a social failure. Lydgate, meanwhile, becomes “successful”; his beautiful wife is universally admired, and his practice is profitable and popular. But this conventional judgment means nothing; for Dorothea can live in good conscience, while Lydgate cannot. But is success, for Eliot, so entirely dependent on intention, and so entirely divorced from results? Not exactly. For the person who is true to her moral intuition—even if she fails in her plans, even if she falls far short of her potential, and even if she is disgraced in the eyes of society—still exerts a beneficent effect on her surroundings. Anyone who selflessly and boldly follows her moral intuition encourages everyone she meets, however subtly, to follow this example: as Eliot says of Dorothea, “the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive.” Eliot shows this most touchingly in the meeting between Dorothea and Rosamond. Although Rosamond is vain, selfish, and superficial, the presence of Dorothea prompts her to one of the only unselfish acts of her life. From reading this review, you might get the idea that this book is merely a philosophical exercise. But Eliot’s most miraculous accomplishment is to combine this analysis with an immaculate novel. The portrait she gives of Middlemarch is so fully realized, without any hint of strain or artifice, that the reader feels that he has bought a cottage there himself. Normally at this point in a review, I add some criticisms; but I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about this book. Eliot’s command of dialogue and characterization, of pacing and plot-development, cannot be faulted. She moves effortlessly from scene to scene, from storyline to storyline, showing how the private is interwoven with the public, the social with the psychological, the economical with the amorous—how our vices are implicated in our virtues, how our good intentions are shot through with ulterior motives, how our hopes and fears are mixed up with our routine reality—never simplifying the ambiguities of perspective or collapsing the many layers of meaning—and yet she is always in perfect command of her mountains of material. A host of minor characters marches through these pages, each one individualized, many of them charming, some hilarious, a few irritating, and all of them vividly real. I could see parts of myself in every one of them, from the petulant Fred Vincey, to the blunt Mary Garth, to the frigid Mr. Casaubon, to the muddle-headed Mr. Brooke—almost Dickensian in his comic exaggeration—to every gossip, loony, miser, dissolute, profilage, and tender-heart—the list cannot be finished. Perhaps Eliot's most astounding feat is to combine the aesthetic, with the ethical, with the analytic, in such a way that you can no longer view them separately. Eliot's masterpiece charms as it preaches; it is both beautiful and wise; it pulls on the heart while engaging the head; and it is, in the words of Virgina Woolf, “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.”

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lawyer

    Middlemarch: A Study in what Matters Full review to follow. In the utmost brevity, if you have found the mere thought of reading Middlemarch too daunting because of its sheer length, it is time to cast the fear aside and take your copy down from the shelf and begin to read. Find yourself immersed in a world of saints and sinners in rural England of the 1830s. George Eliot's novel breathes of life on every page. Joy in it. Revel in it. Do not think of it as a book from which the dust of a distant Middlemarch: A Study in what Matters Full review to follow. In the utmost brevity, if you have found the mere thought of reading Middlemarch too daunting because of its sheer length, it is time to cast the fear aside and take your copy down from the shelf and begin to read. Find yourself immersed in a world of saints and sinners in rural England of the 1830s. George Eliot's novel breathes of life on every page. Joy in it. Revel in it. Do not think of it as a book from which the dust of a distant past must be blown, that means nothing today. It will bring much to you if you simply open it and begin to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kelly

    I would not have read this if it were not for a class I took last spring. I will admit that. It had always intimidated me. Large size and dense, winding prose will tend to do that to one. However. It did have some things to say. The problem, of course, is that most of the subject matter it tackles- marriages, love, children, the various problems of country life are things that people can read about in many forms, and they don't need to come to such a Serious book to do it. Especially one that add I would not have read this if it were not for a class I took last spring. I will admit that. It had always intimidated me. Large size and dense, winding prose will tend to do that to one. However. It did have some things to say. The problem, of course, is that most of the subject matter it tackles- marriages, love, children, the various problems of country life are things that people can read about in many forms, and they don't need to come to such a Serious book to do it. Especially one that adds in highly unnecessary tangents on the subjects of politics and industry written into whatever chapter Eliot happened to be working on at the time (or so it seemed). The light touch of Austen is just a hand wandering down a bookshelf away, after all. But I really must say, taking it for a book about just those things would definitely be missing a whole lot of the point. It's astoundingly accomplished and witty and her knowledge on a wide range of subjects is truly impressive. My issue with this book is that it can be quite dry, for all it's interesting ideas. And even with all it's intelligence and sharpness.... it's very hard to connect with or care about any of the characters. If you do, it's generally not the characters you're supposed to connect to, or not for the right reasons. I connected with the heroine, but only because some of her delusions happened to match up with my own in my teenage years. But that's superficial and doesn't matter. The only person I felt that I genuinely understood and wanted good things to happen to was Mary, and she didn't have anywhere near enough screen time, so that was irritating. Anyway, it's wonderful, it's just... quite a chore, and I can't give any more stars to a novel that was so difficult to get through.

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