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Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Middlemarch (original 1872; edition 2012)

by George Eliot

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,522165271 (4.21)10 / 1231
  1. 110
    Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (christiguc, Hollerama)
  2. 91
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (shallihavemydwarf)
  3. 50
    The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (Booksloth)
  4. 30
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (PensiveCat)
  5. 30
    My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: One reader's relationship with this novel; also some biography of Eliot and a literary criticism.
  6. 20
    The Getting of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson (thesmellofbooks)
    thesmellofbooks: The Getting of Wisdom is the rare sort of book that provokes deep self-reflection and a nudge in the direction of peace-making with self and life, and in this way brings to mind [[George Eliot]]'s [Middlemarch]. I am gobsmacked. The novel begins as an entertaining tale of a headstrong young Australian girl going to meet the world at boarding school. It gradually evolves into a subtle, simple, and stunningly real observation of the pressures of conformity and the intolerance of naïveté, which, when paired with a strong desire to be accepted, can lead to many and often rending responses in an imaginative young person. Yet it is not a tragedy. I am left moved, affectionate, a little worried about the future, and yet joyful at the intactness of the protagonist's resilient soul. Bravo, Ms Richardson.… (more)
  7. 20
    South Riding: An English Landscape by Winifred Holtby (Booksloth)
  8. 20
    The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)
  9. 02
    Ulysses by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
    kara.shamy: Similar -- almost unique really -- in their tremendous breadth and depth...
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Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life was George Eliot’s seventh novel and was originally published in a serial from 1871-72. Set in a fictional town, this novel follows a wide range of characters in interlocking narratives that really do allow the reader to study the provincial life of Middlemarch. As this is broken into eight “books” it would be difficult to summarise the plot and even write a review that could do this book justice. Instead I am going to write down some thoughts and observations I found while reading Middlemarch.

First of all, I think it is beneficial to know a little about George Eliot; an understanding of her life helps put a lot of this novel into perspective. Most people know George Eliot is a pen name for Mary Ann Evans, she used the pseudonym to keep her private life from public scrutiny, as she was in a relationship with a married man, George Henry Lewes with whom she was living with. She picked a male nom de plume to escape the stereotypes placed on woman writers, this allowed her to offer a social critic without being judged on her gender. Raised as an Anglican, Mary Ann struggled with religious doubts and eventually became an atheist. As a young woman (before her relationship with George Henry Lewes), her father threatened to throw her out of the house due to her non-belief, but they seemed to come to a compromise. Mary Ann continued to attend church with her father until he passed away to keep him happy, even if she didn’t believe in a God anymore.

This is a very tiny glimpse at Mary Ann Evans but I wanted to share that information about her as it ties into common themes found throughout Middlemarch. The themes I am talking about here are gossip, marriage, femininity and religion. Living in Victorian England may not be too different to now (people like to gossip), Mary Ann would have been the subject of plenty of gossip and in a small town like Middlemarch it feels like the primary source of information. Throughout this novel, information is continuously being conveyed from an indirect party. George Eliot satirises the idea of gossip by continuously having other characters speak on someone else’s behalf to avoid direct communication. While others will avoid conversations believing that any relevant information will eventually make its way to them. These ideas of gossip feel like Eliot is poking fun at how gossip is used, however as a social commentary it is spot on.

I love what George Eliot has to say on the ideas of courtship and marriage and this is one of the most important parts of the novel. In Middlemarch marriage is never an end result, the happily ever after ending literary trope. While some people do end up being happy, there are plenty of unhappy marriages within the novel. Mary Ann’s lover George Henry Lewes was trapped in an unhappy marriage which he couldn’t get out of and this seems to be the basis of relationships within Middlemarch. There is this exploration of the idea of courtship, and it begs the reader to question these ideas. There are a lot of thoughts on how well we can really know someone before marriage; playing with ideas on being an outsider, deception and even intimacy. Each marriage within Middlemarch is different and it allows the reader to explore these unions as part of a social construct.

While there was a huge focus on marriage within Middlemarch there still were a few unwed woman within the novel. There are well educated women with the book that sometimes appear to be happier than the woman trapped in marriage. Eliot wanted to depict woman as strong individuals who have something to offer the world other than just being wives and mothers. The women in the book are often great and complex personalities but then Eliot plays with the ideas of suppressing themselves for men and the role they play in society. There is some social conditioning within the book but ultimately I kept seeing this idea of women having the ability to make social change.

Finally I want to talk about religion and spirituality; this is an interesting theme that steams from Mary Ann’s own life. I suspect sitting in a church listening to someone talk about a God she didn’t believe in made her think a lot about spirituality and organised religion. I haven’t used any examples but in this case I want to compare Dorothea with Mr Bulstrode. Dorothea has this internal and private spiritual life, the depiction of this is somewhat vague in the novel. This is because as an outsider she doesn’t come across as a spiritual person but internally it is an intimate part of her life. While Mr Bulstrode is portrayed as someone who is more public about his religious beliefs. While not always hypocritical he has a warped opinion; he believes his previous transgressions are part of the providential plan but will openly condemn others for their past misdeeds. Throughout Middlemarch, religion and spirituality is explored in different way and it is interesting to compare it with the ideas of morality within the novel.

There are so many different themes I can talk about, including money, education, vocations, social classes and even self-delusion but that would drag this on too much. I read Middlemarch with the aid of a reading guide called Eliot’s Middlemarch by Josie Billington and I did this because there is so much to offer within this novel I wanted to get as much as I could from the book. This is a smart and intelligent social commentary and I got the sense that there was no wasted moments within the book despite the fact it was 880 pages long. I dipped in and out of this novel for six months and I am glad I choose to read it in this way; it allowed me to ponder what I read before moving on. It is the type of book you need to spend a lot of time with and written in a way that allows you to dip in and out.

I haven’t even talked about the writing or style of Middlemarch and that is probably the most important part. There is a slight detachment within the style, this is probably because the novel is a form of social criticism; a study of provincial life. Having said that, I found Middlemarch very funny; the satirical irony and wit played a big part for me, but you could also say this is a morbid book. The style of the book is psychological, erudite and extremely elegant; I often felt myself being swept away with the writing but still fascinated by the insightfulness.

It is hard to explain how much I loved this book; this a realistic depiction of Victorian life and George Eliot displays a real mastery on human nature. However, even though it sounds like it is nothing but a psychological look at society, Eliot is able to make you feel like you are a part of the story. I am sure you can read this book as just a beautiful Victorian classic but I picked up this book for the social criticism. If you do want to get more out of this book then I recommend Josie Billington’s reading guide Eliot’s Middlemarch. This is the type of book I will need to frequently return to throughout my life and see what I get out of it with a re-read.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2014/12/17/middlemarch-by-george-eliot/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 18, 2014 |
Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life is exactly what it claims. Its multiple plots center around the inhabitants of a fictitious Midlands town and their evolving relationships to each other. It is critical of social class, ambition and marriage, and religion. It is commonly considered one of the masterpieces of English writing, and Virginia Woolf described it as "the magnificent book that, with all its imperfections, is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people". Summary from online resource OVERDRIVE

My reivew is based on the audiobook read by Kate Reading. The extraordinary opening--a reference to Teresa of Avila's "passionate, ideal nature" which "demanded an epic life"--encourages the contrast to the protagonist, Dorothea Brooks, who 300 years later, with similar passionate, ideal nature :

found no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion.

and sets the stage of stifling Victorian scenarios for almost all characters involved. You want to shake Dorothea and tell her to smarten up...but there wouldn't be a story.

MIDDLEMARCH is thick with quotables:

One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.

and

But what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.

and

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.

MIDDLEMARCH is long--no question--but elegantly penned with dry humour and thought-provoking observations.

An interesting background note is that George Eliot/Mary Ann Evans practiced what she believed in: freedom, independence, pursuit of ideals--at 35 she braved public and family censure when she began a relationship with a married man with whom she lived from 1854 until his death in 1878.

8 out of 10 Highly recommended in the audiobook version to all....when you have the time! ( )
  julie10reads | Nov 23, 2014 |
So, it took me two months to read this one start to finish, but I did it. And I must say, I enjoyed it. Although I think George Eliot could have told the story just as well in 700 pages as in 840, there weren't any obvious spots I'd cut; no detailed accounts of politics at the time or how much things cost or nineteenth-century fishing practices.

I loved Dorothea most of any character, mostly because the mistakes she made---which were fairly big---were all made in a spirit of self-sacrifice and doing the right thing. The other characters in the novel run into trouble when they start acting in narrow self-interest. If you live in Middlemarch and lack self-reflection, Eliot has it in for you.

Of course, even with ample self-reflection, that doesn't necessarily mean everything's going to be coming up roses for you. This is a realistic book in the sense that the problems people face don't have clear-cut solutions, and even the "happy" endings aren't unequivocally happy.

But Dorothea is awesome because she's unrelenting about following her convictions, no matter what kind of discomfort it leads her into. Even when she's making really big errors in judgement, I still love her.

Dorothea is the agent of the only totally genuine conversation of the entire novel---and that doesn't happen until Chapter 81, nearly 800 pages into the book. This is why I think this book took so long to read: Things couldn't happen quickly because no one was being straight with anyone else. Everyone's calculating what they should say based on how they think the other person will react or how they want to make the other person react, and in the meantime acting behind each others' backs, and it's enough to make me want to pull my hair out sometimes. Just say what you mean, Middlemarchers! Jeez, Louise!

For the rest of the review, please visit my blog, ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Nov 6, 2014 |
I love the Virginia Woolf quote about Middlemarch: "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people." ( )
  jpe9 | Nov 5, 2014 |
I loved this book, from beginning to end. I can't remember right now when I read it, or why on earth I didn't write a review! ( )
  greeniezona | Sep 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 157 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (73 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eliot, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ashton, RosemaryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Creswick, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvey, W. J.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolf, GabrielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl waling forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? (Prelude)
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
"Now, ladies," said Mr. Trumbull, ... "these bijoux must be examined. This I have in my hand is an ingenious contrivance -- a sort of practical rebus I may call it: here, you see, it looks like an elegant heart-shaped box, portable - for the pocket; there, again, it becomes like a splendid double flower -- an ornament for the table; and now" -- Mr. Trumbull allowed the flower to fall alarmingly into strings of heart-shaped leaves -- "a book of riddles! No less than five hundred printed in a beautiful red."
Quotations
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress.
Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.
What we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope.
Riding was an indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms; she felt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always looked forward to renouncing it.
Some discouragement, some faintness of the 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 emotions of mankind.
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Haiku summary
dorothea cares

in a world not quite ready

to accept her views

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439548, Paperback)

It was George Eliot’s ambition to create a world and portray a whole community—tradespeople, middle classes, country gentry—in the rising fictional provincial town of Middlemarch, circa 1830. Vast and crowded, rich in narrative irony and
suspense, Middlemarch is richer still in character and in its sense of how individual destinies are shaped by and shape the community.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:19 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Set in a provincial Victorian neighborhood, the author explores the complex social relationship and the struggle to hold fast to personal tragedy in a materialistic environment.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 26 descriptions

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Audible.com

21 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439548, 0141199792, 0143123815

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