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Middlemarch (1872)

by George Eliot

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
16,276314280 (4.19)15 / 1808
One of the most accomplished and prominent novels of the Victorian era, "Middlemarch" is an unsurpassed portrait of nineteenth-century English provincial life. Dorothea Brooke is a young woman of fervent ideals who yearns to effect social change yet faces resistance from the society she inhabits. In this epic in a small landscape, Eliot's large cast of precisely delineated characters and the rich tapestry of their stories result in a wise, compassionate, and astute vision of human nature. As Virginia Woolf declared, George Eliot "was one of the first English novelists to discover that men and women think as well as feel, and the discovery was of great artistic moment."… (more)
  1. 121
    Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (christiguc, HollyMS)
  2. 133
    Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (shallihavemydwarf)
  3. 71
    The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (Booksloth)
  4. 41
    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
    South Riding by Winifred Holtby (Booksloth)
  7. 20
    The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë (amanda4242)
  8. 20
    The Victorian House: Domestic Life from Childbirth to Deathbed by Judith Flanders (susanbooks)
  9. 10
    Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: These 19th-century classics portray complex romantic relationships with vivid descriptions and a strong sense of place. With intricate, twisting plots, both offer their protagonists bleak outlooks that end in satisfying resolutions.
  10. 10
    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)
  11. 00
    Deerbrook by Harriet Martineau (souloftherose)
  12. 01
    George Eliot. by Elsemarie Maletzke (JuliaMaria)
  13. 15
    Ulysses by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
    kara.shamy: Similar -- almost unique really -- in their tremendous breadth and depth...
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English (296)  Spanish (5)  Swedish (2)  German (1)  French (1)  Dutch (1)  Finnish (1)  Latvian (1)  All languages (308)
Showing 1-5 of 296 (next | show all)
55. Middlemarch : A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
afterword: Frank Kermode (1964)
published: 1872
format: 820-page Signet classic (verso says 1964 edition, 4th printing. It has a receipt inside dated “16 Oct 73”)
acquired: 2009 from a library book sale read: Oct 1 – Nov 25 time reading: 37:55, 2.8 mpp
rating: 4½
genre/style: Victorian classic theme: VIctorian
locations: English midlands, around 1830.
about the author: penname of Mary Ann Evans, 1819-1880, born in Warkwickshire, England. She later lived in Coventry and then, from 1850, in London.

Well. After 57 days, I'm grateful to have read this, but I never locked in, and all my appreciation is from an emotional distance.

It is a slow read, and at 820 pages, a real commitment. It's a smart, serious-but-still-playful look at variations in relationships and marriages within an English Midlands village c1830 (pointedly before some major parliamentary reform passed in 1832 - although I personally don't actually know anything about that reform).

What i liked: Dorothea. Especially how Eliot introduces and mocks her early on. But also how she gains strength not despite of these flaws, but because of them. I loved Dorothea. I also enjoyed Eliot's clever humor and social commentary. She undoes all her best characters, and it makes them all much more likable. Rosamond, Lydgate, Fred, Mary, Bulstrode and his especially his wife, who has really only a one-chapter cameo, but it's very powerful cameo. These all made for terrific characters. I even liked Casaubon, and felt sympathy for his flaws.

What I didn't like: it's slow and, while it has an overall structure that requires this, it doesn't completely add up. The joy is in the text, her writing style and cleverness, and less so, I think, in the overall structure. It can get very tedious when it becomes patronizing (see Caleb Garth, or Lydgate's backstory flaws). Kermode was harsh on poor overly-simple Will Ladislaw, and while I have some sympathy for him, I can see Kermode's point.

Some Victorian thoughts on my mind: This novel has less literary power than I've experienced with Austen or Dickens, and has less foundation than Austen (but much more than Gaskell). It‘s gently feminist, but less so than Austen or Wharton, IMO. It‘s a thoughts-out-front sort of novel, her strong ideas presented within the text in clever ways. This is another link to Wharton. I suspect Wharton was very much a student of Eliot. And I couldn't help imagining Wharton building her unschooled Undine ([Custom of the Country]) from this perfectly schooled Rosamond.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/345047#7987349 ( )
  dchaikin | Nov 27, 2022 |
Primary protagonist, Dorothea, is an independent-minded woman. She thinks by marrying an educated older gentleman that she can become a true partner in his academic pursuits; however, she is sorely disappointed as she runs up against the patriarchal society and its narrow view of a woman’s ability to contribute. We meet many other residents of Middlemarch, including Dorothea’s guardian, sister, and brother-in-law; Bulstrode, the banker; Lydgate, the newly arrived doctor with his advanced medical thinking; Lydgate’s beautiful wife, Rosamond; Fred and Mary, a young couple hoping to marry; and Will Ladislaw, a young man with a background of lesser repute who is attracted to Dorothea, but prohibited by circumstances from courting her.

I will not attempt to summarize the plot since this is an extremely long book with lots of characters. I counted four main storylines. It is primarily character-driven until near the end. This is a true Victorian novel, published in 1871 and set in the 1830s in a fictional small English town. It addresses social issues of the author’s time, such as the role of women, reluctance to adopt medical advances, and social stratification.

We are privy to the characters’ inner thoughts and can easily see how actions can be misconstrued. We identify the mismatched partners, and their marital difficulties are not surprising. The writing style is elaborate, using many paragraphs to say what we would now express in a couple sentences. This style will obviously not be for everyone. I knew what I was getting into, but even so, I had to read several passages more than once to get the gist of what was being conveyed.

“But this vague conviction of indeterminable guilt, which was enough to keep up much head-shaking and biting innuendo even among substantial professional seniors, had for the general mind all the superior power of mystery over fact. Everybody liked better to conjecture how the thing was, rather than simply to know it; for conjecture soon became more confident than knowledge, and had a more liberal allowance for the incompatible. Even the more definite scandal…was, for some minds, melted into the mass of mystery, as so much lively metal to be poured out in dialogue, and to take such fantastic shapes as heaven pleased.”

I think in current times this novel would have been pared down considerably and focused more on the protagonist. Dorothea disappears for long stretches of the narrative. I recommend reading it slowly, and it is structured in short chapters that make this easy to do. By the end, everything gels. I ended up enjoying it much more than expected. I am glad I finally got around to reading this classic.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Though this book was long, and took me about 3 weeks to read, I'm glad I read it.

Eliot brings delightful and hateful characters to life in this story that takes place in and around a small town in mid-England, 1828-1832. The characters range from small-town merchants and their families, and the occupants of estates that surround Middlemarch. Her characterization and imagery are life-like, and I was visualizing some of the characters vividly. For example, I visualized Dr Tertius Lydgate, one of the good guys, as Michael York.

This book is one that will stay with me. I highly recommend it. ( )
  burritapal | Oct 23, 2022 |
The last 300 pages or so involve more intense conflict and, so, are more engaging to read. The characters are not, in themselves, interesting enough for me to be invested in their internal landscapes alone, though the narrator treats them as if they are. The earnestness and gravity with which the narrator communicates the inner lives of the characters feels disproportionate to the substance of those inner lives. The main characters are, for the most part, incredibly feeble; their circumstances always have the upper hand, tyrannizing them and forcing them into monotonous postures of self-pity, obtuseness, or general malaise. They seldom DO anything compelling; occasionally, something may happen TO them. Then they mope (or, if we're lucky, gossip) incessantly. One last criticism: I find the narrative voice stiff and the prose overwrought. I came close to not enjoying the novel at all, but my rating is, in part, an act of deference to its canonical status. ( )
  BeauxArts79 | Oct 8, 2022 |
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Eliot, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, QuentinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arbonès, JordiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ashton, RosemaryEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aubrey, JulietNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baldi, GiovanniEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Beaty, JeromeAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Bonaparte, FeliciaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bonaparte, FeliciaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Boyd, CaroleNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brett, SImonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bullett, GeraldIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Byatt, A.S.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carroll, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cooley, MasonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Creswick, ThomasCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dielman, Frederick DielmanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dixon, A. A.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drabble, MargaretIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Egan, JenniferIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Elias, MonicaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Faber, MichelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitzgerald, PenelopeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gray, BerylEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregory, PhilippaAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haight, Gordon S.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Halley, NedAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Handley, GrahamIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harris, MargaretEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hart, KingsleyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvey, William JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henry, NancyPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hewitt, R. M.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hidalgo, PilarEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hische, JessicaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hornback, Bert G.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Johnston, JudithEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Kermode, FrankAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
López Muñoz, José LuisTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Levine, GeorgeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Sabbadini, SilvanoEditorsecondary 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.
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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Wikipedia in English


One of the most accomplished and prominent novels of the Victorian era, "Middlemarch" is an unsurpassed portrait of nineteenth-century English provincial life. Dorothea Brooke is a young woman of fervent ideals who yearns to effect social change yet faces resistance from the society she inhabits. In this epic in a small landscape, Eliot's large cast of precisely delineated characters and the rich tapestry of their stories result in a wise, compassionate, and astute vision of human nature. As Virginia Woolf declared, George Eliot "was one of the first English novelists to discover that men and women think as well as feel, and the discovery was of great artistic moment."

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Book description
By the time the novel appeared to tremendous popular and critical acclaim in 1871-2, George Eliot was recognized as England's finest living novelist. It was her ambition to create a world and portray a whole community--tradespeople, middle classes, country gentry--in the rising provincial town of Middlemarch, circa 1830. Vast and crowded, rich in narrative irony and suspense, «Middlemarch» is richer still in character, in its sense of how individual destinies are shaped by and shape the community, and in the great art that enlarges the reader's sympathy and imagination. It is truly, as Virginia Woolf famously remarked, 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people'.
Haiku summary
dorothea cares

in a world not quite ready

to accept her views
Interwoven fates,
A tapestry of stories,
Each thread a life.

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Victorian Readalong Q4: Middlemarch by George Eliot in Club Read 2022

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439548, 0141199792, 0143123815

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2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102162, 1400108632

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