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April 23, 2006

Middlemarch always sounded like a boring book to me. But when Laurie mentioned that it was her favorite book next to Anna Karenina (which I adored) I decided that was high praise, and I’d have to check it out myself.

Written by George Eliot, the novel contains multiple stories that seem to have little to do with each other, which ultimately converge at the end. One thing I really enjoyed was Eliot’s humor, which had the flavor of Jane Austin in it’s sarcastic comments on society, like, “women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbours did, so that if any lunatics were at large, one might know and avoid them.”

The novel centers on two idealistic individuals, Tertius Lydgate, a young doctor new to the town of Middlemarch who cares more about caring for people than making money, and Dorothea Brooke, who desires to live a life helping others with her “great plans.” Both marry unsuitable mates and must see their dreams remain unfulfilled. The book, actually, would be excellent to read for a girl considering marriage, because one thing the novel highlights is how our perceptions of a person before marrying them can be based on very little reality.

Eliot’s characterization is superb. The most despised characters we were brought to understand and pity. The most delightful and loved ones are flawed and inconsistent. Although Dorothea’s piousness was annoying in the beginning, we see her mature through hardship, and in the end, her moral beliefs and spirituality are put to the test. She alone seeks truth in a situation where gossip and slander has run wild, with the viewpoint that “people glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest neighbours.” When faced with helping Lydgate’s strained marriage by speaking into his wife’s life, although the situation is painful for herself as well, she tells herself, “What should I do–how should I act now, this very day if I could clutch my own pain, and compel it to silence, and think of those three!”

Although it has not surpassed my love for Anna Karenina, Middlemarch was worth the 838 pages and was an immersing read. I highly recommend it to all those 19th-Century novel lovers out there! Now I’m off to start watching the PBS mini-series!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 24, 2006 10:47 pm

    Thanks for the great review, Danielle! I am going to add this to my reading list!

  2. April 25, 2006 12:21 am

    Have you read “Wives and Daughters”? I am in the middle of watching the movie. I have not read the book yet.
    Thanks for the suggestion on this one.. Do you have any others?

  3. April 25, 2006 9:19 am

    Linda, I’ve heard of “Wives and Daughters” but haven’t read it. Isn’t written by Gaskell? You know, even my husband is LOVING the “Middlemarch” pbs series. That’s got to say something about how good it is!

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