Middlemarch is a book by George Eliot, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, following the lives of a huge range of characters.
‘The narrative is variably considered to consist of three or four plots of unequal emphasis: the life of Dorothea Brooke; the career of Tertius Lydgate; the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy; and the disgrace of Bulstrode. The two main plots are those of Dorothea and Lydgate.’
Middlemarch addresses topics such as courtship and marriage, as well as politics and facing the prospect of unwelcome change as a community.
I enjoyed the beginning of Middlemarch; Eliot’s writing is witty and sarcastic, which is particularly noticeable when characters quip about the sexes.
“I don’t see how a man is to be good for much unless he has some one woman to love him dearly.”
“We must not have you getting too learned for a woman, you know.”
Middlemarch is not a romance, unlike Austen’s works for instance. Subsequently, Eliot’s characters are more realistic than Austen’s stereotypical romantic characters. The people in Middlemarch speak and behave like real people, in ways that Austen characters never did, making foolish choices which then impacted the plot.
Having said that, I didn’t actually enjoy many of the characters in Middlemarch, or their respective storylines. I liked seeing the life of Dorothea unfold, but I simply did not care for the seemingly endless chapters set in offices, reading about Lydgate and Bulstrode discussing various administrative duties.
As I got about halfway through the book, Middlemarch became much more of a challenge to read and complete – creating a similar experience to when I read Anna Karenina or War and Peace.
I was glad to finally finish Middlemarch but ultimately, I don’t think it was the right book for me.