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Middlemarch

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3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  82,380 ratings  ·  3,882 reviews
Writing at the very moment when the foundations of Western thought were being challenged and undermined, George Eliot fashions in Middlemarch (1871-2) the quintessential Victorian novel, a concept of life and society free from the dogma of the past yet able to confront the scepticism that was taking over the age.

In a panoramic sweep of English life during the years leading
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Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 810 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press (first published 1872)
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Ariel (mot_avant) No. 24, for anyone interested: "We should not turn the mind from one thing to another, except for relaxation, & that when it is necessary &…moreNo. 24, for anyone interested: "We should not turn the mind from one thing to another, except for relaxation, & that when it is necessary & the time suitable, & not otherwise. For he that relaxes out of season wearies, & he who wearies us out of season makes us languid, since we turn quite away. So much does our perverse lust like to do the contrary of what those wish to obtain from us without giving us pleasure, the coin for which we will do whatever is wanted."(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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Siobhan
Dec 04, 2013 Siobhan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone alive.
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.
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
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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 here's the best I can do: George Eliot is better than Tolstoy.

Tolstoy is a realistic writer: h
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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
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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
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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 ...more
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 -
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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
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Aubrey
"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
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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
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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
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Phil Williams
Oct 10, 2007 Phil Williams rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The jackanapes and mongrels who need to learn that people aren't so bad as they seem.
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
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Cheryl
MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot is a classic of nineteenth century prose about a vividly portrayed city in England with a cast of characters who fill the pages with perceptions, desires, and belief systems of their time.

Three principle couples inhabit the pages, two characters are remembered for their moral views and undertakings, others for everyman thoughts and actions. The conflict is resolved in the last 100 pages, and Middlemarch is turned upside down in a wonderous ending.

Eliot states in the
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Mala
From this book, I learned that I'm not fit to hold a pencil.
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
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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.
Kelly
May 23, 2007 Kelly rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women, particularly feminists, brit lit dorks
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
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Jason Koivu
Midway through Middlemarch I was fully through with Middlemarch.

Perhaps I've read too many Austen, Gaskell and other books of this genre and era for my own good, because I saw every plot turn, twist and device coming from a country mile away, and I got bored of it pretty quickly. I did not need the multitude of examples Eliot gave for each character's failings or whatever trait she might have been trying to illuminate. While useful to the plot to an extent, the excess wasn't necessary. It only s
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Terry
Jun 04, 2012 Terry rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Terry by: Richard Derus
I was wavering at around 4 - 4.5 stars on this, but in the end I have to give it a full 5. _Middlemarch_ by George Eliot (aka Mary Anne Evans) is, first and last, an extraordinary achievement. Other writers have worked with a large and varied cast. Other writers have written social commentaries with verve and wit. There is something about Eliot’s work, though, that is somehow unique. Two other writers come to mind with whom Eliot could (or even should), perhaps, be compared. Dickens is one of th ...more
Christopher H.
I have just finished reading Middlemarch, and this pretty much completes my reading of George Eliot's major works. Middlemarch truly is quite the sublime novel from start to finish. At first blush one has this sense of simply being immersed in a rather quiet and pastoral story, but there's really very much more going on here as one turns the pages.It is a story of rural England during the period of great reforms in politics, religion, agriculture, manufacturing, medicine, and even transportation ...more
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 ...more
Daniel
Nov 19, 2009 Daniel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daniel by: Rose
Shelves: 2009
How does one review "Middlemarch?" Is doing so different than reviewing life itself? Both are a succession of births, deaths, marriages, debts accrued, debts paid, careers made, careers finished, love affairs begun, love affairs ended, love affairs left unconsummated, dreams fulfilled, dreams destroyed, and dreams deferred. As in life, many of the people encountered in "Middlemarch" are unlikable, and even the ones who are likable have myriad flaws. "Middlemarch" is very long and parts are kind ...more
Trevor
If I was to offer gratuitous advice to young people – and I guess I’m getting to an age where offering such advice seems almost mandatory – then it would be that just because everyone you know thinks that you are about to make a terrible mistake doesn’t automatically make them wrong and you right. There is a character in this who goes against the crowd twice in the novel – the first time she is dead wrong and the next time we are meant to feel that she is right. I guess, in the end, there is no ...more
Dee
There are videos on youtube of Beethoven's 9th where the music plays accompanied by a scrolling bar-graph score: different parts of the orchestra and various instruments are represented by coloured bars that light up when the notes are hit, and the fact the graph scrolls along forward allows you to anticipate where the melody is going and admire its perfect construction. From the regal beginning of the first movement, to the grand finale of the Ode to Joy, the symphony is a perfect and complete ...more
helen the bookowl
I just turned the last page of this book and I'm left with a hollow feeling inside. This is one of those books that takes you on a journey that leaves you speechless. You commit so much energy and attention to it (mainly because of its size), and it is so hard to leave this story and these characters behind after having spent a wonderful week with them.
What I love the most about this grand novel is the fact that it follows a number of people who all live in the village of Middlemarch. You there
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Jen
Jan 25, 2010 Jen rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jen by: Barbara Kingsolver, Meg
Eliot could give depth of character to someone like Al Gore. I'm not sure how she would have gone about it, but I know that she could have done it. I'm convinced by this:
"Miss Brooke argued from words and dispositions not less unhesitatingly than other young ladies of her age. Signs are small measurable things, but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet, ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief, vast as a sky, and coloured by a diffused thimbleful of
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Sue
I doubt there is anything new that can be said about Middlemarch so I will limit myself to my reactions. Eliot really knew people, how they interact for good and ill, how they sometimes use others, love or manipulate others. And she knew British towns and town living. What a mixture. In a wonderful way she was able to mix these things together in Middlemarch.

I will extend my reading to see how she deals with other members/levels of society in the future.

Addendum: As I read this on my Kindle Fire
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Elizabeth
Excuse me whilst I go and weep in a corner over this novel. I just knew that last paragraph was going to mess with my emotions, dammit. Virginia Woolf certainly wasn't wrong when she called it 'one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.' Eliot really was a masterful writer.
[P]
I am not, I must confess, terribly fond of Englishness. I suppose that being English I find it too familiar, and therefore unexciting. Or perhaps it is the case that my tough upbringing worked on me as a kind of aversion therapy, so that everything connected with my homeland strikes me as unappealing. I don’t know. Until I came to think about this review, I had never really sought to thoroughly explain to myself my preference for things foreign, a preference that extends to the women I have been ...more
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In 1819, novelist George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), was born at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favorite of her father's, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. Her first published work was a religious poe ...more
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“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” 368 likes
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