Shoma Patnaik's Reviews > Middlemarch

Middlemarch by George Eliot
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's review
Oct 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, britain, society, politics, religion, rural
Read from September 09 to October 10, 2011

As much as I liked Middlemarch, I confess that the next time I decide to read a particularly long book, I shall first check whether it was serialised or not. Perhaps this is the reason I didn't like War and Peace as much - a book may be experienced in a completely different way when you read bite-sized pieces of it every week and when you have to swallow it in one go. That said, Middlemarch isn't as bloated and difficult to be immersed in (but then again, it was serialised in bigger portions).

What I liked best about this book was the setting, the period of change that George Eliot portrays so well. This is rather surprising since at the beginning I found the constant discussions on the Reform Bill a little dry. However, as the novel went on and especially as the changing times were placed in reference to the characters - Tertius Lydgate, especially - I found that they kept me more interested than the romances. To be sure, Mr, Brooke getting heckled at a political rally was more interesting to read about than Rosamond's melodramas.

I can't say how far I like the characters, even though most of them are well-written, with multiple shades of personality. My favourites were the Garths, Fred Vincy and Mr. Farebrother and I preferred the story-arc involving these characters to those with Dorothea or Lydgate. I would have liked Dorothea more if there was more to her in practice rather than just theory. I understand that the author wanted to point out the importance of unsung heroes but I wasn't very happy with her ultimate fate: it wasn't all that different from what happens to her with Casaubon, only less stressful, I suppose. Still, her marriage is depicted with a lot of maturity and Casaubon, while disagreeable, never becomes a theatrical villain. On the other hand, I like the way that Rosamond's character is written because she's stronger than Dorothea but all the same, I just couldn't get myself to like her at all. I think Mary Garth was the perfect balance between strength and amiability. Mr. Farebrother was my favourite male character, although I also liked Fred's evolution.

I liked the way Eliot uses epigraphs to head each chapter; they work quite well although a few were rather trite. I was never more grateful for the copious footnotes that came with my copy of the book; I wouldn't have been able to understand the story as well without understanding all the references, literary, historical or social, that Eliot makes throughout the book.

I was able to really get drawn into this book only after the first three or four volumes. Before that, I could barely read a hundred pages every few days. In any case, the book accomplishes rather well the blending of events with ordinary human lives and that was what kept me reading.

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