Lindsey Strachan's Reviews > Middlemarch

Middlemarch by George Eliot
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's review
Oct 03, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: desert-island-books-my-all-time-f

Wow - what a rollercoaster. I finished Middlemarch last night, on my second attempt, and I am so glad I gave it a second go. Like some other reviewers, I found it really slow going at first, hence why I abandoned my first attempt at the novel. I reckon this has something to do with the way in which Eliot wrote the book - it's first couple of hundred pages essentially being two different stories she had begun seperately and abandoned being brought together into one book, and also being written at a time of great personal bereavement. For me this made the early chapters of the book feel a bit disjointed and a bit overly philosophical.

However, once the different stories began to merge together as a whole more effectively, and the plot became more eventful whilst still including the the deeper ponderings of the author on subjects like religion, the book became mesmerizing. Suddenly the characters really seemed to come to life - each one of them, even the saintly Dorothea - having failings and strengths which Eliot describes perfectly. The storyline really draws you in and you cannot help but care what happens to the characters and where events will take them.

I have only read two of Eliot's novel's but I have already come to love her work. Her prose is so lyrical, intelligently structured and she is able to focus on the detail without it ever feeling like the work is being bogged down. I would advise readers who are interested in Eliot's works to start with something like the Mill on the Floss, and work up to reading Middlemarch. The writing, while being Eliot's strength, in Middlemarch is also it's biggest drawback. Once you get into the book you are carried along by it, but at first I confess I did find the writing style and references to current events made reading hard going - I had to concentrate hard and often refer to footnotes (it really is essential to read a version of this book with footnotes) which made for a slightly disjointed reading experience. However, once I got used to the novel's "voice" I was captivated.

Middlemarch is an intelligent, grown up novel deserving of the title of "classic" - indeed it is one of the finest examples of Victorian literature I have had the pleasure of reading. The only reason it is not a 5 star from me is because of the issue of the slow start. Please don't let that put you off - when you have finished this fine book you will not regret the effort invested in it.

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