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Middlemarch is a Crown Jewel

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message 1: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy Oliver To me Middlemarch represents one of the crown jewels in the age when women first found their literary voices. I love that Dorothea is a woman with "thinking powers," and a passionate desire to make her life amount to something important even though the avenues to that were few. I return again and again to Eliot, Austen, and the Brontes and their counterparts in American literature -- to hear again their idealism and to learn from their strengths.


Wendy Babiak I adore Middlemarch. Thanks for the reminder! I may have to pull it off the shelf and read it again.


Sari This is my favorite book!


Kate F I agree with Joy. Like all of George Elliot's books the story is well written with strong, unforgettable characters. I imagine that the author based Dorothea on herself as a young woman. This is a book to return to every few years to see how it changes in your perception as you mature. If you really can't make time to read it, the BBC did a wonderful dramatisation of it which is available on DVD.


message 5: by Vik (new) - rated it 5 stars

Vik Rubenfeld The metaphors in Middlemarch blew my mind.


Andrea I thought there was a lot of commentary in Middlemarch on marriage in its various forms.


Judith Deborah It's one of my favorite books of all time. One thing that makes it particularly amazing is that it's actually funny in spots, which is not what one generally expects from a classic novel. The writing is so beautiful, and the characters so vivid. I really admire Dorothea, and I love her sister, too. Such a wonderful counterpoint.


message 8: by Edward (new) - added it

Edward Nudelman Amazing plot and character development; I remember reading somewhere it's widely considered one of the greatest novels of our time because of the creative and colorful characterization


B0nnie Middlemarch is also one of my favourites. How I love to hate Casaubon and Rosamond...


message 10: by Joy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Joy I read this fantastic book over the New Year holidays and loved it. Its so incredibly modern!


message 11: by Janis (new) - rated it 1 star

Janis Mills This book was a struggle for me. I will attempt to reread this book and try to find the great novel that everyone speaks about. I did like Dorothea since I prefer women to be strong but could not connect with the other characters. I did find the husband to be a vivid description of a colorless person but could not connect with the other characters and the plot.


Elizabeth Reuter Janis, maybe the book just won't work for you then. For me, I loved the book from the beginning for all its characters; whether I liked them or not, they were interesting and vibrant. If they don't feel that way to you, maybe it's just not a book that can connect to your experience.

It happens to all of us, right? *laugh* Reading some classic or other and wondering what the heck everyone is talking about!

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, Demon of Renaissance Drive


Susan Janis, I also had trouble with this book, at least the first half. It's not you, it's slow going. But worth it if you can make it through to where it starts to take off. If you have access to the excellent BBC movie, that might help. Also skimming some of the denser, longer passages is really a must, IMO. You don't have to read every word, and is some cases it isn't even desirable IMO. Also Wikipedia has an excellent article outlining the plot and defining the characters which helps to make sense of everything until it starts to draw you in: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middlemarch


message 14: by Ana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ana The scene where they are all waiting for the old man to die-- absolutely one of the funniest and 'truest' scenes in all of literature!!!


message 15: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin WV I loved what a fully-realized community it was. One thing writers understood in the 19th century was how to make all of their characters well-rounded and interesting, not just the hero(ine). Does anyone have a next Eliot recommendation? I've been thinking about The Mill on the Floss.

P.S. The Middlemarch miniseries is streaming on Netflix, for any interested parties.


message 16: by Tad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tad Richards I was completely sandbagged by Middlemarch. I picked it up with no particular expectations, and was drawn in immediately. And it kept getting better. I had no idea! What a magnificent surprise.


message 17: by Glynis Jane (last edited Apr 24, 2012 04:38AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Glynis Jane Ana wrote: "The scene where they are all waiting for the old man to die-- absolutely one of the funniest and 'truest' scenes in all of literature!!!"

Yes! I loved those scenes! The humour and suspense is fantastic. I agree that the novel just gets better with every page. I didn't dislike Casaubon though. I didn't feel much for him overall - perhaps felt sorry for him as he was so set in his ways. I definitely felt for Dorothea in that marriage. It definitely made me think about marriage and how we really should take our time to get to know someone before we exchange vows (like Celia and more so, Mary Garth). And how I loved Mary Garth - what a wonderful role model for today's young girls!! She certainly made Fred chase her! No doubt made for a happy companionship, unlike those of a higher class than herself who rushed in and generally thought themselves superior to the likes of the wonderful Garth family.

Looking forward to watching the TV miniseries next.


Lobstergirl Awesome book. Apparently someone asked Eliot if she had based the character of Edward Casaubon on anyone in particular, and she pointed toward herself.


Elizabeth Reuter Michel, Dorothea is militant with poor judgment, but she's also an inexperienced child; her growth into someone genuinely able to make her mark is, in my opinion, the focus of her story. Mary is much more sensible, but she has much less lofty goals, so there's less she needs to learn.

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, The Demon of Renaissance Drive


Elizabeth Reuter Michel wrote: "Elizabeth, I appreciate what you imply about Dotothea's inexperience (and cocooned existence also). However, I didn't feel that she ever made her mark

I appreicate your opinion also; it's always interesting to get other viewpoints on such an interesting story.

Certainly Dorthea doesn't make any mark by the end of the book. I read Middlemarch as recording her mistakes and growth; then, as an adult with a husband who appreciated her, who knew more about what she had the power to do or not, she could go out into the world and be effective. I saw renouncing Causabon's property/money as also renouncing his poisinous influence, and his fear of the world; Dorthea is done with that and ready to move on, minus her childish illusions.

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, The Demon of Renaissance Drive


Elizabeth Reuter Michel wrote: "Yes, Elizabeth, I agree with your latest take, which doesn't contradict my take really.


It's contradictory in that I agree with the idea that Dorthea was a woman trying to find her way and make her mark in a repressive society. I just think she went about it the wrong way! ^^ Learning from her mistakes is the center of her story--not the whole novel, as you say, but a large part of it.

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, The Demon of Renaissance Drive


Hayley Linfield When I read books written in the 1800s I always try to remember that the heroines are very young. Dorothea was only 19 or so! I think back to what I was like at 19! And, of course she married Ladislaw for love. What else could it have been?


message 23: by Anthea (last edited Jul 23, 2012 07:12AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anthea Carson Middlemarch was such an enjoyable book. I loved Dorothea, she's one of my favorite characters in all of literature. My favorite moment was when she overcame her own self interest in order to show compassion for that awful woman who was the Doctor's wife. Those two characters were polar opposites, and yet they identified briefly with each other's pain. Even the Doctor's wife was moved by the purity and nobility of Dorothea's soul--so moved she was able to think of someone besides her self at least for one moment.


message 24: by Emily (last edited Jul 23, 2012 11:48AM) (new)

Emily Middlemarch was outstanding. I didn't even know that there was a miniseries based on it. Does anyone know whether they nailed the characters, or was the film a stretch from the book?


message 25: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian The only scene I saw from the BBC series was the one where Mr Brooke gives his election speech. When I read the book years later I sensed that the TV programme had at least nailed that scene.


message 26: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian I am interested by Joy above grouping Eliot with Austen. When I was reading the early parts of the book, with people courting Dorothea and Celia, it did remind me a lot of Austen, but it goes to a whole other level afterwards. For all her other charms, Austen still seems to see life as stopping once people get married, but for Eliot it goes on.


Hayley Linfield Ian, you're right about the distinction between Austen and Eliot. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't Jane Austen die when she was still in her twenties? For such a young woman, in her world, for all she knew life did end with marriage. (And I have a quotation from her that implies she didn't look upon marriage with the romance that her characters did.) But to be fair to Austen, Eliot was a mature woman by the time she wrote Middlemarch, wasn't she? She had far more life experience than Austen, I think....


Elizabeth Reuter Hayley, Jane Austen died at age 41, but you're right that she wasn't the romantic her books might suggest.

Emily, the miniseries is very faithful to the book, but like all interpretations, how the actors act certain lines, and how the director directs certain scenes, can have a huge impact. Personally I got a totally different impression of Dorthea and Causobon from the miniseries than from the book, because of how the actors portrayed them; Dorthea seemed saintly, rather than immature, and Causobon seemed uptight, but I got the impression he really loved Dorthea, which I never believed reading the novel.

But then, without the novel's narration, maybe that was just my interpretation. It's certainly very well done and very faithful, so if you like the book, it's worth watching.

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, The Demon of Renaissance Drive


message 29: by Erin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Erin WV Although Jane Austen was not silly and marriage-obsessed (read her letters), it's probably true that Eliot had more life experience. Austen lived with family her entire life, never married, and never needed to or tried to earn a living, whereas Eliot worked in publishing and had many relationships with men, including "living in sin" with George Henry Lewes.

Eliot did not much care for writers of Austen's ilk and wrote a pretty thinly-disguised criticism called "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists." (Full text here for those who are interested.) She takes some flak from modern critics for being so male-identified, like she sold out her gender to be accepted in the publishing world. Personally, I doubt we would have ever heard of her today if she hadn't done so. But I do think she underestimated Austen, too. Both women are well worth reading.


message 30: by Emily (new)

Emily Thanks for the synopsis, Hayley. Sounds watch-worthy :)

Erin, I concur...very different individuals and different modus operandi, but I do enjoy both their works.


Virginia I'm probably opening myself up for criticism here, but I much
prefered Adam Bede and Mill on the Floss. I think I must have missed most of the subtlety. :(


Elizabeth Reuter Virginia wrote: "I'm probably opening myself up for criticism here..."

*Smiles* I hope not; I don't see what's wrong with stating your preferences in such a polite way. Maybe Middlemarch just didn't speak to you personally. I can think of a few great works that, howevermuch I can appreciate the writing and understand how much they move people, still bore me to tears!

-Elizabeth Reuter
Author, The Demon of Renaissance Drive


Goddess Of Blah North and South (by Elizabeth Gaskell) and Middlemarch - both awesome books.


Gregsamsa I was surprised at how faithful the series was because I felt, upon finishing Middlemarch, that the only way it could be filmed in a way that is true to the book would be to have the camera frequently zoom in to a character's forehead while we hear a 20-minute voice-over monologue as we get their thoughts.

It is a touch misleading, however, since as a lush country costume drama it might give viewers the idea that Middlemarch is rich with sensual detail, which it is not. It is easy to misremember that, though, because the seamless way she glides into the heads of all her characters and illuminates their subjectivities makes it almost effortless to imagine we are in provincial England in the 1800s.


message 35: by K. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K. Velk Middlemarch is, as far as I'm concerned, the best novel ever written in English. I read it for the first time at 20 and three more times since (now in my late 40s) and I'll keep reading it until they put me in a box. I know this sounds worshipful, but Eliot was a bona fide towering genius so, as far as I'm concerned, some worship is in order. The New Yorker writer Rebecca Mead has been working for some time, I believe, on her own book of Middlemarch appreciation. I have been looking forward to that since I read Mead's New Yorker article on the same subject. Just an FYI for all you fellow fans.


message 36: by K. (new) - rated it 5 stars

K. Velk Update on my last comment. I just checked Goodreads and see that Mead's book _My Life in Middlemarch_ is due out in January 2014.


message 37: by Mary (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mary When I first read Middlemarch, I knew nothing of how it was viewed by others, critic or general reader. I relished what I saw as the literature of it, but it has been and will always be a memorable book for me because I was in my 60's at the time and feeling very depressed: I had done nothing in my life worth having lived for, I didn't even have children to pass on to posterity, and I was too old to change. Then I read the last sentence: "But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs." I can do that! I thought. I can do small good deeds of kindness in a kind way to those around me.. and that is worth living for.


Hayley Linfield Mary wrote: "When I first read Middlemarch, I knew nothing of how it was viewed by others, critic or general reader. I relished what I saw as the literature of it, but it has been and will always be a memorabl..."
I have that quotation up on my wall. It's my favourite quotation ever.


message 39: by J.A. (new) - rated it 5 stars

J.A. Rogers The first time I read Middlemarch I rattled through it and was only really interested in the love affair between Dorothea and Ladislaw. When I re-read it the richness of it hit me, Eliot creates a real world, without heroes and villains, just lots of ordinarily flawed human beings.


Kressel Housman According to My Life in Middlemarch , which I'm currently reading, Eliot read and was influenced by Austen, but as was pointed out, she went way beyond her. The way I see it, Austen was about courtship and "happily ever after." Middlemarch is about "for better or for worse."


Kressel Housman Erin wrote: "Eliot did not much care for writers of Austen's ilk and wrote a pretty thinly-disguised criticism called "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists."

I read the essay via your link, and I don't think she was talking about Jane Austen at all. I think she was talking about the same kinds of novels that Catherine Morland was fond of in Northanger Abbey.


message 42: by Ryanmight (new) - added it

Ryanmight I just started reading Middlemarch, and I am finding it more interesting and accessible than I had imagined. I also listened to the Writers and Company podcast on Middlemarch which helped me get my head around the novel. I don't like to learn too much about novels before I read, but this was helpful.


Kressel Housman Ryanmight wrote: "I just started reading Middlemarch, and I am finding it more interesting and accessible than I had imagined. I also listened to the Writers and Company podcast on Middlemarch which helped me get my..."

After you've finished try this:

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead by Rebecca Mead


message 44: by Diane (last edited Feb 15, 2016 03:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Diane Challenor I agree with Kressel After you've finished Middlemarch try Rebecca Mead's book:

Ms Mead's book was my reward to myself when I attained my personal challenge of reading George Eliot's classic, which is part of my "List of Betterment Project". I'm pleased to report I "successfully" read Middlemarch, and it's a story that remains with me weeks after I turned the final page.

Now, having read both Middlemarch and Rebecca Mead's book "The Road to Middlemarch" I feel like I've joined a literary club of Middlemarch fans. It's been a really interesting journey.

Aren't books wonderful!




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