Middlemarch

By George Eliot,

Book cover of Middlemarch

Book description

One of the BBC's '100 Novels That Shaped Our World'

'One of the few English novels written for grown-up people' Virginia Woolf

George Eliot's nuanced and moving novel is a masterly evocation of connected lives, changing fortunes and human frailties in a provincial community. Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke,…

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Why read it?

9 authors picked Middlemarch as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I took up Middlemarch after reading from various sources that it is many people's favorite book of all time—high praise, indeed! As a friend commented on social media: "I love Middlemarch. She gets inside people's heads so well it's embarrassing sometimes!" That is one thing I love about it.

Eliot's characters are each so distinct; they even speak differently. They come from such different backgrounds and perspectives: aristocracy, upper middle class, working class, professional doctors and lawyers, clergy. Some are deeply religious and ethical, others superficial and vain.

One important character is a young doctor with new medical ideas who…

After more than 50 years as an English prof, I confess I remain leery of long novels and am inclined to explain my disinclination to embark on epic fiction by saying I’m a ponderously slow reader, which poky pace I blame on my love of poetry, which demands utmost concentration. 

Accordingly, only four summers ago, after three false starts scattered over many years, did I at last conquer Brothers Karamazov, a boast-worthy achievement for me. Last year my major conquest—a vastly easier, pleasanter read than Dostoyevsky, was George Eliot’s deservedly famous Middlemarch, which ran to 600+ pages in…

This is another of my go-to books in time of trouble.

Writing in 1871-72, Eliot goes back to the Midlands of her youth at the time of the Reform Act, 1832. So far, so dry as dust, I you say. But Eliot writes so well, creates such wonderful characters and deals with problems that still vex us today, not least the speed of change when you’d rather things stayed the same. But no one could not love the idealistic Dorothea, the frustrated Dr. Lydgate and the poet Will Ladislaw who becomes a great social reformer.

It’s one of the longest…

From Judith's list on where the past is another country.

As was the fashion of the time, George Eliot took on a male pseudonym, replacing her true name, Mary Ann Evans. Typically she extended her subterfuge by writing about male characters whose names figured into the titles of her novels, e.g. Silas Marner, Adam Bede, Felix Holt the Radical, and Daniel Deronda. She had strong female characters, too, but it wasn't until her penultimate novel, Middlemarch, that she granted a female character, Dorothea, the center stage. There are male characters in this book, too: Dorothea's husband, the pedantic scholar, Casaubon, the physician, Lydgate, and of course the…

I’ve read this novel many times and I find something new in these pages with every visit. The title refers to a town in England and we are in the mid-19th century, but if you think there’s nothing here for a modern reader, think again. During a time of great political upheaval, Dorothea, an earnest educated woman, marries a much older man, believing that with him she can live a life of the mind. However, she soon realizes that she is marginalized by her unemotional husband, destined to live an isolated and joyless life, a prisoner of her husband’s…

Middlemarch is where I turn when I need a wise, empathetic narrator to renew my faith in human beings and their capacity for humor, tenderness, and insight. This novel has everything: love, courtship, and marriage; marriages gone horribly (but interestingly) wrong; financial reversals and re-reversals, suspense around inheritances; ambition and finding one’s calling; criminal malfeasance and exposure; illness and death and birth—all unfolding in one superficially ordinary town in the English Midlands. Even the most minor of the novel’s enormous cast of characters is indelible. I’ve come to know its dual protagonists, Dorothea Brooke and Tertius Lydgate, better than some…

From Pamela's list on George Eliot books to start with.

A novelist and essayist of the era before Forster and his true ancestor in terms of values and beliefs, George Eliot’s humanist approach runs through all her work. The richness of characterisation in Middlemarch means you understand every person’s point of view and the empathy and enlargement of sympathies that follows from this develop the moral imagination that humanists so prize. The interconnectedness of human lives is also a theme and the novel’s final lines contain an epitaph that is almost universal for any human life: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for…

From Andrew's list on humanism from a life long humanist.

I think Middlemarch is the finest novel ever written and I’m not alone. In 2015 the BBC asked book critics to name the 100 best English novels. Middlemarch was number one. This sprawling story has overlapping plots involving many characters who live in Middlemarch. One of the most memorable, a scholar who will never publish anything, may have been based on Anthony Trollope’s father. Two unhappy marriages are explored in lifelike detail, each completely unlike the other. As in real life, there are happy endings and tragic ones. What stayed with me though was Elliot’s magical talent for bringing people…

All good novels try to explain us to one another and open our hearts to one another. This, one of the greatest of all novels, does these things superlatively well. Set in a quiet town in 19th-century England, it’s as eventful as The Iliad or War and Peace. Most of its characters go about their lives with a heartbreaking lack of self-knowledge, which the author imparts to them (and to us) without ever preaching or condescending. Some readers will be impatient with its slow pace and oblique humor, but those who are drawn in will find the hours…

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