Friday, October 23, 2009

Middlemarch by George Eliot (1872)

I loved this book. I thoroughly enjoyed the weeks I spent reading it, and looked forward to reading a few chapters every night. It is a surprisingly modern story about several families and couples in a small provincial town in England in the mid 1800's. George Eliot uses the storylines to touch on many themes like women's roles in marriage and public life, greed, gossip, the nature of a good marriage, family ties and expectations.

Sometimes it felt like I was reading a soap opera, as the book moved back and forth between some of the main characters just like scenes in a movie. It was also fascinating to read such a realistic depiction of what life was like nearly 200 years ago, for example, the details of the way the houses were furnished and used, the clothing, the daily habits. Most of the characters in the book are wealthy or working middle class, and we see that social status was a determining factor in many parts of life back then.

Finally, the individual stories themselves:
  • the marriage of young, intelligent Dorothea to the older scholar Casaubon and her unsuitable friendship with his nephew Will Ladislaw
  • the young ambitious doctor Lydgate who is trying to build his new practice in Middlemarch, and his difficult marriage to the spoiled little rich girl Rosamond Vincy
  • Rosamond's brother Fred Vincy's hopes of inheriting from their rich eccentric uncle Featherstone, and the implications for his later life and his engagement to Mary Garth, a practical and sensible young woman from a middle class family

A good long read to keep you company on a cold winter night!


Charley said...

I was quite intimidated by Middlemarch when I began reading it, but once I realized that it's - as you said - like reading a soap opera, I had much more fun with it. I did, however, keep a notebook to help me keep the characters organized. I found the plot and sub-plots to be incredibly complex.

Amy said...

Charley - I know what you mean! I was lucky enough to find an edition that not only included detailed family trees of the main characters, but it also included plot summaries of each chapter in the back of the book. That was a huge help to keep track of everyone.