Middlemarch by George Eliot has been sitting on my shelf, and
waiting at the back of my mind for several years now. Usually,
in the winter, I select a book by Dickens to while away the long
nights. But this year, I decided to read Middlemarch. I enjoyed
it and maybe you’re wondering if you’d like it, too.
Middlemarch is the name of the village that is the setting for the
long novel. Reading about mannerisms common to the folks
of 1831 Middlemarch is not terribly different from musing
about the mannerisms of people we know in our own lives
right now in 2015. Human nature is pretty consistent whenever
and wherever we live. I found myself often thinking of certain
people I know as I read about Casaubon or Rosamond . . .
The characters of Middlemarch generally are of the upper class
and comfortable financially. Three main families and their
offspring are followed—for better or worse. Pride, deceit, greed,
honesty, kindness—and other human traits pack the pages,
and George Eliot stays on her toes to keep the various plots building.
There is a curious codicil to a will, a young man prone to the
pleasures and terrors of gambling, the secret past of one of
the characters. And always, developing love stories among
the young people–some not happy, but hopelessly doomed.
Many of the romantic scenes are set on estates–and the
lovers often walk on “Yew Tree Walk.” Sound pretty?
Dorothea Brooke might be considered a feminist in today’s times
and she struck out to be her own person in Middlemarch but
was hindered through marriage. A woman in those days was
excused for having some “spunk” but it was frowned upon to be
too assertive, better to play the wifely submissive role and be
the best help possible to her husband. You might think the
difference in generations in this book would have changed this
viewpoint, but you would be surprised.
The marriages are as much a part of the book, could be
assumed to be characters almost, for the marriages of the
different couples are described and we learn of the sacrifices
and the deep love of some of the spouses.
My copy, Penguin Classics, furnished several pages of Notes in
the back, and I found that helpful to explain some of the references
cited in the book—-the Reform Bill, and other political actions of
the time, including the advent of railways.
The best part of reading this book was the ease in reading it. Even
though it is set in the timeframe of 1831, it seldom seems dated at all.
Instead, I found it to be a pleasant end to a busy day—an interlude
with the townspeople of Middlemarch, almost like dropping in for
a brief visit at a soap opera.
I think you would like the book—especially if you are willing to take
it leisurely—you aren’t involved in any lit classes, are you, where you
have to have it read in a week?
Give it a try—-I’d be pleased to know what you think.