by George Eliot
Can it be that I have never yet written a post about one of my favourite C19 novels?
The last time I read it was, I suppose, early 2011 after I first acquired a Kindle. I promised myself that for every new(ish) book that I downloaded at full price, I would read a (cheap or free, because out of copyright) ‘classic’ novel. There are enough to choose from! Since then, I have read most of Eliot’s works, a good few of Trollope‘s (plenty left to read), a few Dickens novels and some Hardy. I’ve read one Conrad novel and begun, but got bogged down in, Heart of Darkness.
I first read Middlemarch on holiday in 1994, after seeing the BBC TV production. The book grabbed me then, and I think I have enjoyed it at least as much on the two subsequent readings. I have also read a little bit around the book, and was partly prompted to re-read it this time after an episode of Radio 4’s In Our Time on this topic.
Why do I like it so much? Initially, I was struck by the open and honest way in which Eliot exposes marriage as being far from an ideal state for at least two of the couples whose stories thread through the book. Dorothea chooses her husband for all the wrong reasons, and soon sees the error of her choice. Lydgate and Rosamond both have unrealistic expectations of the married state and of each other. How these couples resolve their problems and conduct their relationships with each other and other characters makes the book exciting and edgy.
There are, of course, many more characters, relationships and storylines, and a convincing and historically interesting political setting in the country town of Middlemarch. What can I write here that has not been said by others, far better qualified than myself?
Although there are so many books on my ‘to-read’ list, I think it fairly likely that I may return to Middlemarch someday for a fourth sitting.