Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel
by English author George Eliot, (Mary Ann Evans)
first published in eight instalments (volumes) during 1871–2.
Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending. Who can quit young lives after being long in company with them, and not desire to know what befell them in their after-years? For the fragment of a life, however typical, is not the sample of an even web: promises may not be kept, and an ardent outset may be followed by declension; latent powers may find their long-waited opportunity; a past error may urge a grand retrieval.
Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic—the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.
Some set out, like Crusaders of old, with a glorious equipment of hope and enthusiasm and get broken by the way, wanting patience with each other and the world.
I did not want to quit those young lives, and even after being told what happened to them in their after-years, I still wanted to live at Middlemarch. What a wonderful place I’ve just lived at for several weeks! What many people I have met! I have also met George Eliot (alias for Mary Ann Evans), and her thoughts and perception of life and people, in this novel that in the Penguin edition is offered to us in 880 pages.
As usual, I was negatively predisposed towards Middlemarch. Cons:
Victorian, long, difficult, uninteresting, bombastic and pompous language, too many words for different carriages, conversations like the prelude of cheap soap operas, where many misunderstandings could have been solved in less pages/episodes if people did not insist in speaking with riddles, or jumping into conclusions by getting a glimpse of what looks like something and it’s not…
But I’ve been proven wrong many times before when it comes to acclaimed classics. By now, I should know that a long novel that happens in the course of time, promises a universe to inhabit. This one does not disappoint. I am forever grateful to have met the men and women I met at Middlemarch.
How can I review a novel that has had responses and even full books on what it means for us, all that it represents in the thread of literature, history, culture, politics, religion. Novels express the pulse of times. I was very impressed on how relevant the ideas and topics remain, encased in a pretty Victorian form.
The themes of marriage and living within one’s possibilities, are two of my favorite conceps explored throughout the novel. I also value the characters, their depth. I forgot they were fiction, they seemed so real. I changed and made my views of them more complete as the novel progressed.
I saw my own shortcomings and my own small personal victories (which don’t last forever, but are in a constant check and threat) reflected in the characters’ actions and thoughts. This novel invites us to a deep introspection, but it doesn’t have a drop of drudgery -as I anticipated. Much on the contrary, it keeps picking up momentum.
It starts quite unpretentious, with two sisters, and their differences of character and look at life. The beginning pace is not terribly slow, and the book keeps gaining momentum as we know more about other inhabitants of Middlemarch and their affairs.
The author’s treatment of medicine and politics taught me much. The novel, if compared to the only two books by Jane Austen I’ve read, has a broader scope, and the world of men is very well portrayed. I’d say I liked it because it had a fair amount of everything that happens in rural England, in a community, and it was by no means confined to the world of a feminine character, such as was Emma. I don’t mean to compare both authors or their books, I just want to indicate I’m on team Eliot!
If there’s a chat, or an event where I could talk Middlemarch with others, I’d love to know. Some of my friends have read it, one of them has been listening to it. I hope she finishes it, because it’d be great fun to talk about Dorothea, Celia, Fred, Mary, and Lydgate, Rosamond, Bulstrode, Wilslaw, and about all that happened in those 880 pages.