Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
(Penguin Classics, 2011, 880 pages)
After multiple attempts and months of stopping and starting I have finally finished Middlemarch. I’m sure that doesn’t make it sound appealing but truthfully I loved every minute of it and it really speaks more to my flaws than to the novel’s appeal. After finishing Middlemarch I read a New Yorker article “Middlemarch And Me What George Eliot teaches us” by Rebecca Mead and decided that instead of giving a plot summary I would just include a quote from the article that I think speaks to what I found most interesting; the novel is sometimes biting and satirical but never at the total expense of the characters:
But Eliot’s satire, unlike Austen’s, stops short of cruelty. She is inveterately magnanimous, even when it comes to her most flawed characters; her default authorial position is one of pity. Rosamond Vincy is foolish and intractable—her husband refers to her in his later years as his basil plant, because it was “a plant that had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.” But the sequence of chapters in which self-involved, trivial Rosamond realizes that Will Ladislaw is in love with Dorothea, not her—she is “taken hold of by an emotion stronger than her own, hurried along in a new movement which gave all things some new, awful, undefined aspect”—is a masterpiece of sympathetic imagination. A reader marvels at Jane Austen’s cleverness, but is astonished by George Eliot’s intelligence.