Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Review: Middlemarch by George Eliot (reviewed by Ingrid)

Connie also reviewed Middlemarch in March 2010

Dorothea Brook and Will Ladislaw (via)
Reviewed by Ingrid

Published: 1874

It's about: Middlemarch is mostly about marriage and how much it sucks. The book goes back and forth between a large cast of characters, all at different stages in their relationships.

Jane Austen's novels all end with wedding bells and romantic notions about the future, but George Eliot shows you what happens after the wedding is over. Virgina Woolf referred to Middlemarch as "one of the few English novels for grown-up people."

I thought: There were a few things I liked, and a few things I didn't, but mostly my reaction to this book is just "meh." (Imagine me saying "meh." That's why it's in quotation marks. Also because it isn't a real word.)

I liked Eliot's honest depiction of marriage. Her characters were psychologically complex and their relationships were realistic, not idealized. I'm not a huge fan of idealism. I like dark, depressing, gritty realism. It's just how I am. This book was like that.

However, I couldn't make myself care about some of these people's problems. At some parts I thought to myself, "REALLY Dorothea? You're honestly crying over that?" The situation at the climax of this book is one that is really not that big of a deal today, so it was difficult for me to care. I like history, and I like learning about how society functioned so differently in earlier eras, but I just don't connect with Victorian era England for some reason. I think that had a lot to do with my dissatisfaction with Middlemarch.

I kept comparing this book in my mind to Anna Karenina, a book which I absolutely adore (and which was written at the same time as Middlemarch.) Tolstoy and I are soul-siblings. I just didn't feel the same connection with George Eliot's writing. I guess we just don't have chemistry.

Verdict: In between. Connie hated it, I know Christine-Chioma loves it, but I'm somewhere in the middle.

Reading Recommendations: Even though I didn't love this one, Time magazine named it one of the top ten greatest books of all time, and quite a few writers have also placed in in their top ten. It's one of those books that is worth reading to form your own opinion.

Warnings: Absolutely none. This book was written in a time when even pregnancy was referred to as "a certain condition" ...

Favorite excerpts:
"A fellow mortal with whose nature you are acquainted with solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship, may, when seen in the continuity of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same."

What I'm reading next: My Antonia by Willa Cather