Middlemarch by George Eliot

Somewhere in the back of my head I always have the wish to read more of the classics. But I rarely get around to doing it, with all the contemporary books waiting on my to-read list. But in April I finally took on the nearly 800-page challenge of Middlemarch.

About the book:

In short: it was so very much worth it!

In some more words: I am not a big fan of romance writing and although love and marriage played a big part in Middlemarch, it was so much more. But I have to confess, I was mostly hooked on the romance part. That’s because Eliot managed to convey with such realism the utter chaos that is human relationships. The desires and expectations we have and the misery we face, mainly from not communicating said expectations.

The writing was absolutely superb and surprisingly post-modern for a novel from the late 19th century. The way the narrator changed perspectives and dragged the reader into the minds of the characters was wonderful and surprising at times. For example – Mr. and Mrs. Casaubon – after we have only been in the mind of Dorothea, unexpectedly the narrator (who kind of is a character themselves, because they tell us a lot of what is going on in their heads), says …

George Eliot depicted as a 30-year-old in 1849 by Alexandre-Louis-François d’Albert-Durade. National Portrait Gallery. Free of copyright

“One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea – but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with regard to this marriage? I protest against all our interest, all our effort at understanding being given to the young skins that look blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded, and will know the older and more eating griefs which we are helping to neglect … Mr Casaubon had an intense consciousness within him, and was spiritually a-hungered like the rest of us.”

These unexpected narrations just keep you hooked.

The characters are well fleshed out and as a reader, you know exactly how they are going to react in situations you see coming and hope they will somehow avoid. A lot of the time you will want to scream “Talk to each other!” – and realize that is what an observer of most people’s lives and thoughts would want to do.

So if you are looking for a classic that analyzes the human state with great realism and manages to feel very fresh in its writing style, Middlemarch is for you.

Here are some of my favourite quotes, and avoid the last one if you don’t want the last paragraph of the book spoiled for you. But I must say, it is arguably the greatest last paragraph I have ever read.