Day 1073: Middlemarch

Cover for MiddlemarchBest Book of the Week!
The first section of Middlemarch is concerned with Dorothea Brooke, an ardent but naive young woman who only wants to take part in something good. She thirsts for knowledge and wants to help with something important.

One trait of Dorothea’s that is physical as well as metaphorical is her shortsightedness. As her sister Celia tells her, “I thought it right to tell you because you went on as you always do, never looking just where you are and treading in the wrong place. You always see what no one else sees; it is impossible to satisfy you; yet you never see what is quite plain.”

Dorothea in her youthful ardor and intelligence attracts the attention of Mr. Casaubon, a cleric and scholar in his fifties who has been laboring for years on a work he calls “The Key to All Mythologies.” Dorothea decides it would be an honor to marry Mr. Casaubon and help him with his great work. And she does so, despite the admonitions of her friends and family.

It is while Dorothea is on her honeymoon in Rome that we meet other important characters in the novel, for Eliot subtitled her novel “A Study in Provincial Life.” There are the young Vincys, Fred and Rosamund, who have both been indulged by their wealthy parents. Fred has been raised to expect a fortune from his crusty old uncle, Peter Featherstone. Concerned at first only with leading the life of a gentleman, he has quit his university studies and fritters away his time. He would like to marry his childhood friend Mary Garth, but she won’t have him until he sticks to something.

Mr. Lydgate is a new doctor in town. He hopes to reform medical practices and make some significant discovery in medicine. Although he feels he cannot afford to marry for some years, he has not reckoned with Rosamund Vincy, a beautiful but self-centered young woman.

He also starts out by harming his chances through some outspoken comments and a too close relationship with Mr. Bulstrode. A wealthy businessman, Bulstrode is involved with the local hospital. But he likes to be in control of all his charities and is inflexible in his religious views.

In Rome, Dorothea and Mr. Casaubon re-encounter Will Ladislaw, Mr. Casaubon’s second cousin. Mr. Casaubon has been supporting Will financially through his studies after Will’s grandmother was disinherited from her family because of her choice in husband. Dorothea, in trying to befriend Will, does not see how much Mr. Casaubon dislikes him. That dislike is to have repercussions for Dorothea’s future life.

Eliot masterfully acquaints us with the problems and politics of this provincial area. Her characters are unforgettable, rich and human. There is a strong feminist sensibility, as Dorothea finds that everything she tries to do is balked because she’s a woman. And class is also an important theme. I continue to feel that Middlemarch is one of the best books ever written and was happy to have it chosen for me by the Classics Club spin.

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17 thoughts on “Day 1073: Middlemarch

  1. Naomi May 1, 2017 / 11:19 am

    Someday I will get around to reading this book! I’m glad it comes highly recommended by you!

    • whatmeread May 1, 2017 / 11:54 am

      It IS a long book, but I think it’s worth the time to read it.

  2. Helen May 1, 2017 / 12:14 pm

    I read this a few years ago and remember finding it difficult to get into but once I did I loved it. I must read it again one day.

    • whatmeread May 1, 2017 / 12:55 pm

      Yes, I think that adequately describes it the first time you read it. I think after you read it once, you like Dorothea so much that it’s not difficult to get into it.

  3. justjase79 May 2, 2017 / 3:43 am

    I will be reading Middlemarch very soon, glad to hear you enjoyed it!

  4. Loni May 2, 2017 / 8:05 am

    I love Middlemarch. I just reread it last year. I agree that it’s one of the best books ever written. The relationships have definitely stayed with me, especially Dorothea, Ladislaw and Casaubon. I really enjoyed Dorothea as a character in general too. I’ve been meaning to read more from Eliot too. Maybe next Spin.

    • whatmeread May 2, 2017 / 11:32 am

      I have read other Eliot novels, but nothing she wrote seems to come close to Middlemarch. Still, they make enjoyable and thought-provoking reading.

  5. TJ @ MyBookStrings May 2, 2017 / 12:38 pm

    This book has been on my shelf for so long! One of these days, I will get to it…

  6. whatmeread May 2, 2017 / 12:45 pm

    It takes a certain commitment, but it’s worth it.

    • whatmeread May 3, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      If I am captured enough by the novel, I don’t mind length.

  7. Brona May 2, 2017 / 8:07 pm

    I read this is my twenties and hope to reread it one day (I’ve put it on my Classics Club list II in anticipation).

    Have you read and Elizabeth Gaskell books? I’m now wondering how they compare, since they cover many similar issues.

    • whatmeread May 3, 2017 / 12:43 pm

      I have read several of Gaskell’s books. I think I liked Wives and Daughters best. They don’t stand out in my mind as well as Middlemarch, though; maybe that is because Dorothea is such a well-defined and interesting character.

  8. Audra (Unabridged Chick) May 3, 2017 / 8:30 am

    This is in the running for my book club’s summer read – I hope it gets picked so I can be guaranteed to read it — been dying too for quite a while!

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