Saturday, February 6, 2016

Middlemarch, February Book

In 1873, the poet Emily Dickinson referred to the novel, Middlemarch, in a letter: "What do I think of Middlemarch? What do I think of glory – except that in a few instances 'this mortal [George Eliot] has already put on immortality'." Such high praise is appropriate for a novel which is considered one of the best 100 novels, perhaps the greatest of the great Victorian fictions.
Middlemarch has been referred to as a "cathedral of words".  Readers can enjoy this book on many levesl. The writing is sublime, meticulously descriptive, witty, and beautiful. The characters are varied and interesting and the setting is a vivid representation of  life in a Victorian English village in the Midlands.

George Eliot's masterpiece, Middlemarch, appeared after the deaths of Thackeray (1863) and Dickens (1870). This is hardly an accident. Subtitled "a study of provincial life", the novel has a didactic realism that's a world away from Vanity Fair or Great Expectations.

Few of Eliot's characters achieve what they really want, and all have to learn to compromise. Some learn the lessons and achieve a temporary happiness. Others refuse or are incapable of learning, and spend their lives resenting their situation, and blaming others. And others still realize their mistakes but are trapped by a wrong decision and never escape. 


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