This is a beautiful and romantic novel not to be missed by any fan of classic literature. The thick volume (795 pages) may be an instant put-off for some readers and the story does take a little while to develop, but TRUST ME, once you get past the first 50 pages, you'll be HOOKED and finding it difficult to put down the book.
I love George Eliot's style of writing - beautifully and distinctively eloquent and expressive, and with such observance and skills in depicting the depths and complexities of human relations and the demands and passions of the heart. The book also explores the issues of "class" (e.g. in the courtship between gentleman Fred Vincy and working class Mary Garth), "money" (e.g. questions raised over Featherstone's will after the old miser's death), "politics" (on elections and the cause promoted by the 'liberal' Middlemarchers), "scandals" (especially concerning the dark secrets of the respected banker, Mr Bulstrode) and even "murder" - all portrayed brilliantly in high drama and with engrossing suspense.
My favourite character is the heroine, the virtuous Dorothea Brooke whose life is made miserable by her marriage to the old, dull, selfish academician, Casaubon. Her later acquaintance with young Will Ladislaw who is Casaubon's cousin ("cousin, not nephew", as the vain Casaubon always makes a point to clarify, due to the apparent age gap between them) provides Dorothea with the companionship of someone who listens to and respects her views and who brings a ray of sunshine and cheer into her otherwise lonely life. Love soon blossoms between Dorothea and Will but they're forbidden to court/marry even after Casaubon's death due to a nasty clause put in by Casaubon in his will. It was pure heartache to read of the feelings that these two have for each other but aren't able to express due to societal constraints. Will knows rather early on that he loves her; it takes Dorothea longer to realize her true feelings. I got all teary-eyed when I read the part where Dorothea, alone in her room and in a state of inescapable anguish, moans out "Oh, I did love him!" [And to quote]: "... But she lost energy at last even for her loud-whispered cries and moans: she subsided into helpless sobs, and on the cold floor she sobbed herself to sleep".
The other main characters are no less interesting and will easily capture the reader's heart and compassion. There's Dr Lydgate, an ambitious man whose marriage to the vain, beautiful but spoilt Rosamund Vincy turns out to be a most exasperating and expensive affair (you have to read the book to find out just how SO). There's also a love triangle involving Fred Vincy, Mary Garth and Farebrother (the vicar). The other smaller characters such as Bulstrode, his wife, Mr Garth (Mary's father), a blackmailer (Raffles) and others are all well-painted and believable, each with their own story to tell.
Unlike some classics, this one provides a most satisfying ending because it discloses in the 'Finale' what happens later to the main characters after the "main story" has ended - e.g. up to what age they live to, if the (new) marriages are successful, how many children each couple has, etc.
"Middlemarch" is a truly remarkable classic and a wonderful, wonderful read.