am 5. April 2000
I was extremely hesitant about reviewing George Eliot'sMiddlemarch, as it's been ten years or so since I've read it, but inthe end I couldn't resist adding my comments to those of others. Quite simply, it is the greatest novel yet written by an English author: Middlemarch is the fullest realisation of George Eliot's ideas on social philosophy combined with her utterly convincing characterisation and remarkable moral insight.
The novel's 'heroine' is Dorothea Brooke, a young woman of excellent virtue who is passionately idealistic about the good that can be achieved in life. The provincial setting of Middlemarch is the environment in which Dorothea's struggle to fulfil her ideals takes place, and the novel's central theme is how the petty politics of provincial 19th century England are largely accountable for her failure. In parallel with Dorothea's story is the story of Lydgate, an intelligent and ambitious doctor who also runs up against the obstructive forces of provincial life and finds them severely restrictive of his goals.
Eliot is supremely compassionate, yet never blind to the faults of her characters. Dorothea's ideas of social reform are naive, while her high opinion of Casaubon's work proves to be a major mistake. But Eliot is never cynical when the motives of her characters are pure, and does not censure them for failure. What she is critical of is the narrow minded self-seeking attitude which forces Dorothea and Lydgate to come to terms with the fact that often good does not win out over circumstance. The subtext to this is the fact that the high ideals and sense of responsibility intrinsic in both Dorothea and Lydgate means that there is no question of them ever finding love together. In essence, Middlemarch is simply about life and how things don't always work out, despite our best intentions, but are often the product of negative forces. In other novels Eliot's didacticism can sometimes jar, but it is impossible to ignore the depth of her wisdom in Middlemarch.
Middlemarch is the best novel of our greatest novelist - of the major Victorian writers only Tolstoy can really compare with her - and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
am 29. April 2000
Virginia Woolf called Middlemarch "one of the few English novels written for grown-up peole", and I could not agree with her more. In contrast to her male contemporaries such as Dickens or Thackeray with their sentimentality and their clean stories, Eliot comes as close to facing the "boredom, the horror and the glory" as a C19 novelist can.
Middlemarch is essentially about how lives can go wrong. It starts out with idealistic Dorothea Brooke wanting to reform the world and young Tertius Lydgate being about to rock the medical world with striking new discoveries. Eliot shows what life does to those two. Or better say, she points out how it is essentially each person himself or herself who is responisble for what happens. "Time will say nothing but I told you so."
No reader can fail to be touched by the wake-up call of this book: We must face what we are about to to with our lives and not take important decisions lightly.
am 8. Juli 2000
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.
am 18. März 2000
There are several wonderful, astute customer comments below so I will just add one thing. In addition to being an astonishingly well-crafted portrait of society, of marriage, of individual dreams and disappointments, I believe that Eliot wrote Middlemarch as a mirror for the reader to examine his or her own life--somewhere in this vast novel, if we are honest, we can all find someone like ourselves--and to realize that each choice we make, each of our relationships, provides us with the opportunity to affect the lives of those around us in either positive or negative ways. So often readers hold books at arms' length; it is easy to pass judgment on others, whether on characters in a book, or on our neighbors. Few books combine brilliant story-telling with profound moral value. Middlemarch is one such book. Do not hesitate to read it!
am 2. August 1999
There is no question that this novel is a work of fine literature and an unusually in-depth portrait of the lives of a few characters. On this merit alone, it is worth reading. But . . .
I found the book, despite its astuteness, to be rather dull and dry, and ultimately boring. While I appreciate detail, I also appreciate aesthetic description, and her ongoing passages were simply not amusing enough to keep me interested. Don't get me wrong: I understand that literature is not all about feel-good entertainment. But this novel is as lacking in the aesthetic department as it is brilliant in the technical/analytical. And when a book truly bores you, what difference does it make how fine a novel it is?
am 10. Januar 2000
I have had a copy of this book on my shelf for years without reading it. It was so very thick, the print so small, the pages so thin! It looked dauntingly long and dull.
But when I finally picked it up out of a sense of obligation (after all, I majored in English, and it is a highly acclaimed classic) I was amazed to find myself laughing out loud on the very first page!
Dorothea, Eliot's heroine, is SO very earnest, SO idealistic and ardent! She would never be so tawdry as to fuss with her hair and dress, or wear (gasp!) jewelry in public! She is interested only in bettering the lives of the poor in their neighborhood (you could visualize her at the fore of a modern anti-war protest). But when her sister draws her into trying on their mother's old jewelry, the pure beauty of an emerald ring inspires her to decisively choose it as her own. And she stubbbornly ignores any inconsistency between that decision and her ideals.
But her idealism traps her into marriage with a man who is not at all what she believes. She sees him as a paragon of learning, questing the seas of knowledge with fearless curiousity. In actuality, he turns out to be a cautious and small-minded scholar, drily obsessed with minor points of criticism on others works. Poor Dorothea strives to find ways to hold constant in her love in the face of ugly truth. And when she meets young Will Ladislaw, a man of similar idealism and energy, she fights to stay on her moral high ground. Thank goodness the dry old scholar dies! But even after death, he manages to poison the possibility of Dorothea and Will ever making a life together.
Around this couple swarm their relatives and acquaintances, and others quests for their best lives. Each couple and each character is amusing and absorbing in their own way.
Eliot's characters are introduced and drawn so very well that each personality is fully believable and real. But beyond that, Eliot looks at all of them, the best and the worst, from a viewpoint of loving and gentle amusement. Her pithy comments are hilarious, but never malicious. She draws the reader into her own frame of mind, and invites us to look at the variety of our fellow humans with compassion and laughter.
In spite of its length, and several dizzy plunges into despair, this is a light and lively story, very readable and heartwarming.
am 20. Juni 2000
I can do little but agree with all of the positive comments from previous posters. George Eliot puts human lives under a microscope and examines them with wisdom and compassion. The town of Middlemarch, with all of its human drama, could be any community at any time, and its people are just like our friends and neighbors. But we get to know Eliot's characters so much better than we ever get to know our friends and neighbors. These characters are some of the most fully formed in all of literature -- Dorothea Brooke, the idealistic young woman who marries the wrong man for the best of reasons; Tertius Lydgate, the young physician who sets out to change the world but finds his own weakness his biggest obstacle; Caleb Garth, the humble man who knows when and how to take a stand; Nicholas Bulstrode, the prosperous businessman whose reputation is endangered by some questionable past dealings. No situation is trivialized and no character is or decision is portrayed as one-dimensionally "good" or "evil" -- Eliot does each character justice, showing us their thought processes and letting us understand exactly why they do what they do. I entitled my review "perhaps the best novel ever written," but I know of none better. I urge you to jump into the world that George Eliot creates and enjoy her intelligence, wit and wisdom.
am 14. Mai 2001
im viktorianischen England vermeinte George Eliot mit diesem Roman zu schreiben: Middlemarch/A Study of Provincial Life.
Wirklich gekonnt reiht Eliot verschiedenste Handlungsstränge in dem Dorf Middlemarch aneinander: Das Leben verschiedenster sozialer Schichten im Dorf wird beschrieben, viel wörtliche Rede findet statt.
Das Leben der Viktorianer widerspiegelt sich auch in der Handlung: Die Eisenbahn erobert langsam das Land. Adel und Kleriker müssen ihr Wahlrecht mit dem Bürger teilen. Im Verhältnis zwischen Mann und Frau bahnen sich Veränderungen an.
Meiner Meinung nach steht im Mittelpunkt das Leben der etwa 20jährigen reichen Dorothea Brooke, die am "Theresa-Komplex" leidet, und sich für einen Mann aufopfern bzw. durch ihn Wissen und Rechtfertigung erhalten will. So bekommt sie ihren Willen und heiratet den um etliches älteren wohlhabenden Geistlichen und Hobby-Mythologen und Buchautor in spe Casaubon. Das Leben mit ihm ist aber kein Zuckerschlecken und so bricht sie schon auf der Hochzeitsreise in Rom desillusioniert in Tränen aus.
Ihr Leben wird gespiegelt in dem Eheleben eines anderen Paares, nämlich des Arztes Lydgate und seiner Frau, der schönen Rosamond, die ihrerseits auch mit Problemen zu kämpfen haben, sowohl charakterlich als auch finanziell haben sie einen Kampf auszutragen.
Diese Schilderungen fand ich alle sehr interessant und ich habe diesen Roman gerne gelesen. Allein die Beschreibungen von Dorotheas Onkel und seinem politischen Leben haben mich nicht sehr interessiert, sind aber typisch für die Zeit. Gefallen haben mir die vielen Dialoge und die lebendigen beschreibenden Passagen.
Die Geschichte der Dorothea dominiert den Roman und es ist faszinierend, zu sehen, wie sie doch noch zu ihrem Liebesglück findet und dem Reichtum entsagt.
am 8. Februar 2000
An astonishing accomplishment by George Eliot. I think what I really enjoy more than anything else in "Middlemarch" are Eliot's piercing insights into the nature of human beings, which she intertwines with the stories of Dorothea and Lydgate. Dorothea and Lydgate are both marvelously developed characters, whose idealism traps them each in marriages which hinder their ability to accomplish what each really wants in life. The metaphor of St. Theresa and Dorothea is carried throughout the book, adding a complex subtext. Finally, although some readers complain at Eliot's sometimes didactic narration, I think Eliot's strong sense of the responsibility of educating while entertaining sets her apart from her contemporaries. And it allows her to create one of the most beautful endings ever written in literature. Like Dorothea, we are all called to do good in our lifetime in the hope that it will influence other people down the road to do the same.
Zu "Middlemarch" kann man entweder viel oder wenig schreiben. Die Geschichte ist sehr komplex und man muss entweder tief in sie hineinsteigen, um ihre Fülle auch nur ansatzweise wiederzugeben, oder man versucht es erst gar nicht und bleibt damit einen Meter über der Oberfläche. Meine Rezension wird Letzteres tun. George Eliot, die mit richtigem Namen Mary Anne Evans hieß, hat 1871-72 diesen wundervollen Roman geschrieben. Evans war eine begabte, intelligente, politische und aktive Frau, die im einen oder anderen Bruch zur viktorianischen Gesellschaft lebte. Das spiegelt sich ansatzweise in diesem Roman wider. "Middlemarch" ist um 1830 angesiedelt, zur Zeit des Reform Bill. Die Gesellschaft befindet sich in einem Zwischenstadium. Man weiß noch nicht, wohin es gehen wird. Die zahlreichen Figuren der Geschichte nehmen auf der einen oder anderen Seite Platz oder befinden sich im Zentrum des Zwiespalts. Gibt die traditionelle Religion noch Halt oder ist sie ein reiner Mythos? Wohin werden uns die Naturwissenschaften bringen? Darf ein Adliger arbeiten? Soll eine Frau lieber das Geld oder die Liebe heiraten? Diese und viele andere Fragen werden in der Geschichte gestellt. Handlungsstränge gibt es zu Hauf, mindestens 4-5. Im Wechsel erzählt, bleibt man immer gern in der Geschichte, um zu wissen, wie es weiter geht. Die Sprache ist sehr wertvoll und dicht. Braucht natürlich ihre Zeit, um gelesen zu werden. Die historischen Anspielungen sind zahlreich, in Endnoten erklärt. Die Figuren sind allesamt sehr überzeugend und vielschichtig und wachsen einem sehr ans Herz. Vorhersehbar ist die Geschichte an keiner Stelle. Sie ist bar jeglicher trivialer Stellen. Meiner Meinung nach eines der besten Bücher, das jemals geschrieben worden ist.