Tuesday, March 15, 2022

George Eliot - Middlemarch

A literary landmark in its groundbreaking approach, as well as a priceless document of its age One of the most ambitious narratives of nineteenth-century realism, "Middlemarch" tells the story of an entire town in the years leading up to the Reform Bill of 1832, a time when modern methods were starting to challenge old orthodoxies. Eliot's sophisticated and acute characterization gives rich expression to every nuance of feeling, and vividly brings to life the town's inhabitants--including the young idealist Dorothea Brooke, the dry scholar Casaubon, the young, passionate reformist doctor Lydgate, the flighty young beauty Rosamond, and the old, secretive banker Bulstrode--as they move in counterpoint to each other. Art, religion, politics, society, science, human relationships in all their complexity--nothing is left unexamined under the narrator's microscope. Also included in this edition are pictures and an extensive section on George Eliot's life and works.

Comment: I got interested in this book while reading another one and the fictional characters mentioned this one. They mentioned the main romance was one worth knowing about and of course it got got me curious so I added it to my TBR.

In this book we follow a vast group of characters as they go through their days in Middlemarch, a village somewhere in the English countryside. As one would expect, there are all kinds of people living there, some of which must be seen in every other villages, from the prominent family whose elements seem to always have it better to those who want to have the same chances. The heroine is Dorothea Brooke, whose nature propels her to want to marry someone she can help professionally, someone who embodies what she believes she might want, not seeing the other side of the equation. However, as other characters are introduced, what is culturally acceptable, what is morally necessary and what is expected of them all might not be easy to deal with when feelings are involved...

This classic has been written by George Eliot, a pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans. As there are plenty of reliable sources one can investigate to know more about the author, I will refrain from doing so, but let it be said this work is a product of its time, of how life used to be in the province and all the little things that went into, such as the expectations on marriage, religion, philosophy and money, the position of women and how society demanded certain behaviors but looked the other way when suited.

Going into this book, I knew it wouldn't be a simple romance, although the base of it can be seen as such, and in order to follow the plot better, I purchased a Portuguese edition, for I have noticed, of course, it can be easier to read the classics this way. Often the writing is different enough to cause frustration over some words or expressions, and this way it's certainly easier.. although, unlike other classical authors, this one was a little heavier in some subjects, therefore it took me longer to read.

I liked the book, even though it took me practically a week to read...but it's a big book, difficulty o carry around. I think its biggest problem was, for my contemporary expectations, how detailed so many things are when it's not always necessary to do so. I understand the author had this style of conveying situations and norms by expanding on commentary and description but it wasn't always easy to follow. It's not that this should not happen; after all the fun part of seeing her "voice" was precisely on how she wrote things and what message was given by choosing certain words, etc.

However, she did digress a lot while expanding one subject and this lead to the main idea to, sometimes, be lost in the midst of too much. Yes, yes, a trademark of the 1820s and 1830s I suppose, but it can become tiring to follow a clue and realize it was already lost. This happened mostly in regards to the situations where talk of politics, such as the 1832 Reform Act subject, or the discussions on money and how people were expected to live. I think these subjects had a lot of attention and although I don't mind them, they took a lot of the page count.

Portuguese cover

As I've said, at the base, this is a romance and I especially liked the main character Dorothea whose choices might seem odd now, but she was a product of her time. She wanted to marry an older man whom she could help, who could see her as instrumental for his success but the marriage is a disappointment because he never truly saw her as such. Out of this, come many of the plot moves which make the story go on and of course I was interested in seeing how she would get past her disillusionment and find love again...

The fictional part of the book was quite captivating. I felt invested in the characters and their difficulties, on how they would solve their problems... my favorite character was actually Mr Garth, a humble but clever and hardworking man. I would say many of the issues would have been solved easily by honest conversations and genuine care, such as the one Dorothea feels over her interests but then, of course, this wouldn't be a study on real life situations the author has seen and chose to use here.

I liked the story even though it wasn't as romantic as I imagined but there are certainly enough passages to make it so. I also liked how it ended, when those we like had rewards and those who did bad were at least judged by society. I will certainly read more by this author, when I can get my hands on translations again...
Grade: 8/10

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