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Showing 1-10 of 516 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 748 reviews
on August 17, 2016
I read The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot when I was about 17 years old. I remember the experience because I almost literally could not put the book down. I read for 14 hours straight until I finished the book. I even remember cooking pork chops with one hand while holding the book in the other hand so that I could read while I cooked. I cannot tell you now what the book was about (that was almost 40 years ago), just that I loved it and devoured it, along with the pork chops:-). After reading Middlemarch, I plan to reread The Mill on the Floss and read all her other novels as well.

I loved Middlemarch, but I didn’t devour it. I chewed it slowly - the writing too beautiful to swallow whole. It grabbed me right from the start and I knew I was in for a sublime reading experience.

In many of the reviews I have read people have mentioned that Eliot’s narrative voice was not to their liking, finding it too didactic or distracting. I found her narrative to be one of the things I liked best. It was through this technique that most of the wisdom and life lessons were imparted. The narrative became another character for me, seamlessly blended with the rest of the characters.

“We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!" Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts--not to hurt others."

Her ability to sum up a character in one beautifully written paragraph is remarkable.

In describing Mr. Casaubon, one of the main characters, Eliot writes. “It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self-- never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted.”

In talking about another character, Dr. Lydgate, she says. “Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life-- the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it-- can understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity into the absorbing soul- wasting struggle with worldly annoyances.”

Her dry wit and humor are scattered throughout the book like sparkling gems.

“Miserliness is a capital quality to run in families; it's the safe side for madness to dip on”.

"He has got no good red blood in his body," said Sir James. "No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all semicolons and parentheses," said Mrs. Cadwallader.

"Oh, tallish, dark, clever--talks well--rather a prig, I think." "I never can make out what you mean by a prig," said Rosamond. "A fellow who wants to show that he has opinions." "Why, my dear, doctors must have opinions," said Mrs. Vincy. "What are they there for else?" "Yes, mother, the opinions they are paid for. But a prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions."

“But Duty has a trick of behaving unexpectedly--something like a heavy friend whom we have amiably asked to visit us, and who breaks his leg within our gates.”

Eliot is sympathetic to her characters, showing the good and bad in all, even the characters who would be despised if written by most authors. There is no black and white here, and yet the story is still compelling without the devise of writing purely lovable or despicable characters. We are shown what motivates the most hateful figures as well as those we are drawn to, and as a result there is no one in this book with whom you cannot empathize in some way. Her writing is infused with penetrating insights into human nature without ever losing compassion and understanding for their frailties. This empathy for her characters, perhaps more than anything else, differentiates her writing from Dickens and Austen.

I now look forward to reading all her other novels, starting with her first one, Adam Bede. It should be interesting to see her progression from first novel to last. I had very few preconceived notions about Middlemarch before I read it and maybe that helped me to enjoy it all the more, but enjoy it I certainly did!
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on September 15, 2015
This version of Middlemarch is supposed to be unabridged, but it is not. It is missing important parts of the text. For instance, it is missing the Prelude before Chapter 1 of the first book. Also, although the various "books" within the book are marked, within a book the text flows uninterruptedly from one chapter to the next. There is NO indication that one chapter has ended and a new chapter has begun. This is confusing and fails to do justice to the text as the author wrote it. This version of Middlemarch is not even worth the mere $0.99 Amazon charges for it.
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on May 6, 2015
This review is for the Wordsworth Classics 1994 edition, typeset by Antony Gray, ISBN I 85326 237 4. It contains a lot of typographical errors, and an introduction that give away elements of the plot, and foretells the death of one of the main characters.

Treat yourself to a better edition of the work than this one.
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on August 9, 2015
To give a masterpiece of world literature, which is what Middlemarch is, only five stars is to fail to acknowledge its greatness. Yes, it's a bit slow in the beginning; yes, it's long and written in a leisurely pace; yes, it's written in the English style of the 19th century, which is a far cry from modern prose. But in depth and precision of characterization, in its ability to penetrate to the core of human experience, and in its creation of a picture of an entire wold, there are few, if any books, that can match it. It is, indeed--as Virginia Wolf said--a novel for adults.
Many others have pointed out the particular beauties and wisdom of the novel better than I can, so let me point out a particular feature that Amazon offers that I have used. If you buy the Kindle version of this Oxford edition of Middlemarch you can, for an extra few dollars, also get the Audible version read by Juliet Stevenson. (The Audible version on its own is $55.) Also, the two versions sync together, so you can read a few chapters, and then switch over on your IPad or iPhone to Stevenson's reading, and then switch back whenever you wish. Stevenson's reading is legendary for a reason: she brings the book alive in a very powerful way, and is marvelous at communicating its meanings. I learned a lot from listening to her--especially in revealing the humor in the book, which I missed in my own reading. But I also wanted to read on my own as well. Amazon had made this now possible at a very reasonable price, and I heartily recommend it.
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on July 3, 2017
January 16, my birthday, I started Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871), a book I have wanted to read for fifty years. I finished it today, July 3.

Set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, and widely considered the greatest of Victorian novels, this mighty work
has often been compared to Tolstoy's War and Peace due to it's immense cast, and it's historical precision. Additionally, however, it reminds me of Henry James's The Portrait of a Lady (1880) due to it's depth of psychological analysis of human nature in all its rhythms and shades. Some have called Middlemarch a novel without a hero, but in the end it is the town of Middlemarch itself, with all its dizzying array of foibles and follies, loves and slanders, gossip and redemption, tragedy and laughter, wealth and poverty, that fills the role. The author never ridicules, never mocks, but simply loves her people, every one, and after spending six months with them I will miss every one, even the monsters, but especially the disappointed.

Halfway through I discovered that Edward VII (1841-1910), Queen Victoria's eldest son, read Middlemarch annually from it's publication until his death, thirty-six years later. I can see why. Spanning eight books, and nearly a thousand ages, the author never falters.

A sample:

“Men outlive their love, but they don’t outlive the consequences of their recklessness.

"Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending. Who can quit young lives after being long in company with them, and not desire to know what befell them in their after-years? For the fragment of a life, however typical, is not the sample of an even web: promises may not be kept, and an ardent outset may be followed by declension; latent powers may find their long-waited opportunity; a past error may urge a grand retrieval. Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic--the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common. Some set out, like Crusaders of old, with a glorious equipment of hope and enthusiasm and get broken by the way, wanting patience with each other and the world."

And, finally, the last and most famous line in the book, “...for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on un-historic acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in un-visited tombs.”
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on October 12, 2013
George Eliot's MIDDLEMARCH is a sympathetically told but cautionary tale of the dangers of impetuosity in young love. The story itself is often humorous, sentimental to a certain extent but not overly so, rich in diverse personalities, and moving at times, particularly in the second half. The prose gives a feeling of sailing along smoothly on calm seas, with a soothing rhythm of small, repeated dips and swells but no waves large enough to seriously rock the boat.

This is not to say, however, that it is not thought-provoking, challenging, and exciting at times, but it certainly has its fair share of lulls, and I can only agree with the prevailing view that it would be a much better book were it half - or at the most, two-thirds - the length. It must be said that the wit and vivacity of the prose saves the story from being deadly dull at times. Eliot's descriptive powers produce occasional zingers, such as saying that the crusty old scholar Mr. Casaubon is "as genuine a character as any ruminant animal" (George Eliot, MIDDLEMARCH, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire, 1994, p. 163).

The story begins with several marriages involving young people who take no time to think twice before entering into holy matrimony. The first of these matches is between Dorothea Brooke and the much older Mr. Casaubon. The story centers on Dorothea and what becomes a complicated, though always honorable, love triangle involving Dorothea, Mr. Casaubon, and the passionate, artistic soul that is Will Ladislaw. However, the 'web' ensnares other young lovers, whose experiences of disenchantment and, in contrast, lazy, contented fecundity, we are allowed to view, for a time, as backgrounds to Dorothea's plight. Eliot treats each character's complicated life with respect, and it is clear that she understands the allure of young love:

"Young love-making - that gossamer web! ... The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indescribable joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness, indefinite trust" (George Eliot, MIDDLEMARCH, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire, 1994, pp. 284-5).

Only one of Eliot's young characters, Mary Garth, has the sense to look at marriage with her head as well as her heart, and it is interesting that she, the most practical of the young women, comes from the servant class, whereas all the others are from the pampered upper classes. Will Mary's insistence on a long courtship and a sound financial base upon which to build a marriage pay dividends in the end?

MIDDLEMARCH has a wealth of peripheral themes and older characters (my personal favorite being the comically well-meaning but vague Mr Brooke) that offer rich diversions from the central theme. Politics, intrigue, blackmail, and even manslaughter can be found within these pages. But Eliot always returns to the central theme, the hope and despair of young love, epitomized by Dorothea and Will. Even as Will laments his hopeless, forbidden love, Eliot whispers in the narrative background, "... what we call our despair is often only the painful eagerness of unfed hope" (George Eliot, MIDDLEMARCH, Wordsworth Editions, Ware, Hertfordshire, 1994, p. 411). Certainly the most passionate of the young lovers, Will draws us into his cogitations and agitations. We take the tumultuous ride of young love with him right to the end, only hoping for him that it will not be a bitter end but something much sweeter.
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on January 15, 2010
I took up this book because it was on a booklist of the 100 best books written, and I have to agree. It took awhile to get into it because there's a great deal of expository writing at the beginning, but stick with it and you'll be introduced to some fascinating characters in the town of Middlemarch.

Dorothea Brooke is a young woman about to take a much older husband, determined to find purpose in her life by assisting him with his life's work, a book which is to a definitive guide to all the mythologies of the world. When she begins to suspect her husband's work is little more than empty piffle, how will she find her way?

Mr. Lydgate is a hotshot young physician determined to do great works from the small town of Middlemarch. Thwarted by small town suspicion and politics, and increasingly saddled by debt incurred by a pretty young wife, how will he cope as his life's dream slips away?

Fred Vincy is the son of a town merchant determined to see him made a gentleman. He's paid for Fred to recieve a gentleman's education at Oxford with the intention that Fred will join the Church. Fred knows the Church isn't for him, but isn't sure what else to do, nor how to tell his father his education was for naught.

These are just three of a huge cast of characters, all of them fascinating in their own way as their lives intersect. The book feels more like a documentary than a novel, and you grow to feel as if the characters could be your own friends and neighbors. Highly recommended, I know this is going to be one of my favorite books.
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on February 23, 2017
I chose this book to read in bed to put me to sleep, but it did not serve its purpose. I found myself unable to put it down. It kept me up into the wee hours on more than one night. It's an excellent book, really ... thought-provoking and all that.
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on April 27, 2017
A splendid story about the life and times of the English people who lived in Middlemarch around 1850's. The characters are well developed and the reader is pulled through at a steady pace. Written from her own experience this volume might have been called historical-fiction except for the fact that the characters are entirely fictional; otherwise the full description of the surrounding countryside, the religious, political and economic issues is entirely authentic.
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on June 16, 2015
I "get" this story, which comes as a pleasant surprise after finding the preface Impossible. Why is that a surprise you may well ask. It's because I have a huge personal brick wall in front of me whenever I attempt to read a "classic". My brain seems to switch off and after a few pages, I put the book aside. I'm pleased to say, I didn't put this one aside. I'm really enjoying the story and the characters. It's a bit wordy but it doesn't matter. I'm reading the story mainly because I want to know why so many people refer to it as being one of their favourite books of all time. And it's part of my "List of Betterment". I haven't worked out yet, how knowing the story will make me a better person, but hey, it's fun musing on the subject. I've developed my List of Betterment from an idea, a big idea, put by Andy Miller in his book, A Year of Reading Dangerously. He talks about Middlemarch in his second chapter after conquering The Master and Margarita; I don't think I'll try that one. Reading Middlemarch was really important to me, like a badge of honour. I'm not sure which "classic" I'll tackle next. I'll wait till my muse leads the way.
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