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Middlemarch

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George Eliot - Middlemarch - 1871-72

Synopsis: One of the classic novels of English literature and was admired by Virginia Woolf as one of the few English novels written for grown-up people. A critical introduction, and historical documents, pertaining to medical reform, religious freedom, and the advent of the railroads.
I like George Eliot's novels. Middlemarch is probably my favourite. I love Dorothea Brooke, the main character. There is so much she has to deal with. She could have been a great woman at our time (as the author) with the possibilities we have today but had to fight all her life to be heard. I agree with the description above, almost every subject is touched, medical reform, industrialisation, religious thinking, women's rights, a great description of the change of society from the old times to our modern world. A great read!

(thread first started 02.04.06)

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Continuation of this thread retrieved from the Google cache:

 

 

megustaleer 2nd April 2006 05:27 PM

This is one of the books I 'acquired' yesterday, but don't expect me to post about it any time soon! :rolleyes:

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Momo 2nd April 2006 07:17 PM

Originally Posted by megustaleer

This is one of the books I 'acquired' yesterday, but don't expect me to post about it any time soon! :rolleyes

I haven't got the slightest idea why! ;)

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Mungus 19th April 2006 10:52 PM

I have a lovely edition of this on my TBR shelf. It's the oldest inhabitant, meaning it's been there the oldest. I know I should just get on and read it but I really want to like it but I strongly suspect that I won't, just because my past history suggests that I'm not good at reading 'the classics'.

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Momo 20th April 2006 10:47 AM

Originally Posted by Mungus

I have a lovely edition of this on my TBR shelf. It's the oldest inhabitant, meaning it's been there the oldest. I know I should just get on and read it but I really want to like it but I strongly suspect that I won't, just because my past history suggests that I'm not good at reading 'the classics'.

Mmmh, which classics have you read. And which of them did you enjoy? None? I can't believe that.

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Darkstar 29th April 2006 09:01 AM

I was prompted to read this a few years ago, after the BBC did a dramatisation. It had been sitting on by TBR shelf for a while (read years) and I had never got around to it. I enjoyed the dramatisation, and enjoyed the book when I did read it, about a year later. I found Dorothea an interesting character, and while it's not a 'page turner' in the modern sense it nevertheless held my attention. However, I can't say what I would have made of it if I had read it without having seen the dramatisation.

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Momo 29th April 2006 09:15 PM

Originally Posted by Darkstar

I can't say what I would have made of it if I had read it without having seen the dramatisation.

That's always a difficult question. It works the other way round, as well. I've heard friends saying they weren't sure if they had understood a movie if they hadn't read the book before in other cases. Sometimes they compliment each other well.

I also thought Dorothea was the best character, not just because she also happened to be the main one. She was so ahead of her time and so strong. And she knew what she wanted. I really admired her and felt sorry for her at the same time. Most of the choices in her life were well tought of, she knew what she was doing, yet, nothing turned out the way she expected it, mainly because the time was not ready for such an incredible woman like Dorothea.

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Darkstar 30th April 2006 11:33 AM

 

I suppose I was thinking more in terms of the way the screenplay writer's and the actors' interpretation of the characters imposed itself on the way I saw them while reading the book, rather than making my own interpretation. I must admit I usually prefer to read the book first, because that is how that story was intended to be told, and you always lose something, no matter how good the adaptation.

 

Middlemarch is certainly one I will read again.

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Momo 21st May 2006 10:55 PM

Originally Posted by Bernadette

Would you consider Middlemarch to be a difficult read? I'm currently reading it and have just finished Chapter 15.

I'm probably not a good advisor in that respect. I love classics. English is not my mother tongue but I just could read English classics all the time. I've been reading classics with my various book clubs, one of them in England. And I was usually the one finding it easy whereas my British friends thought it hard.

I think Middlemarch is more difficult than, let's say, a Jane Austen. There are more people, for a start, and more people are important to the whole book. But it's also the language. So, while I really loved Middlemarch and would recommend reading it, I wouldn't consider George Eliot to be the easiest of writers.

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Bernadette 25th May 2006 02:59 PM

Thank you for your comments, Momo! I'm about 300 pages into Middlemarch now and I'm happy to say I'm understanding it much, much better. I guess that it just took me a while to get used to Eliot's style!

 

It really is a fantastic story, very engrossing, and has become quite a page turner! :)

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Momo 28th May 2006 10:04 PM

Oh, I'm glad you like it. Maybe we can discuss it when you have finished.

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Further restored comments.

 

#12 Yesterday, 01:11 PM

Hazel

 

I finally finished this book yesterday and feel a huge sense of relief that I got through a book that has intimidated me for years!

 

The style of writing took a while to get into to and I found that the first 20 minutes of reading was a case of readjusting yourself into the MM world, before you could just effortlessly read. But once you did, it was an enjoyable page turner. I think it took a while to build up but once the Bulstrode/Raffles plot line took up then I found it hard to put down.

 

Dorothea - I liked by the end. Initially she was too idealistic and not a little stupid for me. Even when married to Casaubon, she seemed a little selfish, but he soon ground that out of her. The attraction between Will and Dorothea was excellent and both parties behaved just perfectly in keeping with their characters.

 

I didn't like Celia - I thought she was a little wishy washy - and not a solid enough character for my liking. I realise this was done as a complete contrast to Dorothea's character but she wasn't strong enough to be a good contrast - a little cardboard cut out.

 

Mary and Fred's relationship was good. I thought Mary was a much better female role model than Dorothea and for me she was the heroine of the novel. She spoke plainly, truthfully, and did her work without the need for glory. She was loyal and open regarding her feeling for Fred - and was honest to Mr Farebrother.

 

Rosamund Vincy was hideous. For all her beauty, she was a hideous person and a hideous character. I felt awful when Lydgate took all the blame for their debt and failing marriage. She was everything I despise in women and I was sorry she didn't meet a sticky end.

 

Phew!

 

#13 Today, 01:52 PM

Momo

 

Thank you, Hazel, for such a detailed description of your feelings. I had very similar thoughts about the character, I don't think you could disagree on that. Even though I liked Dorothea, I thought she was a little naive at the beginning. But then, who would have taught her not to be?

 

#14 Today, 03:40 PM

David

 

Yes, Middlemarch is a superb book, and another one of those towers of Victorian literature. Eliot is the only one of the 'big four' (sounds like a safari, doesn't it?!) that I never had the chance to teach, which is a shame.

 

I love the comprehensive feel it conveys of a complete Victorian provincial existence. Like many of the best and most meaningful writers, Eliot moves effortlessly between classes and explores with great sensitivity and intelligence the impact of class division on society in an impressively broad panorama. This is also a novel that does its best to address the issue of women in Victorian society, although in many of these examinations I can sometimes find Eliot's tone a little preachy. There are times, also, when I find her cool as a narrator, but equally there is enormous strength of intellect in her writing and the intricacies of theme and image are impressive.

 

I suppose most people have the reaction to Dorothea that's been described, but then I always enjoy a character that moves on a clear journey of discovery, of both themselves and those around them. The whole course of the novel seems to be about experience drawing out truths and scales falling from eyes. In an era that seems so self-satisfied, at times, with the triumph of British values and morality, this surely demonstrates how crucial fiction can be. I enjoyed the gradual deterioration of Bulstrode's hyprocritical and darkly flawed character, for instance.

 

A remarkable book that - like so many other Victorian classics - I really must return to soon!

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Mendes to direct mini-Middlemarch

Lindesay Irvine

Monday April 23, 2007

Guardian Unlimited

 

Having already boiled much of the English literary canon down to TV serials, Andrew Davies is setting his sights on an even more ambitious project. The adapter of choice for both ITV and the BBC is now turning to Hollywood, and a film version of Middlemarch.

 

This will be the first film version of George Eliot's 19th century masterpiece, which is perhaps understandable, since the book is one of the longest in English. It features a complex weave of interconnected stories focused on idealistic young heroine Dorothea Brooke.

 

Sam Mendes, making his first film set in his native England, will direct. Mendes, who is married to Kate Winslet and whose other films include American Beauty and Jarhead, has yet to announce casting decisions.

 

His producing partner, Pippa Harris, told Variety: "Sam's first film was for an American studio, so he started off in a slightly different place than other British directors. But he's as determined to tell stories about England as he is about America."

 

Mendes will take on the project after completing his upcoming film, Revolutionary Road, based on the Richard Yates novel and starring the director's wife, Kate Winslet, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio.

 

Davies has written numerous TV versions of novels by the likes of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and William Thackeray. He has already abbreviated Middlemarch to a 375-minute serial for the BBC but a mainstream film is unlikely to permit more than a third of that time.

 

It seems a daring feat, but Tolstoy's even longer War and Peace has already been filmed several times. After that, Middlemarch should be a stroll in the country estate.

 

Interesting news for MM fans. Any ideas who you would like to see in the main character roles? I suspect Kate Winslet may be first choice for Dorothea, (though a little too old), Mendes may try and help her get that coveted Oscar.

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Well the book will have to be shamelessly slashed in order to make it film-length. I can accept that with shorter books, which still suffer from being hacked about, but this isn't a novel that can support it. It will simply be Dorothea and Will's story and the entire panoramic quality I eulogised above will fall by the wayside.

 

Yes, maybe Kate Winslet, though you could be right, Hazel, that she'll be seen as too old. I'd actually be hopeless as a casting director because with very few exceptions if I think of literary characters then of an actor my automatic response is, 'Hmmm...no...not quite right...'

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Same here, I hardly ever imagine someone the way the casting director does. If Dorothea were a small girl, they'd certainly cast Dakota Fanning, I'm afraid they will do something like that with these actors. If he has Hollywood involved, he will have to give one of the main characters to an American actor/actress. Can't think whom they could choose there? Lindsey Lohan? :eek: Katie Holmes? :eek: :eek: I can only shudder at the imagination of further actresses.

 

I don't see it as a good script for a movie because it is far too long. I'd love to see it on the big screen but they'd just have to cut out too much.

 

Anyway, I know whom David would like to see. ;)

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Anyway, I know whom David would like to see. ;)

Well, I didn't like to say, but...

 

(No, to be fair Keira's not Dorothea. She's too pretty, frankly. A Rosamond Vincy, perhaps? Although I picture her as blonde. Can't think why.... ;) )

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Whoever plays Rosamond has to be completely vacuous and as much as I dislike Ms Knightley, I think she is incapable of playing that role. I think Sophie Miles would be good as Rosamond. She has that 'blank' look down quite well - and I mean that as a compliment. If Hilary Swank were at little less angular, she'd make a good Dorothea.

 

I suspect the Hollywood version of this will focus on the deep yearning of Dorothea and Will to be together with the dastardly Mr C. keeping them apart. :rolleyes:

 

What about Will, Lydgate, and Casaubon? Who do you see in those parts?

 

I fancy Jamie Draven in any of the roles (apart from Mr C.) just because I ...fancy him.

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I loved the BBC adaptation of Middlemarch, and I still have it as a nice chunky double video. I can't imagine it as a film - it's just got far too much in it, and it's just not a film-length story.

But then, I think that about a lot of adaptations - I always thought that the Harry Potter books would have made good Sunday afternoon serials, rather than films. Some stories just aren't meant to be consumed all in one sitting.

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I so agree, MM, most books would certainly benefit from being made into series, especially the classics. I love the Middlemarch series and I think the casting there was great.

I think Sophie Miles would be good as Rosamond.
Don't know, I think she's too "nice" for this role.

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I'm just at chapter 5 of Middlemarch. I can't believe I have got to 30 without yet reading it! :rolleyes: After Dombey and Son it feels like light reading! I haven't read this thread through properly as I don't want to know too much at this stage but I will be popping back as I get further through.

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You're right, Hilary, I always found it light reading but interesting enough to keep on with it. I can't understand why so many people think every classic is "heavy" and "too hard to understand".

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I finished Middlemarch last night and I loved it. I've also moved house again this last couple of weeks which is why the reading is a little slow at the moment.

 

In regard to a comment a few above this, I'm sure the book says Rosamund is blonde, I think it talks about her golden hair a few times.

 

Dorothea was wonderful. I loved her being so stately and loved how the men always commented that she was not like other women and how she could be a friend to men and suchlike. Great stuff. And how her sister always made comments about how Dodo doesn't do things like everyone else does. I thought she was great.

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... I thought she was great.
Me too. I think that is part of the reason this book is so beautiful. Dodo is a modern woman stuck in the wrong time but if it hadn't been for women like her, we might all still be stuck in the kitchen raising the kids. I don't want to say that's a bad thing - after all, that's what I do. All I want to say is that shouldn't be your only option. And women like Dodo made this choice available for women.

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Somebody said -

"I love the comprehensive feel it conveys of a complete Victorian provincial existence."

 

And later -

This is also a novel that does its best to address the issue of women in Victorian society."

 

Actually it does neither of these things. Middlemarch is a Victorian novel only in the sense that it was written during Victoria's reign, but it isn't SET during Victoria's reign. It ends in 1832. Victoria didn't come to the throne until 1837. The society depicted is Hanoverian.

 

Nor can we imagine that Eliot was describing her own society (1870/71) and projecting it back forty years, because in that time life was transformed by the coming of the railways. The world's first passenger railway (Liverpool to Manchester) opened in 1830. By 1870 the country was covered in rail lines.

It created a new universe just as the internet has done today. Eliot is clearly talking about a society where people still used horses, and the railways were just beginning.

 

Lucy Gordon

http://www.lucy-gordon.com

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Somebody said...

Hmmmm. That would have been me, Lucy. What an interesting first post to make when joining the group.

 

Yes, I suppose I was a little loose in the term 'Victorian' but I think you have become slightly hung up on dates and facts. Yes, Victoria didn't ascend the throne until 1837, but it's a bit silly to look at this moment as if suddenly everything changed. Was life so entirely different from now at the turn of the millennium, which is actually even further back than the difference you cite? Would we be looking at a portrayal of life in the year 2000 and be saying, "Well it's quite remarkable how society has changed since then!"?

 

The railway certainly made an impact but for most people life was very much the same. Social mobility was still highly restrictive and most people didn't venture far beyond their town or village except on extremely rare occasions. I find it remarkable that you say Eliot is clearly portraying a society where people 'still used horses' as if the coming of the railways ended this practice. Horses were still being used even by World War II! For ordinary conveyance the horse was fundamental to Victorian society, even by the end of it.

 

Professor Asa Briggs is one of the most respected historians on the Victorian era. He writes, "The problem [George Eliot] sets Lydgate and Dorothea is in essence a mid-Victorian problem. Their vision and their struggle are the same as her own." Many of the social conditions prevalent at the time the novel was set continued far into the Victorian era, including as W.J. Harvey, the editor of the Penguin Classics edition notes, the feminist issues, as observed in the second quotation you dismiss.

 

I should have used the term 'Nineteenth Century' as opposed to 'Victorian' in order to be strictly accurate but your critique I'm afraid is based more on looking at dates and historical titbits rather than the actuality of what was written and how a writer in mid-Victorian England chose to present issues of the day. She was not in the business of writing simple historical novels for people who enjoyed reading about the past, she was creating a touchstone for the problems she saw around her.

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David, thank you for responding so quickly. I love a good battle.

 

You say I’ve become hung up on dates and facts, but I make no apology for that. Facts are a vital skeleton on which to hang argument. Besides which, Eliot herself was ‘hung up’ on dates and facts, and the proof is that

Middlemarch is one of the most precisely dated books ever written. Again and again she tells us not just the year but the month, who was on the throne, who was Prime Minister. The last part of the book is dominated by the 1832 Reform Bill.

 

This was a writer who’d studied dates and facts in detail before she wrote a word, because she wanted to fix the book, not in some vague nineteenth century, but in a specific time.

 

If she’d meant to set the book in Victoria’s reign it would have been easy for her to do so. Instead of which she went out of her way to make it clear beyond all misunderstanding that the book was set forty years earlier, in the reigns of George IV and William IV. Since she took so much trouble, surely we should accept what she is telling us?

 

I never suggested that everything changed in 1837. My point was merely that a book cannot depict a time that hadn’t even started. The action in Middlemarch may often have been similar to the Victorian era, in some respects, but in other respects it's different. So what's wrong with being precise about it?

 

The trouble is that Victoria was on the throne so long and dominated the 19th century so much that she’s become interchangeable with it in the public mind. If it’s 19th century, therefore it must be Victorian, and the fact that the first 37 years happened without her gets a bit lost.

 

I suppose we should feel a bit sorry for poor old William IV. He seems to have been a decent bloke but he didn’t do anything much, just kept the throne warm for his niece Victoria, with the result that practically nobody has heard of him.

 

At one point I think I expressed myself badly. When I said that people ‘still used horses’ I didn’t mean to imply that horses vanished from life entirely, merely that they were phased out for long journeys.

Travel by stage coach reached its peak about 1840, and afterwards declined sharply, because of the railways.

 

Sorry! There I go again, dragging in facts! I must try to get out of that bad habit!!!

 

Lucy Gordon

http://www.lucy-gordon.com

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You say I’ve become hung up on dates and facts, but I make no apology for that. Facts are a vital skeleton on which to hang argument.

When employed appropriately, sure, but fiction works beyond historical confines. Eliot, like so many intelligent writers, sets her book in another time not because she has an historical interest but because it provides a suitable tapestry upon which to explore issues that were relevant to her day. She was a woman intensely interested in the moot topics of mid-Victorian England and was writing no escapist piece that didn't concern itself with those problems. It is a classic technique of fiction to locate events in another frame from the time in which the book was written in order to focus the reader's mind on the important issues arising. To take a more extreme example, Orwell is not concerning himself with the exigencies of farm management in Animal Farm; Utopia is set in an imaginary foreign land, but More was actually commenting on England; 1984 is not a prediction. Other time frames provide meaningful contexts designed to generate significance through juxtaposition, and that is what Eliot does with Middlemarch.

 

I'll give you another quotation if you like:

 

"The events it describes occur just before the Reform Bill of 1832 but its content and ideas is more relevant to the mid-Victorian period when it was written."

 

Andrew Michael Roberts - The Bloomsbury Guide to the Novel

 

I'm afraid these quotations are just the quick and easy ones - I don't fancy trawling through my old university notes.

 

Eliot chose this period because of the Reform Bill and the notion of change. She chose the 'study of provincial life' because this allows her to consider notions of stasis in the face of the forces of change: a powerful consideration in Victorian society. Those changes were well underway by the time Eliot is writing and by going back to their beginnings she is able to reflect on the nature of those forces: more easily considered before they had become an ineluctable part of the fabric of Victorian society.

 

So, to take your example of the railway, this manifests itself in the affairs of Caleb Garth, who represents the old world but is required by the engineers scouting for the new railway. Eliot considers through this the notion of continuity in a changing world and how that can be brought about.

 

Dorothea is an intelligent woman who is trapped and unable to fulfil her potential - a sociological truth for women throughout the nineteenth century and most certainly still true for an intelligent female novelist having to write under the name of a man.

 

I quite accept that in the terms of the novel's setting I should have been more careful in my use of the term 'Victorian', but that slipped in because in all academic study of the novel that is how it has been approached: as a novel that anatomises the problems of Victorian society through the lens of a slightly pre-Victorian setting. That's what I mean by sticking too closely to 'facts' because the details of the book's historical setting actually overlook what the novel is doing intellectually.

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You say –

 

“Orwell is not concerning himself with the exigencies of farm management in Animal Farm.”

 

True. But then, nobody ever claimed that he was, therefore no confusion could arise. But people do say that Middlemarch depicts Victorian society, and this causes confusion.

 

The odd thing is that I do actually agree with a great deal that you say. I wouldn’t quarrel with the assertion that the book prefigures the Victorians, only that it actually depicts them.

 

But what I find worrying is that you seem to be saying that mere factual accuracy is trivial beside the service of a higher intellectual truth. Isn’t that a bit dangerous?

 

Lucy Gordon

http://www.lucy-gordon.com

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True. But then, nobody ever claimed that he was, therefore no confusion could arise. But people do say that Middlemarch depicts Victorian society, and this causes confusion.

Well, once again I can only say that yes, in a purely factual question of the Queen in question ascending the throne several years after the events of the novel, you're right. But that rather misses the point of what the novel is trying to do. It's no historical tract: it's focusing on a specific period of history that is meant to serve as a commentary on the nature of the mid-Victorian society around Eliot.

 

The odd thing is that I do actually agree with a great deal that you say. I wouldn’t quarrel with the assertion that the book prefigures the Victorians, only that it actually depicts them.

The characters depicted are not Victorians in the factual sense of the word. However they embody everything that is of concern to Eliot about the Victorian era. They are representative, as I've tried to expain above.

 

But what I find worrying is that you seem to be saying that mere factual accuracy is trivial beside the service of a higher intellectual truth. Isn’t that a bit dangerous?

Factual accuracy isn't trivial at all, but if you approach it over-literally you miss the point. And whilst I wouldn't claim it as 'dangerous' the perhaps misleading approach is to take the literal truth about something and suggest that's the only important thing about it. Good literature is far more subtle than that. To that end we would imagine that the only important thing about Lord of the Flies is that it enlightens us to how boys would behave if marooned on an island: that's the fact of the book, but what it's actually saying is far more important. My problem with your insistence on fact is that you simply state that because Middlemarch is set in the years immediately before the Victorian era then that is all it's about. It's not and I've explained why. I've tried to suggest that simply looking at the 'fact' of a date when a book is set may overlook what that book is trying to do. Authors right through literary history have set their books in other times and it's rarely for the purpose simply of interesting people in the past.

 

she went out of her way to make it clear beyond all misunderstanding that the book was set forty years earlier, in the reigns of George IV and William IV. Since she took so much trouble, surely we should accept what she is telling us?

And what you need to ask yourself, Lucy, is why she went to all that trouble. Do you think she may have had a reason? Or did a writer of Eliot's calibre simply want to write a charming historical piece after all the incredibly intelligent books she'd written up until that point? I repeat, I'm not saying this is set in Victorian times, but it is telling us about Victorian times through the significant juxtapositions she sets up.

 

But let's just make this easy. Okay, I should have said, "I love the portrayal of provincial life five years before Victoria ascended the throne which Eliot employs to illuminate the reader about issues of concern in her own era." Oddly, I thought my original version was a bit more snappy and cut entirely to the point of what she was actually doing, but I do agree it could be terribly misleading.

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OK truce. Now to my other beef. What have you got against historical novels? First they're 'simple' now they're 'charming' using the word in a way that sounds like a put-down.

 

What's wrong with an historical novel being accurate? (As long as that isn't all it is.)

 

Ever tried writing one? (I'm approaching this with care because you'll probably reply that you've written a dozen.)

 

Lucy Gordon

http://www.lucy-gordon.com

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What have you got against historical novels? First they're 'simple' now they're 'charming' using the word in a way that sounds like a put-down.

Well, that's going to travel down a different path so if you'd like to consider this in depth probably the best thread is this one.

 

I have nothing against historical novels but they're not my natural cup of tea. I prefer novels that are doing more than just re-creating a period.

 

What's wrong with an historical novel being accurate? (As long as that isn't all it is.)

When have I said that? Obviously if you're writing an historical novel then it's important to be accurate (unless you're writing faction, in which case you still need to be accurate with the factual parts). My point about MM isn't that it puts Victorian characters in a slightly pre-Victorian setting, rather that its setting and characters have been carefully chosen to offer commentary upon truly Victorian issues.

 

Ever tried writing one?

Oh come on, Lucy - you sound as if you really should know that's a silly question to ask! If you have to write a particular novel in order to write a critique of it frankly virtually the entire membership of this group is in serious trouble! ;)

 

Whilst I haven't written an historical novel my training and indeed part of my profession for a good few years in education has been in literary criticism. But even if it hadn't been I'm as entitled as everyone else here to offer an opinion on a particular genre of book without having written one.

 

Anyway, historical would count as 'genre' fiction so see what you think of people's views on the thread I've linked to - I wouldn't wish to monopolise your attention! :)

 

ETA: If you click on "Your Settings" in the dark blue banner above, then "Edit Signature" at the top left of your page then you can enter your web-site as a signature that will appear at the bottom of each post, then you won't have to re-type it each time.

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This is the first of Eliot's novels that I've read, but it certainly won't be the last. I think it is a rare and wonderful thing to be truly awed by a writer's intellect. I read Middlemarch with the sense that Eliot must have been a very wise and clever woman to be able to write so knowledgeably on so many aspects of life: politics, science, religion, medicine, and everything else in between. Middlemarch is a book that really is about all of life, from high intellectual pursuits to the mundane facts of life, from love and passion to disinterest and decay.

 

It's not an easy book to read and I know I would benefit from reading a copy that had notes to explain some of the historical, scientific, and political aspects, but Eliot has a way of writing people's lives that encourages readers to make the journey of discovery and growth with them. She writes about human nature very well and I think that this makes some of her characters among the best I've ever come across. Will and Dorothea are truly remarkable characters and I felt very deeply for them. I found the growth of Fred Vincy and Dorothea compelling, convincing, and satisfying, and could share in Lydgate's despair.

 

This is definitely a book I will return to, and I know I'll get more out of it with each read.

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Middlemarch is a book that really is about all of life, from high intellectual pursuits to the mundane facts of life, from love and passion to disinterest and decay.

 

Absolutely. Of its kind - the realistic novel - it takes some beating. Perhaps only Tolstoy can hold a candle to her. Many modern readers will be put off, however, by the Wise Woman's homilies, reflections on life etc which hold up the narrative and explain rather too much about the problem of being human.

 

But there are also beautiful moments that need and get no explication, as when, for instance, Lydgate attends a meeting to decide on who shall be the religious incumbent at a newly installed clinic. His sympathies with Rev Farebrother, a charming but somewhat lax pastor, are known to the convenor who says 'Of course we all know you'll be supporting Farebrother.' Annoyed, Lydgate impulsively casts his vote for the earnest but less than charming cleric Tyke. Breaking the mould Victorian style - great stuff!

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I agree with you. Middlemarch – as a novel – has it all and Dorothea is a wonderfully complex character. In fact, George Eliot was famous for creating characters that have a lot of psychological depth. There always seems to be a whole lot of personality below the surface of what's being shown by the narrator or by the character's actions. While reading the book, you feel that Dorothea is a real, thinking, feeling person, and not just a collection of words and descriptions created by George Eliot.

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