Middlemarch – first impressions


I have a hard time reviewing Middlemarch by George Eliot, the latest book from my Classics Club reading list. I feel that I have only scratched the surface of this classic novel with my first read. Thus I am not yet ready to analyse it but I can share a few first impressions.

The first time I read something most of my focus is on the plot, which in this case starts slow and for a long time seems to meander aimlessly. It was excellently written and still enjoyable, but if I had not trusted the author I would have questioned the length of the novel. She did have a plan though. Behind the scenes she was carefully placing her characters, nudging them in the right direction, never going against their natures but still getting everyone exactly into the right places for the final resolution. It was masterful plotting and I look forward to re-reading it so I can better notice how she was doing it.

The other thing that really struck me on this first read was the interesting and realistic characters. They are all flawed, yet most of them memorable and easy to like. I found myself cheering for them and hoping that they all, well almost all, would have happy endings. I believe they will stay with me for a long time.

The only thing I did not like in the novel are a few rather ugly antisemitic comments made by characters. I do believe they were meant to be read as prejudiced rather then reflecting the author’s own opinion (unless I lost track of the family relations the characters targeted were not Jewish), but they are jarring. Apart from that I found that the text has stood the test of time very well and I really enjoyed it.



20 thoughts on “Middlemarch – first impressions

  1. You have touched on some interesting issues here.

    The author was writing when people had much more patience with a text; her readers were not blessed with so many alternative sources of entertainment. And as Causabon is a dry scholar, it only seems appropriate that the narrative which includes him is a long one.

    As for anti-Semitism, I’m not sure that the great writer was at all prejudiced in a simple way. In ‘Daniel Deronda’ there is evidence that she was fascinated by Jewish people. There is something romantic about her attachment to her realistic characters. It is important to remember that in those distant times, there was widespread casual anti-Semitism in European society. The Holocaust had not happened, and Christianity was stronger- so Jews were routinely ‘othered’ in a way that is not normally the case outside unusual social circles.

    Your reaction to the book does you credit, and I hope that you reread.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve never even heard of this book, and I’m not sure it’s my type of book, but I’m glad you seem to have enjoyed this first reading. Flawed and realistic characters are always good in stories, and ones you can connect with and cheer on like you did are even better!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I generally enjoy British 19th century literature and there George Eliot is one of the big names but for some reason I never got around to reading her before know. If you enjoy Jane Austen or any of the Brontës I would recommend her, otherwise, perhaps not.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I felt the same way – as soon as I had finished I was looking forward to the re-read! I think it’s so rich that it could be read many times, each time finding something new! With regards the Jewish question, I think she was reflecting prejudice in society, she’s far too broad minded and intelligent for those to be her views.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no idea of her personal opinions but I agree, the comments in the text are what I would have expected the public of the time to say, and as that is what she portrays, I don’t consider it an indication of her own opinions in either way.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I greatly enjoyed reading your interesting thoughts on “Middlemarch,” ireadthatinabook! When I first read that novel, I also found it kind of slow. I reread it years later, and was mesmerized. It’s subtle and psychologically astute, the characters are ultra-memorable, and George Eliot’s dissection of the book’s two main marriages is amazing. I’m glad cheepcheepcopy mentioned “Daniel Deronda” — I agree that that novel is totally NOT anti-Semitic. Probably the best, non-stereotypical depiction of Jewish characters by any non-Jewish 19th-century author. In some ways, it might be Eliot’s best novel. It packs an amazing emotional wallop.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Middlemarch was my first Eliot but it made me eager to read more. I think Silas Marner will be my next one as it is on my Classics Club list but I will keep Daniel Deronda in mind for my third Eliot, thanks for recommending it!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I also read this for the Back to the Classics Challenge (different category). It was my first experience with Eliot, and I didn’t know to trust her with the character development. I was growing rather bored when suddenly…Wow! Couldn’t put it down. Nice review.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Middlemarch definitely improves with each re-reading, so I encourage you to go back to it (although wait a bit). I think you might also enjoy Elizabeth Gaskell’s books (when you’ve finished your Classics reading challenge) — closer to Dickens than to Eliot in tone and quality, but still really good, and some are funny. Cranford is a good book to start with, or Mr. Harrison’s Confessions. North and South is serious but much like Jane Eyre with a strong heroine and prickly hero.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good, I look forward to a reread in a few years time! Thank you for the advice on Gaskell! I started North and South once, but got distracted early so it never got a proper chance. Perhaps I’ll try Cranford next instead.

      Liked by 1 person

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