Middlemarch

Middlemarch

by George Eliot, Francine Prose

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Overview

Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by the English author George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), first published in eight instalments (volumes) in 1871–1872. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–1832, and follows several distinct, intersecting stories with a large cast of characters. Issues include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education. Despite comic elements, Middlemarch is a work of realism encompassing historical events: the 1832 Reform Act, the beginnings of the railways, and the death of King George IV and succession of his brother, the Duke of Clarence (King William IV). It incorporates contemporary medicine and examines the reactionary views of a settled community facing unwelcome change.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062467379
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/17/2015
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 864
Sales rank: 857,062
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

George Eliot was the pseudonym for Mary Anne Evans, one of the leading writers of the Victorian era, who published seven major novels and several translations during her career. She started her career as a sub-editor for the left-wing journal The Westminster Review, contributing politically charged essays and reviews before turning her attention to novels. Among Eliot’s best-known works are Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, in which she explores aspects of human psychology, focusing on the rural outsider and the politics of small-town life. Eliot died in 1880.


Francine Prose is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent book is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

WHO that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt, at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa,' has not smiled with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking forth one morning hand - in - hand with her still smaller brother, to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled from rugged Avila, wide - eyed and helpless - looking as two fawns, but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from their great resolve. That child - pilgrimage was a fit beginning. Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were many - volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a brilliant girl to her. Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel; and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction, some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile self - despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self. She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.
(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Middlemarch"
by .
Copyright © 2011 George Eliot.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents
Note on the Text
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of George Eliot
MIDDLEMARCH
Explanatory Notes

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Kate Reading...lends the prose emphasis and expression.... Reading's well-paced, measured narration captures the novel's realism—-with its fresh rendering of a complex and often harsh social world." —-AudioFile

EBOOK COMMENTARY

It is a hugely ambitious, hugely successful, wise, and satisfying work. I never reread it without discovering something I hadn't noticed before.

Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss the relationship between religious and secular, spiritual and worldly, in the novel. Is it conflicted or not? Why?

2. What is Eliot's view of ambition in its different forms-social, intellectual, political? How is this evident in the novel?

3. In her introduction, A. S. Byatt contends that Eliot was "the great English novelist of ideas." How do you interpret this? How do you think ideas-human thought-inform the plot of Middlemarch?

4. George Eliot is a pseudonym for Mary Ann Evans. How does Eliot's femaleness-and her concealing of it-add resonance to the novel, if at all? Do you see Dorothea's character differently in this regard? Do you see Middlemarch as a "women's" novel?

5. Middlemarch was originally published in serial form, a single book at a time. What kinds of concerns affected Eliot's narrative in this regard? How do these discrete segments differ from the whole?

6. Discuss the convention of marriage in the novel. Do you feel it ultimately restricts the characters? Or is it the novel's provincial setting that proves more oppressive?

7. Discuss the metaphor of Dorothea as St. Theresa. What is Eliot saying here?

Customer Reviews

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Middlemarch 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 139 reviews.
lraber224 More than 1 year ago
Do NOT waste your money on this edition of Middlemarch. There are seriously at least 50 typos that I found. Misspelled words, character names switched, missing punctuation. I've never seen anything like it. It was terribly distracting. B&N and the editor of this edition should be so ashamed. Your money and time will be much better spent on another edition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can understand how some readers might become overwhelmed by the 700 plus pages that make up this classic but its well worth the read. George Eliot reminds me of an Austen or Bronte, but with a little more spunk. Everything doesn't always work out perfectly for Eliot's characters and their lives are more complicated and true to life. Dr. Lydgate and Dorthea begin with the best of intentions but their ambitions are soon spoiled through their own folly and misjudgement. The book is a great depiction of human strenghths and weaknesses set in a climate of strict social heirarchy.
HBW More than 1 year ago
This edition of Middlemarch has one of the best introductions to a classic I've ever read--clearly written, informative and free of the pompous nonsense you usually see in these (definitely read it after reading the novel, though; it gives away all the plot points). Because of this alone, I'd say this edition is more than worth the money. On the other hand, it did have a good number of typos. The book was apparently scanned with optical character recognition, judging by their nature. I found it readable, but if you're a stickler for such things, you might want to avoid this edition. Another drawback was the footnotes. They were too sparse, and a handful weren't properly tagged to jump to the footnote section. These aren't fatal flaws, but they keep reminding you you're not reading a top-notch edition. Still, for the money, I'm not sure you could do better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A must have. While I have always had an affinity towards the great classics - Great Expectations, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn 'and Tom Sawyer', Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, etc nothing prepared me for the masterpiece that I found George Eliot's Middlemarch to be.... not even having come highly recommended, and gifted by a fellow avid reader who's interests in the classics sometimes overlay mine. MiddleMarch is an ordinary yet timeless portrayal of people, their interwoven lives, and relationships, idealisms, crises etc - essentially, it is an character rich yet simple storytelling of humanity. It is 'IMO' like a book of life. I collected favorite books for the longest time and would haul them with me whenever I moved. Recently though, I adopted a minimalistic outlook to life and have practically given away all of my favorite books that I haven't read in a while. Currently, there are only 3 favorites that sit on my shelf, and MiddleMarch is the most favored of these favorites. Once you can get past the size - I have the Barnes & Noble Classics which comes to 799 pages, you too may find this your ultimate favorite classic.
JaneClaire More than 1 year ago
Amazing novel, absolutely terrible edition!! Do NOT purchase this B&N Series edition!!! I don't know the correct names of some of the characters because they're misspelled on every other page, not to mention the ridiculous number of typos. I should be getting paid to catch all of them! It's not 1-2; it's nearly every page! Customer Service is of no use either....I've been hung up on twice, and with a twinge of irony, the last one bid me "Farewell!" before hanging up. Sigh...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book itself is a marvelous one, but it is quite obvious that whoever edited the Barnes and Noble Classics edition did not actually read what was written, as there are numerous errors.  Some are obvious typographical errors, while others are words put into the sentences that make no sense. At first, I thought it would just be a few, but the further I read the more I came across. Normally I swear by these editions, but Middlemarch is poorly done.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love to read the classics but this is one of my favorites. If you find it a little slow at the beginning stick with it. The characters are so vivid and real you will be pulled into the story and identify with their experiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have tried on 2 occasions to get thru this book, and after 100 pages or so, find it very uninteresting. I am an avid reader of the Classics and am never afraid to take on any size book, as long as the story holds my interest. Since I own this book, I will try again this winter to get thru Middlemarch,and maybe this time it will light that spark that makes the reader wish the story would never end!! If not, theres always Dickens!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amazing! The first couple hundred pages are rough, but in the end it's worth it. If you enjoy 19th century literature, this is a must-read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What makes Middlemarch so interesting, and Eliot so different from Austen, is that there are no easy ways out for the characters; their futures are not so cut-and-dried. While Dorothea is almost impossibly noble, her sister's cutting remarks and her own human weakness and warmth toward the end bring her to an understandable level. The heart agonizes for the doctor in the parallel story, but his superficiality and aloofness at times also distance him from the reader. In short, idealized characters are brought down, and 'low' characters are proven better than they first seemed, and there is real insight into the hopes and disappointments of marriage. The candid explanations of human behavior are often reminiscent of Tolstoy, another writer whose works are necessary to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I looked forward to getting 'into' this rather long volume. Unfortunately, it was just too flowery for my preference. I passed it on to a friend who thoroughly enjoyed it and would give it 5 stars!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Middlemarch by George Eliot. Highly recommended. It seems that it's nearly impossible to talk about Middlemarch without mentioning its breadth and scope. The irony is that the entire novel takes place within the confines of this small community and within the sometimes-small minds of its various citizens. Although a vast number of characters populate Middlemarch and its environs, each who speaks has a distinctive voice, yet does not fall into being mere type only. The horse dealer sounds like a horse dealer¿but one with a particular background and perspective. The setting itself represents every type of town, suburb, village, or neighborhood where you'll find the complacent, the critical, the aspiring, the intellectual, the earthy, the wealthy, the poor, and the worker in between. As with many English novels, the setting, in this case Middlemarch, becomes as much a central character as any other, whether it's Dorothea or Lydgate. The tapestry Eliot weaves is complex; one character's actions can affect the lives of others he or she may rarely meet, while the unknown behavior and works of Bulstrode in his youth decades ago eventually touch nearly all. How the characters come together is sometimes obvious, sometimes subtle. Dorothy's interest in Casaubon, although a puzzle to her friends and family, is painted in broad strokes to the reader; her later interest in Will Ladislaw, grows somewhat more delicately if based in the same altruistic roots. Mary Garth and Fred Vincy have, in their way, come together in their childhoods; they are still struggling with mutually agreeable terms that will allow both to acknowledge the love and affection that are already there. Lydgate and Rosamond are both more of a puzzle and less of one¿a case of two opposed personalities with opposing views, opposing goals, and opposing personalities drawn together by that most capricious of matchmakers, proximity and circumstance, to form a union that will frustrate both and satisfy neither. Against the background of these four sometimes difficult relationships (Dorothea and Casaubon with its lack of love or eros, Dorothea and Will with the barriers set by Casaubon's will and that of the Middlemarch society who frown on Will and Dorothea's association with him, Fred and Mary with her imposed restrictions to set him on the correct course in life before she can make a commitment to him, and Lydgate and Rosamond with their diametrical oppositions) is the long, happy marriage of Nicholas Bulstrode and his Vincy wife Harriet. Unlike the others, there are no visible barriers to their happiness, and they are happy as a couple¿except for the events in Bulstrode's past that haunt him in the back of his mind and then at the front with the appearance of Raffles. The marriage survives the ensuing scandal, but the individuals¿Nicholas and Harriet¿become poor shadow of their former selves. It is in a town like Middlemarch that a woman like Dorothea will find it impossible to find approbation for her plans and Bulstrode will find the antagonism of those who have come to terms with their own worldly desires. It is in a town like Middlemarch that merely the raving words of a delirium tremens-afflicted Raffles can upset the respectable work of a respectable lifetime. The downfall of Bulstrode validates the town and its modernizing secular culture. Middlemarch is a novel of insight into personality, motivations, social behaviours, and history. In the end, even the happiest characters have failed at most if not all of their youthful aspirations and have become variations on the Middlemarch theme¿husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, day-to-day toilers rather than dreamers and achievers. Middlemarch is Everytown, where you will find an example or two of Every
BrandonJBudd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am almost embarrassed to admit that I did not enjoy this book more than I did. I found the lives of the individuals involved rather dull. Dorothea, with her bizarre passions and religious fervor, was easily the most interesting figure for me. However I found the concern over whether she'd end up with Will Ladislaw insufferably dull. I found the figure of the ambitious Lydgate initially quite interesting, but my interest dropped off as his narrative seemed increasingly absorbed in his relationship with Rosalind. I did come around eventually to Fred. Perhaps it was my love of an underdog, but I found his character likable and I ended up rooting for him. I do not deny that Middlemarch offers an accurate portrayal of the private life of these English Victorian era couples... I just find it uninteresting.Eliot herself, however, redeems the book with fantastic prosework. Her use of language as well as metaphor was enough to shake me from my disinterest in the story itself. Enough, anyways, to slog through the thing.I found the ending rather delightful. It seems like all works out well for our principals. It finishes in a believable manner, however (not everything is idyllic). Thus I was rewarded by the conclusion. But I can't help but thinking about how my favorite novels seem to always end on a note of discord, wavering in the air even after the tale has finished. So anyways, I guess it's back to the Southern Gothic Fiction for me.
boylan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The sentence structure alone makes this a book worth reading. Every sentence says something. It is not a book for skimming. Ms. Elliot dares to make judgements about her characters, guiding the reader along. A very relevant book for how darn old it is.
cdeuker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Hard to describe feelings about this one. George Eliot is certainly one of the wisest writers of all time, but that's part of the problem. Reading this book is a bit like spending 40 hours with someone who is better than you in every single way. Her virtue wears on me. Dorothea is a little brutal too. Even her faults are, in their own way, virtues as they make her a 'more perfect' human. Lydgate story is far more interesting. So with all the criticism, why four stars? She writes beautifully and she is right about what we should aspire to be. If she only weren't so completely right all the time! Reading Dostoevsky's The Idiot now. It's for sure he's not right all the time--but the fireworks are amazing.
brenzi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
On a quest to read all the classics that my woefully inadequate public school education failed to provide for, I recently finished, in the words of Virginia Woolf, "one of the few English novels written for grown-up people.¿ George Eliot¿s Middlemarch did not disappoint. WOW!Described as a novel of provincial life in early 1830s England, Middlemarch is a rich, character-laden, sprawling, epic novel that explores the themes of education, class, self-delusion, and the imperfection of marriage and, most importantly, I think, the changing role of women. At the heart of the novel: marriage, in all its various forms. Because its scope is so grand, Middlemarch presents a real challenge to review. At 800 pages, divided into 8 Books and 87 chapters it almost calls for each Book to be reviewed individually, an impossibility.Miss Brooke, Dorothea, has her own opinions on the subjects of both marriage and the role of women in society. She is a strong, independent young woman born in the wrong century. She is not interested in a vapid young man, wealthy though he is. She chooses, instead, to marry Mr. Casaubon, many years older than she but with an intellectual capacity that she believes will allow her to grow as well. She realizes, too late, that he is more caught up in his own narrow view of things than in sharing this life with Dorothea, whom he really considers to be a secretary. She, on the other hand, is an idealist who wants to enrich her world:¿By desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don¿t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil---widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower.¿ (Page 374)Eliot exposes the powerful class struggle at this time in England¿s history and the early beginnings of the middle class. Certainly the proper English young lady preferred to marry a member of the landed gentry, but we also see Miss Rosamond Vincy marry the newly arrived young doctor, and her undisciplined but kind-hearted brother Fred accept a reduction in class in order to marry the woman he loved, who insisted he become a responsible wage-earner.It¿s Eliot¿s rich character development that allows her to expound on her complex themes. She exposes the English upper crust to be dreadfully greedy and ambitious through these delightfully full characters. Even the names she gives them tells us a lot about them: Rev. Farebrother, Mrs. Cadwallader, Mr. Featherstone, Mr. Raffles are all so descriptive. Not a one-dimensional character within the 800 pages. And these characters think. Brilliant!Eliot makes use of the literary device known as authorial intervention and it can take you by surprise because it¿s not something modern writers make much use of. But, quite regularly, Eliot would insert her own thought and opinions into the story making you stop and think, ¿What was that?¿ However, after a few of these you instead say to yourself, ¿Oh, she¿s so right about that.¿Wonderful prose, intelligent ideas, an excellent view of 19th century English society, years ahead of her time, I will be seeking out more George Eliot. Very highly recommended.
bookwoman247 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Middlemarch is an intimate, yet sweeping look at a small English town in the Nineteenth Century.When the story opens, Dorothea Brooks is a young, beautiful girl whose burning passions are narrowly funneled into religious, moral, and intellectual fervor. She has a consuming desire to touch greatness. This leads her to marry the older, intense Casaubon, whom she envisions teaching her, and whom she expects to help in the work that consumes him. Simply, she considers him a great man, and expects to be brushed by his greatness.Another couple central to the story are Dr. Tertius Lydgate, a practical man of science, and the beautiful, coquettish, spoiled Rosamond Vincy.Middlemarch seemed to take me ages to read, but I loved it. I did, however, come away with a strong desire to kick a few butts, especially that of Rosamond Vincy Lydgate. I finished this yesterday morning, so I've had some time to reflect abuot why I reacted so stongly to her character. I believe it is because I was very annoyed that her character never seemed to mature much. Her character lacked developement, especially when compared to most of the other characters. I could definitely forgive her for being immature...but it irritates me that she remained that way!I find it interesting that every character ended up with a life that I found easy to predict. I'm not saying that I was particulary insightful. I think it had more to do with the writing - how fully the characters were fleshed out so that their motives were crystal clear, and it was obvious how they would react in any given situation. There must have been some good foreshadowing as well.The more I reflect on this book, the more I love it, and the more I appreciate Eliot's genius.
charlie68 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was reading an issue of a magazine where pastors were giving out their selections for favourite books, and one pastor chose Middlemarch, saying it was the best novel in the English language. In my opinion its a good book but not a great one. The writing is good at times but hard to read at others. It didn't have a great moral dilemma to make you really think about it in your life or characters that were believable and hard to conceptualize. But it is a book to recommend as the situation of Mr. Bulstrode is an interesting discussion point.
Seajack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Decent writing, but drawn out
Kristelh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This story of ordinary lives lived in provincial England is a study of characters. It is a story of marriage but also of not belonging. The main characters are the passionate, idealistic Dorothea, the idealist doctor Lyndgate, the self absorbed, intellectual Mr. Causabon and the narcissistic, self-centered Rosamonde. The last two are characters you can love to hate while sometimes the idealism of the other two can irritate as well. It also is a story of ¿be sure your sins will find you out¿ and ¿oh what a tangled web we weave when once we practice to deceive. Ms Eliot really brings out the destruction of gossip and rumors that is part of living in a small town. For a 900 plus pages novel, this story goes by in a flash. I¿ve also read Silas Marner by the author and while it was also good, I especially enjoyed Middlemarch. There is a historical social commentary that also flows through the story and it is about reform; improving life for the middle and lower classes.
rexmedford on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is literature at its finest. George Eliot tells the story of several lives in a small English town.....with incredible prose....beautiful emotion, and thorough intrigue. She takes you into the minds of her characters as well as the time of her story....its like a little time travel in all the glorious detail to put you right into the village as an observer. I loved the writing style; which made you identify with one character and despise another....It is truly a tome that ought to be read by anyone who loves timeless literature. An outstanding example of what writers are capable of...
gbill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Where to begin? This novel has it all and is a great read. Eliot takes on a very broad scope in Middlemarch and creates a wonderful description of life in a 19th century English town, while at the same time prefetching psychological insights from the 20th century. Her novel is rich in intricacy both in its characters and its plot, but at the same time it does not get mired in complexity or become difficult to follow. Someone asked me what Middlemarch was about when he heard I was reading it and again, where to begin? Some highpoints:- The novel for me anchors on three women: Dorothea, Rosamond, and Mary, each of whom are wooed by multiple suitors. I loved the reality in the difficulties of the marriages that transpire, and the inevitable comparisons to what might have been better matches. There are some great chapters in the later books on the relationships as they've developed over time; these are very satisfying and come as crescendoes.- The struggle in coming of age, evidenced in Ladislaw, Lydgate, and Fred; two of whom struggle to "find themselves", and all of whom face life-changing decisions for careers or partners in "small moments".- The portraits of the elderly, from the mellow (Farebrother, Cadwallader) to the crotchety (Featherstone), and the memorable scenes of death and last wishes. - Scandal. Honor and dishonor. Dark histories (obviously Bulstrode, but also revealed in Lydgate's first marriage). The evil Raffles, a character that seemed channeled from the best of Dickens.- The rest of Eliot's flushing out of "real life", from banter between siblings (Celia/Dorothea, Rosamond/Fred) to rivalries (within both groups of clergymen and doctors), to politics, gossip, children, the railroad as the beacon of progress to be both embraced and feared, etc etcAt the time she wrote Middlemarch, it is clear that Eliot had become very wise about life and people through her own experiences, and had also matured as a writer. The result is an outstanding book.Quotes:On youth:"If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new."On courtship:"Young love-making - that gossamer web! Even the points it clings to - the things whence its subtle interlacings are swung - are scarcely perceptible; momentary touches of finger-tips, meetings of rays from blue and dark orbs, unfinished phrases, lightest changes of cheek and lip, faintest tremors. The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness, indefinite trust."On marriage:"The fact is unalterable, that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few imaginative weeks called courtship, may, when seen in the continuity of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear altogether the same.""In her snowy-frilled cap she reminded one of that delightful Frenchwoman whom we have all seen marketing, basket on arm. Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter would become like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry - the mother too often standing behind the daughter like a malignant prophecy - 'Such as I am, she will shortly be.'""How delightful to make captives from the throne of marriage with a husband as crown-prince by your side - himself in fact a subject - while the captives look up forever hopeless, losing their rest probably, and if their appetite too, so much the better!""Those words of Lydgate's were like a sad milestone marking how far he had travelled from his old dreamland, in which Rosamond Vincy appeared to be that perfect piece of womanhood who would reverence her husband's mind after the fashion of an acco
deborahk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everybody talks about Jane Austin and I'm a fan too, but why doesn't anybody ever sing the praises of George Elliot? Middlemarch is like Jane Austin on steroids, its not limited to a single societal set - its a whole world, as relevant today as it was when it was written -- it even has murder in it!
Kendall41 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Masterful. Probably the only 19th century English novel comparable to the great Russian masters.
jmchshannon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of the massive summer reads for my online Classics Club book club. I even think I nominated it as an option, so I am admittedly a fan of this work. I first read it in 1996, back when I was supposed to be avoiding anything in English as part of the contract for my German immersion summer school program. However, this book was part of my rebellion from slogging through all things German for six weeks. Unfortunately, while I remember quite a bit from that summer, this book was not one of those things. I guess focusing on German for all but an hour a day caused me not to retain much of anything non-German related.This book has quite the cast of characters from the snobby rich, proud poor, and blissfully ignorant middle class, good, bad, unfortunate, lucky and everything else in between. The one thing that I truly enjoy about this book is the fact that each of the key main characters grows, sometimes for the worse, throughout the novel. Those who start out overbearing redeem themselves as their stories progress, and vice versa. It really is a great novel to study human behavior.To summarize such a tome I feel can't be done. There are SO many subplots, relationships, and side stories that there really is not one overarching story. Part of this, in my opinion, is due to the way it was published - in weekly serial format. Another reason for this is the fact that it is just like living in a small town. The relationships, familial and otherwise, the different classes, occupations and such all have their own stories and subplots. The subtitle of the book is "A Study of Provincial Life", and Ms. Eliot definitely succeeds in presenting provincial life in crystal clarity.There were some in my book club who just couldn't get into this book or did not like it. Make no mistake, this is a difficult book to get through at times. There are political and religious discussions that go on for pages and can cause the eyes to roll back into the head, but taken overall, it is well worth the struggle. The characters and the descriptions are so realistic that you can picture exactly what life was like for each of the characters. More importantly, not everyone gets a happy ending, which is as it should be.While I wouldn't call it the best novel written, I can see how it gets that moniker and would recommend Middlemarch to others. It is well worth the time and effort it takes to get through it, as it presents one of the most complete pictures of life in 1840s England that I've ever had the pleasure of reading.