george eliot

Middlemarch: Expectations & a little research

In July and August I am participating in a readalong of George Eliot’s Middlemarch, affectionately known as the #eliotalong on twitter. It’s being hosted by the wonderful Bex over at An Armchair By The Sea – go check out her blog and if you’re feeling it – maybe even sign up for the readalong. There’s still plenty of time!

I’ve purchased myself a shiny new copy of the book and was a little astounded by its length. I knew it was a chunker, but boy did I underestimate. My goal while reading Middlemarch is to read one other novel each week. I’m still aiming to complete my #20booksofsummer challenge, and I need to keep up the pace even while reading such a large book.

In my excitement, I decided to share my impressions and preconceived notions about Middlemarch. I then did some very gentle research (like, it was Wikipedia, let’s face it) into George Eliot and Middlemarch.

What I thought about Middlemarch & George Eliot until recently.

  • Until a year ago, I thought it was written by a man.
  • Possibly a romance.
  • It is set in England, and most likely in the Victorian period.
  • Long and painful.
  • Mike, the customer at work who I always talk books and classics with, hasn’t read it. Which is surprising. Also might mean it’s terrible.

What my googling turned up-

Mary Ann Evans. (George Eliot) 22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880. She wrote six other novels: Adam Bede; The Mill on the Floss; Silas Marner; Romola; Felix Holt, The Radical; Daniel Deroda.

She is known for her realism and psychological insight. She published under a male name to be taken seriously and not have her work dismissed as merely ‘romance’. Her father invested in her education because she was very ugly and he didn’t think she would ever find herself a decent husband. Which is horrible, but also made me laugh.

She was also a poet and journalist, and wrote  Stradivarius, which I read a couple of years ago at school and completely forgot. The fact that I remembered the actual poem means it was one of the ones I liked most. Her works draw heavily on Greek literature, which I have little to no experience or background in, so many of these references may fly over me while we’re reading.

Middlemarch was published in eight volumes in 1871-1872. It is set in a fictitious Midlands town in England on the eve of the Reform Bill of 1832. There are some themes that are prevalent in Middlemarch, including political crisis, the status of women, nature of marriage, self interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform and education.

Originally the reviews of Middlemarch were mixed but it is now considered to be one of the greatest novels ever written in English.

The schedule for the readalong is as follows:

June 27th – July 3rd – Chapter 1 – end of 14 (or all of Miss Brooke and the first two chapters of Old and Young)

July 4th – 10th – Chapter 15 – end of 28 (or the rest of Old and Young and six chapters of Waiting for Death)

July 11th – 17th – Chapter 29 -end of 42 (the rest of Waiting for Death and all of Three Love Problems)

July 18th – 24th – Chapter 43 – end of 56 (all of The Dead Hand and the first three chapters of The Widow and the Wife) 

July 25th – 31st – Chapter 57 – end of 70 (the rest of The Widow and the Wife and eight chapters of Two Temptations) 

August 1st – 7th – Chapter 71 – End