Middlemarch: Chapters 1-14


And the #EliotAlong is ON LIKE DONKEY KONG! Considering how anxious Middlemarch had been making me (especially when I saw it was 800+ pages), I’ve been enjoying the first 14 chapters. I splurged a little and grabbed a beautiful clothbound edition of the text, hoping that if I had something a little prettier and special in my hands, I would continue to return to it week after week. We will see how that goes. Originally I was planning on reading two chapters a night, but now that I’ve seen how short the chapters are (some are a few pages) I’ve decided to try and read the week’s allotted reading in one sitting. I usually only read a book at a time, so if I try and read two chapters a day, I imagine I will only read Middlemarch all month. I’m planning on getting some other books read during July too.

I have a feeling that the language would have bothered me, being older than most of the modern classics and genre fiction that I read. However, the last book I was reading was Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne, and so Middlemarch is like a breath of fresh air. So, the language hasn’t been giving me any trouble. Some of the references to literature, people and events of the time fly over my head (even with the short notes section), and so I found myself doing some googling while reading.

The characters of Middlemarch are interesting and intriguing, and the way that George Eliot introduces characters is subtle and interesting. The first book is Miss Brooke, and through her and Celia, her sister, we are introduced to characters that they know and then the characters they know, and it spider webs out from there. I was worried that I wouldn’t like Dorothea, but I came to enjoy Dodo and her over-earnestness. I really liked Mr. Brooke, and one of his lines of dialogue really caught me: ‘The fact is, I never loved anyone well enough to put myself into a noose for them.‘ p. 41.

There are touches of humour through Middlemarch too, for example when Sir James talks to Mrs Cadwallander about the proposal between Casaubon and Dodo, and Sir James says, ‘He has one foot in the grave.’ And Cadwallander responds with, ‘He means to draw it out again, I suppose.‘ p. 58. These touches of humour, of characters bitching about one another to each other.

I’m looking forward to finding out more about the characters and town of Middlemarch, I’m invested in reading on and getting to know who else is involved. I’m considering forming a character sheet though, because I’m worried that the amount of characters is getting out of hand.

Some other favourite quotes from Middlemarch so far include:

‘You don’t understand women. They don’t admire you half as much as you admire yourselves.’ p. 69

Now I wish her joy of her hair shirt.’ – p. 61

Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our own hurts – not to hurt others.‘ p.62

How is everyone else going with your readalong? Anyone really struggling or disliking it? Do you guys think we are going to have some kick ass female characters in Middlemarch, or is Eliot going to provide us with some wallflowers?

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