It is the second time around that I read this great novel by the English female writer whose pseudonym was George Eliot. It is with good reason rated by the people of England, year by year, as one of three most cherished novels of English fiction. 918 pages, and everyone of them such a delight to read and pause, each stretch of the journey like a sip of fine tea. This is her greatest novel, if possible. It is the story of the people of a provincial town, the sophisticated class, the landed gentry. More specifically it is about these people's decisions and motivations and the results that those decisions had on their own lives and on the little society around them. It's the countryside, so there's plenty of gossip and reputation to reckon with. These people have their own motives, intimate motivations and impulses, wishes and desires, aspirations and the lack of them, to play with, and to be balanced against the opposing views that their neighbors in Middlemarch may raise. The characters are portrayed in their beautifully: we come to understand their thoughts, the hesitations, their desires, and therefore we understand also why their decisions, right or wrong, were made, and learn to be lenient in our judgment toward them, even the more flawed of them. Dorothea captures our attention right from the start, and so does Lydgate soon; and here comes a warning based on experience: don't miss the other characters, later on you will regret it. All the characters, due to the tight and small geographical unit they belong in, play some role in the general story of the town, even though in secondary roles, and it is quite more rewarding if you are not discouraged from the beginning by the 918 pages that await for you. The characterization is delicious. The soul of these individuals shines forth as I have never read in other novels. Certainly the author lets us in in the characters inmost thoughts and hesitations before their fateful decisions are made, and that way way we come to share with them those same sensations. I remember being hooked on this book the first time, right into college, and being so carried away by the exquisite writing that I gave up a little bit on the story and just focused on the details, that is the sensations passed from characters to reader. So, many years later, that is now, I hardly remembered any character but Dorothea, and it as exactly like reading for the first time, the same enjoyment.
The story concerns the issues of marriage, family connections and social concerns. How each character views those issues, and how they act upon them, is what is going to draw the picture of this provincial landscape. The story develops smoothly; decisions on one side of the canvas affect gradually the other side, and bring their logical reactions back. Dorothea is the sort-of-heroine of the book because she is so independent-minded, so devoid of prejudices and so willing to do something good with her little fortune, to help Middlemarch's most weak and poor, and she is so unconcerned about her own wealth or social status that she obviously has to be the focus of attention. And she is the real thing: not a hypocrite, no. She knows ideas have consecuences, if you dare to make decisions based on them, and the is perfectly willing to take on the consequences of her acts. What she thinks right, she follows through, and does does care what society make think, because she can read that society is, in part, quite hypocritical: she wants to do the right thing; she has the right motivations and she follows through. Wonderful, Dorothea.
A soul-enriching experience for all those who read it. Still on top of my best fiction reads. And this one is a very nice edition for its price. Let me recommend, in the line of this one, that you also read Daniel Deronda, her last masterpiece.