Friday, 13 April 2012

Middlemarch by George Eliot (4/5)

The back says: Middlemarch is a complex tale of idealism, disillusion, profligacy, loyalty and frustrated love. This penetrating analysis of life in an English provincial town during the time of social unrest prior to the first Reform Bill of 1832 is told through the lives of Dorothea Brooke and Dr Tertius Lydgate and includes a host of other paradigm characters who illuminate the condition of English life in the mid-nineteenth century.

I say: It took me a while to get into Eliot’s language and what initially seemed like rather tedious town life and annoying opinions from the narrator. Once I got further into the story of Dorothea and her marriage I started liking it, but then we were introduced to the other townspeople, and I had to struggle my way through their lives. I generally don’t like books where we follow a lot of different families that intermingle in a town full of gossip and other such nuisances.

To be honest, all of the characters in this book annoyed me.

So then why am I giving this a 4 out of 5?

Well, mostly because Eliot does a rather great job of describing life in 1830’s England. The way she details just how little power, choice and say women had in their own lives; first pleasing their parents and later their husbands. I also liked how she portrayed the issue of class without having it come across as though she had some sort of agenda. Although a lot of the problems and issues that were addressed in this novel were presented, in my opinion, rather unremarkably, I have the utmost respect for Eliot for writing this novel, and I am glad that I struggled through it.

If I were able to remove all the annoying comments from the narrator this would have been so much more to my satisfaction (not to mention the quotes at the beginning of each chapter). Things like this:

“We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquires say, ‘Oh, nothing!’ 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 57

It just irks me.

So yeah, another one of my 100 Classics Challenge read that I never would have touched if not for that challenge.

So thanks, I guess.

9 comments:

  1. Hmm, it does sound rather boring to me. I, too, dislike books with a bunch of different characters and the synopsis isn't all that intriguing. But it's a classic and I'd love to do a challenge like that, so I might get around to reading it. I also know they made a mini-series based on this book which I haven't seen, but might be worth watching while reading just to make the book more interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I saw that there was a mini-series but I doubt I'll ever watch it. These people just bored me too much for me to ever want to revisit them in any form.

      Delete
  2. Ugh, I'm not sure I would be able to slog through the narrator comments. I enjoy a good setting and I enjoy good setting description but I'm not sure I could put up with a lot of extraneous fluff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of fluff in here. And I forgot to mention a lot of political talk that had nothing to do with anything. The edition I have was something like 780 pages and I could easily have removed half of them.

      Delete
  3. So long as I can keep straight who is who I actually quite like a book that tells the story of several families. Cranford was a bit like that although it only followed one person/family at a time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, Middlemarch randomly jumps from person to person and shows things from different perspectives, which is rather nice. But I prefer it to be clearcut, chapter by chapter. Ish.

      *googles Cranford*

      Delete
  4. This book sounds as dull as Vanity Fair...thanks to challenges that get us to read the classics...Sorta...:P

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh no, I was just looking at Vanity Fair as my next read. But if it's dull I'll wait a bit - I can't stand another struggle. I used to be able to have 3-4 books going at the same time, but these days it's just one at a time.

      And yeah, thanks to all the challenges letting us know what all the fuss is about. Especially AFTER we realise that there really was nothing to fuss about.

      Delete
  5. This book sounds as dull as Vanity Fair...thanks to challenges that get us to read the classics...Sorta...:P

    ReplyDelete