George Eliot's most ambitious novel is a masterly evocation of diverse lives and changing fortunes in a provincial community.
Peopling its landscape are Dorothea Brooke, a young idealist whose search for intellectual fulfillment leads her into a disastrous marriage to the pedantic scholar Casaubon; the charming but tactless Dr Lydgate, whose marriage to the spendthrift beauty Rosamund and pioneering medical methods threaten to undermine his career; and the religious hypocrite Bulstrode, hiding scandalous crimes from his past.
As their stories interweave, George Eliot creates a richly nuanced and moving drama, hailed by Virginia Woolf as 'one of the few English novels written for adult people'.
Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
The audio books I get tend to be either 1) scifi or 2) things for my husband and me to listen to on long road trips--humor or history
I enjoyed the parts of this novel more than the whole of it. Taken altogether, this seemed like a story that could have been told in half the pages while still getting across the main points the author was making. The book principally documents the lives of several individuals, each of whom when young believes he or she is destined to do Great Things. Over the course of several hundred pages, the author shows how her protagonists, either through their own poor judgment or because of their place in the social web (dictated by the mores of Victorian society) end up living pretty unremarkable lives.
It is a testament to Eliot’s excellence as a writer that she manages to make these everyday lives interesting. She does this via a delightful cast of supporting characters and witty asides that skewer human nature generally. I found myself smiling frequently and underlining many wonderful passages throughout the book.
But what makes this book worth reading over a century after it was written is the way it shows the first glimmers of rebellion against the way women were brought up, particularly women of middle and upper-middle class status. None of the women in the book are allowed to fully utilize their abilities, particularly their minds, and are for the most part submissive to their fathers, brothers, and husbands. But this submission does not come easily, and each manages to slip out from under the oppression of her situation in her own way.
[I listened to this as an audio book performed by Maureen O'Brien. She did a very good job of giving the characters different voices, but I agree she made several of the women sound extremely childish, which was a bit annoying. Still, she was able to get a good deal of humor into the reading which I appreciated.]
Dorothea Brooke is both an original character and as familiar as my own heart. She is a well-educated, upper-class young woman who wants to build a life that is meaningful on her own terms and not by the conventions of society, but she is held back by society's limited view of a woman's role in the world. What else did I love -- the many other complex characters who came alive and who worked out their lives in their own ways -- with or without success.
In bringing a whole society to life and creating characters as vibrant as real people -- Barchester Towers by Trollope, Vanity Fair by Thackeray, any number of novels by Dickens (Great Expectations, Little Dorrit,Our Mutual Friend,Bleak House).
She gave each character their own voice, without making anyone a caricature.
Too long! and too complex. It needed to be savored and enjoyed.
Maureen O'Brien is a great reader. Each character spoke in a slightly different way. The changes were detectable but not annoying.
Although when I started I did not like the characters very much, throughout the book I got used to them and once the book was finished I missed the characters and the spirit of the novel.
Middlemarch is an amazing book that portrays a list of characters that seem to get themselves into trouble by thinking too much instead of going with their instincts. Social hierarchy seems to be the factor in the back of every person's mind that decides which romantic or financial turns they will take, at the onset nearly ruining their lives.
Dorothea happens to be my favorite character due to her independence. I was very frustrated with her time and time again, however, whenever she and Will Ladislaw got together and never acted on the love that each knew was present. It seemed that every time both of them got together I was silently screaming to them both to profess their love and lead happy lives, not ones of servitude to others. When they finally did, I knew that all would turn out well for them.
The supposed superiority of men over women was a predominant issue that came back over and over again to nearly every character. Whether it was the disgust of a woman deciding for herself who she should marry, or a wife trying to help her husband financially, each woman was put in her place and their actions were restricted, threatened by the fear of a poor lifestyle. Strangely enough, it was the wives that survived their restrictive husbands, and went on to live happily in the end.
George Eliot (a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans) put together a wonderful conglomeration of social, political, spiritual, and ethical hardships as well as the solutions to such difficulties, and she did so with excellent eloquence. Maureen O'Brien, the narrator, brought forth a terrific performance, with each character clearly understood, even in the most emotional scenes. Very well done!
The best thing about this book is the character development. I felt a compelling attraction and affinity to every somewhat important character. While some were easier to admire, or dislike, or simply laugh at, I felt that I possessed the same traits during some periods of my life. Eliot is possibly the most honest writer I've ever read. She makes no one fit any pre-established mold; each develops as we readers travel along. I thought several times: "Our worlds and surroundings have changed so immensely; our habits of daily life bear no resemblance," and yet, all that is insignificant. People and events are entirely recognizable in my modern world, as well as in Eliot's.
Middlemarch shines as an example of storytelling not often seen among today's best sellers. Character development with few modern equals.
I'm a professional painter and love ennobling, enlightening literature
I haven't read Middlemarch, but have no doubt Ms O'Brien endowed each character with great individuality, breathing into them fully rounded personalities.
The endless profound insights into human thoughts and behaviors and relationships. If I were reading the book, each page would be filled with underlinings. This is a book to truly relish.
I'm not certain. Though her reading is hugely empathetic, this is also how I read a book. She is a fabulous reader.
As in the very best of books, it made me think deeply.
I've just purchased another George Eliot book. She is a brilliant timeless classic writer whose words bloom like gardens. Middlemarch will be among my top 10 books of all time.
It's hard to imagine a better reading of Middlemarch. If shopping, read no further.
My third time with Middlemarch and my first with audible. O"Brien's reading made a great book even better. Her vocal characterizations (of which I am, in general, not very fond) were quite good, but even when not "in character" her reading was brilliant.
I read the book as I listened to this narration and I cannot exaggerate how my experience has been enriched to hear every single character given a unique voice, one that was perfectly suited to the personality of the character. This is a masterful rendition of a great treasure of English literature. The artistry of the narration, the sheer number of voices, accents, patterns of speech and idiosyncrasies that the narrator has captured is, in itself, a true work of art. It's as if Ms. O'Brian went to live in Middlemarch to become acquainted with every character very well and then recreated them for us.
"Hard to get started but rewarding when you do."
I loved it. This is a long book, give it time and you'll be rewarded. 200 years on things are fundamentally the same!
"Loved it. A lesson on life."
Be prepared to commit yourself to this book as it is 87 chapters long and requires (deserves) your full attention.
It's hard to say what I liked best. I loved all of the character descriptions and the way their lives wove together gently. It is written with such intelligence and incredible clarity that it is as if you are studying the inhabitants of Middlemarch through a magnifying glass.
Much of what is happening in Middlemarch could be transposed into the present day and there are surprising lessons to learn about the predictability of human nature and how little we have changed.
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