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Publisher's Summary

Middlemarch is a recognized masterpiece that explores the complex social world of 19th century England. It is concerned with the lives of several ordinary people, albeit ones with high social standing. The novel explores the very fabric of Victorian society in the 1800s, showing how various human passions, heroism, egotism, love, and lust, interrelate within this society.

The novel is set in the small town of Middlemarch and follows the inter-related lives of several characters. At the heart of the book is Dorothea, a kind-hearted and honest woman, who longs to find some way to improve the world. She marries an older academic, Casaubon, against the advice of her friends and family. Casaubon tries to assert his influence over Dorothea, but she refuses to succumb to Casaubon's will. Casaubon soon dies of a heart attack, and Dorothea marries his cousin, Will. But, in a last attempt to control Dorothea's life, Casaubon's will states that if Dorothea marries Will, she will lose her claim to Casaubon's estate.

Other unforgettable characters in Middlemarch include the young doctor, Lydgate, who come to the town to start his own practice. He soon falls in love with Rosamund, a woman who has spent her life in Middlemarch, and they eventually marry. Fred Vincey, used to a lavish lifestyle but also a gambler, falls into debt as he waits to inherit money from a rich neighbor. He drifts toward the clergy, and longs to marry Mary Garth. But until he proves himself worthy, Mary will have nothing to do with him.

(P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.

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  • Overall

A pleasure

This is a great recording and an excellent novel.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • connie
  • Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 06-11-08

my favorite 19th C novel

For almost 40 years I thought that no 19th century novel would displace Austen in my little world, but Eliot's prose and her commentary on women's roles and social change, especially with regards to religion, family roles, and morals converted me. What a bridge bewteen the world of Austen and late Victorian novels. I read the paperback when I was much younger, but only came to apppreciate the novel as I listened to it. Kate Reading was fabulous.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Armen
  • 02-04-08

Now This Is A Novel

What can you say - if you love great writing and a real novel - well, listen to this book. Well read and paced, it's a long listen but well worht it. I gave it a try and am very happy that I did.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jennifer
  • austin, TX, United States
  • 07-22-10


I'll admit that I'd only ever heard this narrator reading trash, and I confess that I got this version out of a somewhat twisted idea that it might be funny, but the narration was perfect.
Elliot is, as always, delightful. You need some historical knowledge to fully appriciate all of it, but most of it translates surprisingly well to modern life. There are parts where the sarcasm is a bit thick, but overall Middlemarch has earned its place as a classic by having a compelling story mixed with witty and touching writing.
Well worth the credit.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Very enjoyable!

This book is long, but the narrator does an excellent job of bringing the characters to life and giving them personalities. I really enjoyed listening.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


This book starts slowly, but one thing that I really appreciate about audio books is that you are a captive audience, and it takes little effort to let the audio keep running, even if the story is moving slowly. There are a plethora of characters, and at first this seems ponderous, but Eliot is genius at developing all of the characters to such an extent that you feel that you would know them if you met them on the street. I will remember these characters forever.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Nad
  • woodbury, NJ, USA
  • 04-09-07


The book was fantastic. The reader was even more fantastic.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Susan
  • Seattle, WA, USA
  • 12-07-06

No better

No better writer than George Eliot. No better book than Middlemarch.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Enter Middlemarch, get to know everyone

I've come to a realization: Charles Dickens is not my favorite Victorian. I'm 50/50 on Anthony Trollope so far, and this was only my first George Eliot, but the two of them are just so much better than Dickens when it comes to describing fully-realized human beings of both sexes. Not that Dickens isn't good at what he does, which is comic, poignant melodrama with a social edge, but his characters are just not real. Not like the inhabitants of Middlemarch.

On the other hand, there was none of Dickens' epic scope in Middlemarch. This is an English country drama, all centered around the town of Middlemarch. There are no high stakes or ultimate questions of human morality, just a bunch of characters struggling to get by and navigate the consequences of their ideals, their pasts, their prejudices, and their bad choices.

Our cast includes Dorothea Brooke, an idealistic, pious young lady who was born to be a sainted martyr. Full of charity and self-sacrifice, she manages to find a way to martyr herself — by marrying a dour, much older clergyman named Edward Casaubon. She dreams of devoting herself to his studies, being the selfless angel at his side.

"Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?" said Dorothea to him, one morning, early in the time of courtship; "could I not learn to read Latin and Greek aloud to you, as Milton's daughters did to their father, without understanding what they read?"

She practically throws herself at the bemused Casaubon, not because she feels anything like romantic passion, but because living a life of the mind devoted to waiting on her husband's every need seems like the closest thing to Godliness to her. You might think this makes Dorothea an aggravating character, yet Eliot portrays her as honest, willful, altruistic, and intelligent, her only flaw being that she lives in a world that's missing a few of the shades and colors that everyone else can see.

Meanwhile, a bright young surgeon named Tertius Lydgate comes to Middlemarch, full of the latest medical knowledge. Unfortunately, Middlemarchers are a hidebound lot with their own way of doing things and they don't need no "foreign" (i.e., anyone from any place more than ten miles away) physicians coming here with their newfangled ways. Lydgate makes a few friends, but he also steps on a few toes and soon is enmeshed in the politics of an English country town whether he likes it or not. Is it this or his marriage to Rosamund Vincy which is his real downfall? Eliot lays the groundwork for this good man to screw himself over in a multitude of ways while never really doing anything wrong other than being a bit lacking in foresight.

But once again, she creates complex characters who could just be caricatures (and if written by Dickens, would be) yet manage to come to life as people you can sympathize with. Rosamund, for example, is shallow, self-centered, and materialistic. She pretty much manipulates Lydgate into proposing to her, and from then on the poor man is trapped. When his career doesn't take off, their finances go south, and Rosamund experiences buyer's remorse, I really, really felt sorry for Lydgate. But amazingly enough, even though Rosamund made me gnash my teeth, I didn't hate her. Because Eliot takes pains to make her understandable.

"But Rosamond was not one of those helpless girls who betray themselves unawares, and whose behavior is awkwardly driven by their impulses, instead of being steered by wary grace and propriety. Do you imagine that her rapid forecast and rumination concerning house-furniture and society were ever discernible in her conversation, even with her mamma? On the contrary, she would have expressed the prettiest surprise and disapprobation if she had heard that another young lady had been detected in that immodest prematureness—indeed, would probably have disbelieved in its possibility. For Rosamond never showed any unbecoming knowledge, and was always that combination of correct sentiments, music, dancing, drawing, elegant note-writing, private album for extracted verse, and perfect blond loveliness, which made the irresistible woman for the doomed man of that date. Think no unfair evil of her, pray: she had no wicked plots, nothing sordid or mercenary; in fact, she never thought of money except as something necessary which other people would always provide. She was not in the habit of devising falsehoods, and if her statements were no direct clew to fact, why, they were not intended in that light—they were among her elegant accomplishments, intended to please. Nature had inspired many arts in finishing Mrs. Lemon's favorite pupil, who by general consent (Fred's excepted) was a rare compound of beauty, cleverness, and amiability."

She's not mercenary, she's not mean, she's not evil. She's just making the best bargain she can, with a realistic assessment of her own worth, given the options available to a Victorian woman of her class. Love, like money, is something that's just supposed to happen when you follow the rules.

This thirty-two-hour audiobook got me involved in the lives of the Brookes and the Vincys and the Garths and the Bulstrodes and the Casaubons and all the other families of Middlemarch. It's a great big multi-family melodrama, with marriages and deaths and money scandals, and each character impacts all the others in some way. There is no villain here and nobody is really evil, though some characters are selfish or foolish or obnoxious, so all the conflict results from mundane things - bad marriages, jealousy, misunderstandings, fecklessness, and other human foibles.

It's something of a Victorian soap opera, but an elegant and intricate one. If you like Victorian writing and character dramas, Middlemarch is a masterpiece. Maybe it doesn't have quite the profundity of Dostoevsky or the poignancy of Dickens, but will I read George Eliot again? Heck yeah! 4.5 stars, rounded up.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Rachel
  • YAKIMA, WA, United States
  • 08-20-12

Amazing Listen, worth the effort of concentration

A bit of advice to begin with: This is not a book to listen to while distracted. I started listening earlier in the year but I was thinking of something else. A couple hours in, I realized I didn't know Lydgate from Ladislaw and was thus thoroughly confused when I did try to pay attention. One can listen to a light comedy or a familiar story distractedly, but this book deserves (and rewards) more attention.

I eventually put the book aside and came back to it when I had more time to focus on the story. I'm glad I did. The book is complex and rewarding on multiple levels. The characters are thoroughly fleshed out as people with faults and good qualities in realistic proportion to one another. The book follows the stories of all these many people in and around Middlemarch and traces their interactions with one another, not just those interactions that directly affect the "main" character.

While listening, I was impressed by the author's skill and took pleasure in observing how thoughtfully she crafted this book. I felt like the author respected her readers and wanted to challenge them with a complicated array of characters, interesting analogies and impressive phrasing (even a vocabulary that rewards readers for knowing little used words like "somnambulatory" which even my spell-check won't acknowledge). Though hardly a new book, there was something fresh about they way the characters were described or, rather, described themselves to the reader.

Characters in the book were individuals. They had different ways of speaking, illustrated for us, it seemed to me, more by the author's crafting of their speech patterns than by a narrator's use of distinct voices (and the narrator was very pleasant and I would recommend her, but she also did well to read a fantastic book). Some of the characters and situations were quite simply funny, not in a slapstick way, but in a subtle way. The author showed us their foibles and we could chuckle at them or nod and move on.

Throughout, the book wasn't exactly happy nor was it sad, again, a more complex way to craft a story. Elements of the story were dark, but not depressing or painful to hear. Other elements were pleasant and there were "happy endings" for some of the characters. In writing this review, I keep comparing this book, in my mind, with too many books I have read recently, popular books that spoon-feed the reader flat characters, contrived situations and easy laughs or sappy emotion. This book puts them all to shame. I loved the way the author painted a vibrant, complex, multi-layered picture of life in this community without feeling contrived or forcing the reader to "feel" a certain way or guide us to a simple lesson or understanding.

There were times when the listener knew that the character was making a mistake, but we knew this as something we wouldn't want to do, or we knew what both characters thought and could therefore recognize how whey were misunderstanding each other. I have long been a fan of Jane Austen and especially like reading about misunderstandings between characters who come to understand each other (as in Pride and Prejudice). George Eliot's characters don't always come to understand their mistakes together, but the characters do grow and change and come to understand themselves (sometimes) and their situations. Another element I yearn for in fiction is strong (female) characters who develop as the story progresses. Though I'm not sure I like Dorothea, I certainly respect her. She is strong and interesting, and though she stays solidly committed to her core values, she develops during the story.

Seriously, you need to listen to this as soon as you have time.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful