A lengthy tome, I started it appropriately, in middle March and finished it in middle April. This book ranks at number 27 in the BBC Big Read table, a table compiled in 2003 based on the British nation’s favourite reads. Seems a bit unnecessary to review it when it has already been reviewed thousands of times by others more literate than myself.
682 pages followed by 26 pages of footnotes. A complex plot with many threads interwoven. A book about the conservatism of a fictitious midlands town in the 1830s, a time of great changes. A doctor, by the name of Lydgate comes to the town with great ambitions for making scientific discoveries. But finds his plans are resisted by the locals not ready for change. The doctor’s plans are also compromised by an unwise marriage he makes to the pretty daughter of the mayor, who is a spendthrift and ill at ease with her husband’s profession.
The Doctor Lydgate, and Miss Brooke or Dorothea are probably the closest to heroes and heroines in the book. They are both clever in some ways but naive in others and make mistakes when choosing whom to marry. In many Victorian novels these two would end up together after numerous frustrations but this is a far more complex and realistic novel.
There are many characters in the book, it is difficult to remember who they all are. I had previously read “Silas Marner” and “The Mill on the Floss” by George Eliot, these books were far simpler than “Middlemarch“. The novel takes a while to get going but there are many threads intricately woven together, and the interplay of the characters is realistic, not relying so much on unlikely coincidences as a Dickens’ novel might.
This is a big novel which attempts to address many issues and largely succeeds. The characters are realistic not caricatures, the bad characters have some sympathetic aspects and the good characters have their flaws.
My rating 4 out of 5