Wednesday, June 13, 2012

MIDDLEMARCH by George Eliot

Middlemarch is a town in early nineteenth century England and serves as a microcosm of English life at that time.  And it's not just about the landed gentry.  It covers many walks of life and includes a kaleidoscope of characters who are not comfortable with their wealth or lack thereof, their choice of spouses, their family history—you name it.  There's Fred Vincy, who's been educated for the clergy but doesn't feel he's cut out for preaching.  He fancies Mary Garth, who's pleasant and plucky but plain.  Mary loves Fred but can't abide his aimlessness or his financial follies.  Of course, Fred and Mary can't come right out and express their feelings for each other.  Dorothea Brooke has it all—beauty, thoughtfulness, sufficient resources--but chooses to marry an older, unappealing, wealthy scholar.  She realizes her mistake during the honeymoon but does her best to make it work until he conveniently dies.  She has a penchant for her husband's cousin Will but can't admit this, even to herself. Her husband was obviously more attuned to the situation than Dorothea or Will, as his will makes it impractical for the two to marry.  In fact, there are lots of scandals involving Will's heritage and relationship to Bulstrode, an unsavory, overly pious character, who is being blackmailed by an old acquaintance.  Tertius Lydgate is the new doctor in town who hopes to make his mark in medicine and is Dorothea's male counterpart in the altruistic department. His reputation, however, suffers from his liaison with Bulstrode, and he finds himself buried in debt and married to a beautiful but frivolous woman who can't appreciate his aspirations.  This is a sort of Victoria soap opera with lots of misunderstandings and even some political turmoil, which was lost on me, even with the assistance of the notes at the end.

No comments: