Bookish Talks, Classics, Lists

5 Tips for Reading and Loving Middlemarch

George Eliot’s novel may not suit you. If you’re looking for fast paced action, this is not your place. However, if you enjoy a small town atmosphere, if you find rewarding the discovery of small details, subtle humour and deep diving into references, this is your best novel for that!

So, first, why would you need tips for reading “Middlemarch”? You either love a novel or you don’t. It’s that simple!

Well… yes. It usually is. But there are novels who may or may not be your love at first sight, if you don’t know what to expect of them or how to approach them. Of course, classics are even trickier because there are things the authors say that for the modern reader perhaps simply don’t make sense. These kind of things would have been natural for the people at the time, so they aren’t really explained. They might, however, seem peculiar to those reading now.

Just as an example – in the Victorian era a couple would never be actually alone before being married. Socialising and figuring out if you like someone in these kind of conditions becomes very tricky. If you don’t know that, you may find some decisions a character makes really awkward.

That being said, let’s dive in!

The 5 Tips You Need to Love Middlemarch

1. Expect there will be references you don’t understand.

They will have been popular at the time, but they are a mystery now. You can go two ways about this – start googling a lot and you will go down a rabbit hole of references or just ignore everything and you may miss a lot of humour or never get a deeper understanding of the novel. My approach has been a middle path. I love to go searching for references meaning but I would, at times, just move on and infer what I can from the context.

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2. Be prepared for stories to go nowhere.

The first time this novel was published, it was serialised. This was something very popular at the time and it has lots of advantages, but disadvantages as well. One of the biggest disadvantage is, of course the fact that there are plot build ups that go forgotten. They are there to build suspense and let the reader wonder until the next publication, but they aren’t very well integrated in the whole story. I usually don’t mind them at all. I see them as even more insight into some characters or backstories which I enjoy as they are.

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3. Don’t rush! Read the novel as it was intended – serialised.

“Middlemarch” was originally published in 8 volumes, from December 1871 to December 1872. This will allow you to savour it, enjoy searching for George Eliot’s references and really think about it. Take your time to get to know the characters and fall in love with them!

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4. Talk about it.

If you’re reading it as a serialised novel, you’ll have all the suspense build up. What makes you mad? What makes you laugh? What is annoying? What do you not understand? Get into a group and discuss all your ideas, just as people did back then, when the book was first published!

Another person reading with you might also help you notice more things or help you get excited about different things than you would normally expect. The more people you have around you to do that, the better!

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5. Treat Middlemarch as the universe it is.

Do you remember Seinfeld? It was unique because it was a show about nothing. Nothing in particular. Just moments of a few people’s lives, moments they make fun of. Middlemarch is the same as it isn’t exactly about one thing in particular. One character and its evolution. Middlemarch is about this small town and the lives of its inhabitants. It’s a “study of the provincial life“. That was its initial purpose and it would be wrong to expect something else of it.

That being said, it does give us an amazing perspective on provincial life: its characters are so complex! George Eliot chose to set the novel in a very ordinary small town, but in an important period in Great Britain’s history, when reforms were being discussed. You can get to know those times through the novel. Of course, as usual with small towns, people are weary of new comers, everybody knows everybody else’s business and rumours are rampant.

But, most importantly, most of these people’s lives intersect each other. They all have impacts on the others you only understand in the ending chapters and it makes for a fascinating read!

Dive in and enjoy not being the one they all gossip about!
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Middlemarch is an entire world. Reading it, you’ll get familiar with people, you’ll feel you know everyone. Their secrets will make an impression on you, Their sorrows will be your sorrows.

I really believe that Middlemarch is easy to love if you have the time to get into it and really understand it.

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Middlemarch – The Original Instalments(Volumes) Publication Schedule

  • Book 1 – Miss Brooke – was published December 1, 1871;
  • Book 2 – Old and Young – was published February 1, 1872;
  • Book 3 – Waiting for Death – was published in April, 1872;
  • Book 4 – Three Love Problems – was published in June, 1872;
  • Book 5 – The Dead Hand – was published on July 29, 1872;
  • Book 6 – The Widow and the Wife – was published in October, 1872;
  • Book 7 – Two Temptations – was published in November, 1872;
  • Book 8 – Sunset and Sunrise & Finale – was published in December, 1872.
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Before You Leave

I absolutely loved this book and plan to discuss it further!

This December, on the Discord group here, we’re starting it all over again and plan on reading according to the original schedule! Join us and let’s have fun with this!

If you’ve started reading Middlemarch, you may be interested in this article:

2 thoughts on “5 Tips for Reading and Loving Middlemarch”

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