George Eliot’s Middlemarch

To sum this book up, it’s rather like a cross between Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov and Jane Austen’s Persuasion.  George Eliot is as sweeping and penetrating in her insights on mankind as Dostoevsky, and creates a Bildungsroman of the young English lady in a way only comparable to Austen.

The omniscient narrator carries the reader deftly in and out of the minds of several characters, and to an extent deprives the novel of suspense.  Domestic dramas notwithstanding, I keep expecting a plague to strike or a pack of wolves to slaughter one of the characters going about their merry way through the realms of 19th century marriage.

A great example of this is the fact that only 30 pages into the 900+ page work, the protagonist Miss Brooke is already hopelessly in love with the gentleman Causabon.  The character’s emotions move very quickly here in the days before the classic “show don’t tell” writing maxim.  Every time I become interested in figuring out the mind of the character, the omniscient narrator butts in to inform me of everything I’m trying to learn, often dumbing down the characters and simplifying the complexities of a human mind to a series of universal statements about the personalities of young men or women.

This is on my list of books that I feel as an English major you’re just supposed to have read, but at 150 pages in I’m not sure I can stand too much of Eliot’s interruptions.

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