Middlemarch, by George Eliot, has been called "the greatest English novel," labeled "the death knell for a book club," and, according to Virginia Woolf, who loved it, "one of the few novels written for grown-up people." In a close vote with Charlotte Brontë's Villette, b
Set in a fictitious English midlands town, the novel interweaves the experiences of an entire community: a well-off woman who throws herself into social good, a doctor who attempts to balance science and charity, a clergyman whose self importance is greater than his unfinished monograph, and many others who fall in and out of aspirations, hopes, and loves.
We also have Middlemarch to thank for the 1995 BBC television adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starting Colin Firth and and Jennifer Ehle, according to this New York Times review of Middlemarch, the 1994 BBC miniseries. The miniseries was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic, inspiring a string of television series based on 19th-century novels.
- Don't rush it—the novel was published in serial form over two years. Following her advice, we're going to focus on the first two books this month.
- Mark it up or use flag bookmarks to remember key moments.
- Make a character list. Middlemarch tells the story of an entire community; a dramatis personae can help you remember who's who. I especially love this personal chart by Joyce Nickel:
Middlemarch is also the organizing subject of My Life in Middlemarch, a new bibliomemoir by Rebecca Mead which Joyce Carol Oates has called "a poignant testimony to the abiding power of fiction." Later this month, we'll host a Twitter Q&A with Rebecca about her book and her love of Eliot's novel. You can listen to her interview with Leonard Lopate on WNYC here:
Join the conversation at #1book140
Share favorite quotes, take selfies with your dramatis personae, ask questions, and read along at @1book140, our Twitter book club. We have just finished Open City by Teju Cole. Our hashtag #1book140 is a great place to share about what else you're reading.