Middlemarch by George Eliot

Sometimes, a book can be an account of an ordinary person living an ordinary life, and still be fascinating. And sometimes, that book is Middlemarch and it makes you want to stab yourself in the eyeballs by page 250 just to relieve the crushing boredom. The book covers a period of about two years, and takes place in a fictional English town called Middlemarch. The cast of characters is long, their personalities well-drawn, and their lives utterly mundane. It’s a very subtle book, is what I’m saying, and you have to be in the right mood to appreciate it.

What follows are my various reactions to this story as I attempted to slog my way through this 800-page brick. (spoiler alert: it did not go well)

Page 97:

I’m trying, guys, I really am. But right now I’m about 100 pages into this book, and the thought of getting through the next 700 is making me want to throw myself under a train. And I almost never leave a book unread, so this is serious. However, since it’s on The List, I feel I should at least try to give it another chance. But it’s not going to be easy.

Here, in simplified list form, are the reasons I really, really want to abandon this book:
-It’s everything I hate about Austen – boring dialogue and background information, endless nattering on about who’s marrying whom – with none of the dry wit that makes her stories enjoyable.
-Dorothea is an insufferable, stuck-up know-it-all and I hate her. Also, her sister calls her “Dodo” in a horribly misguided attempt at affection, and every time I have to read it it’s like a cheese grater to the forehead.
-She’s nineteen years old and is marrying a forty-seven year old. I…I just can’t. I know it’s going to end badly which makes it slightly better but come on, Eliot.
-Simply put, I don’t care. I don’t care about these characters. I don’t care about their boring lives. I don’t care who marries whom and who is happy or not happy, and I really don’t care about Dorothea’s stupid cottage designs.
-I get the sense that none of the things I listed are going to change. I’m strongly sensing that the next 700 pages of this book are going to be the same exact stuff about marriage and unhappiness and Dodo and blah blah blaaaaahhhhh. Unless something really interesting is going to happen, I don’t think I can keep going. At this point, it would take a zombie uprising at Middlemarch to make me invested in these characters and their lack of struggle.

Page 190:
Okay, I need to get to Part 5 before I can reasonably stop reading. Hopefully something resembling a plot will happen soon.

Page 300:
Nope. Nothin’ yet.

Page 370:

Page 409:
Okay. I tried. No one can say I didn’t give this book a fair chance. But I’m halfway through and NOTHING HAS HAPPENED. I just read 400 pages of some boring people going about their boring everyday business, and I’m DONE. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough to understand this book’s genius. Maybe I can only be happy with a book if the characters are likeable and doing interesting things besides sitting around and thinking about how fucking miserable they all are. Maybe it’s just my fault for having a bad attitude about this book from the beginning.

That was as far as I got. I reached my designated halfway point in the middle of a plane flight, and when we landed I left the book in the seat pocket. Hopefully it was adopted by someone who will love it more than I did. (Also, having consulted the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, I now know that there are FIVE Eliot books I’m supposed to read before I die. The chances of me actually doing this are very, very slim.)

Verdict: one out of five stars


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