For the second time an audio book has helped me get into and through an enormous literary classic. The first time was Moby Dick. After trying to read the book numerous times and failing, doing a read/listen combo helped me finally get through it. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the experience turned out to be pleasant. Not the case, however, with my most recent read/listen attack on a hitherto impenetrable classic read.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
Twice I made it to about page 150 before giving up on Middlemarch. With the help of Nadia May’s narration, I was finally able to get past that mark and read/listen to the whole freaking 736 pages. On my previous attempts I didn’t dislike what I was reading, I actually kind of liked it, but something made me set it down and not want to pick it back up again. I’m glad I finally made it past that hump because I did thoroughly enjoy the rest of the novel.
I enjoyed Middlemarch in the same way I enjoy Trollope. Lots of characters and period detail and charming turns of phrase. But most importantly, lots of talk about how much money people have to live on. On the one hand I can see how money issues drove so many marital decisions at the time, but I also wonder whether it was a bit voyeuristic at the time. Surely a good number of contemporary readers of Middlemarch and Trollope must have been living below the socio-economic status of the main characters. Was it similar to our fascination with rich reality show characters?
I got into a bit of trouble on Twitter for tweeting spoilers about this 150-year old book so I am not sure how much I should say here. Certainly not worth trying to explain a plot that spans over 700 pages, but I am tempted to tell you who I liked and who I hated. There is at least one character who is redeemed in a way that I don’t think was very redeeming. In the end I feel like he was forgiven too much and only made good after everything was handed to him on a platter.
Unlike Moby Dick, I enjoyed Middlemarch and could see myself reading it again for the sake of the language and because I want to revisit the characters. Given everything else on my TBR, it may be a decade or two before I get around to that.