Over the course of two months, I’ve been listening to Juliet Stevenson read “Middlemarch.” It’s been a fantastic two months–it was like tuning into a great television show, following the troubles and dramas of a set of brilliant characters whom I grew to love.
It’s those characters that truly make the book something special. There is so much to enjoy in Middlemarch, once you get past the snoozeworthy first 10%, but the characters are undoubtedly the most human I have ever been privileged to read. Eliot sketches beings who are utterly, achingly real.
Sure, lots of people have created “real” characters before and since. But Eliot didn’t stop there. She took her characters, built their relationships with one another, and then she dove into their heads and laid out for us what she found there. The ways people act and react toward each other, the complicated motives behind how they treat one another. The logical reasoning of the selfish, the unspoken truths of the souls of men and women–it’s all there.
Humans are, essentially, flawed beings. And I would be surprised if anyone got to know their flaws so intimately as George Eliot when she wrote “Middlemarch.”