Middlemarch was written by a woman, who used a man’s name because she did not want her work to be judged according to the prejudices against women that were usual during her lifetime.
The story is set in the nineteenth century, during the reign of King William IV. It is a time full of changes and resistance and aversion to all that novelty. Examples are the Reform Bill and the construction of the railway network.
Important characters of the novel are the pious Dorothea Brooke, the young and ambitious doctor Tertius Lydgate, Rosamond Vincy and Will Ladyslaw. Some are idealistic and do not stick to conventions as these prevent them from realizing their ideals. Others, on the contrary, do what is expected by society and would not want to live their lives another way. And then there is the eternal gossip in which the conventions of that time are clearly expressed, in particular relatives’ concern and even manipulation as to future marriages of their female relatives. Some young women are ever so happy as to make such a good marriage in the material sense of the word, whereas others find their lives unfulfilled and seek possibilities to contribute to better living for the less fortunate.
Every now and then we read the thoughts that accompany the words a character speaks. Thus, an often quite remarkable difference between thinking and saying comes to light, that puts the behaviour of the characters in a different perspective. All in all it will be difficult to distance oneself from the goings of the characters and you may frequently find yourself torn between hope and fear as to what they do, or just do not do.
The story itself covers a span of two years. The last chapter ‘Finale’ reveals how the main characters will fare for the rest of their lives, so that you are not left in the dark about that.
If your edition contains a general introduction, it may be worth the effort of reading it, as it sheds light on both the author and the time during which the story takes place. However, we should realize that manners, mores and habits that were socially accepted in the nineteenth century, are still maintained in the present time. What has changed is their appearance, not the essence.
Every chapter starts with a fragment of prose or poetry that invites to further reading, because one wants to know why just this text was chosen as an introduction.
The novel was and is still published in various languages (e.g. German and French) by different publishers.