I had an interview last fall with someone for whom I have much respect and who I had heard was very well-read. Naturally, I worked the topic of conversation around to literature, and we had a lively discussion on the merits of several British authors. His favorite book is Middlemarch, which he said that he reads when he’s not in the mood for anything heavy. For whatever reason, I have an image of him very Mr. Bennet-like, enjoying folly and being amused by the profane. I had to confess to him that I had never read that particular book. I did not get the job.

I resolved to read that book around New Years’. I picked up a soft bound copy of Middlemarch from my local library toward the end of February and was surprised at its girth. No light reading after all, it would seem. I read it on the train to and from an internship and then tried a few nights to just give it a few hours at a time. And alas, alack, I could not do it. After 200 pages, I gave up. I more than gave up–I borrowed the BBC adaptation from my local library. Sigh.

As film adaptations go, comparing only to the 200 pages that I actually read, it seems like a good adaptation. Well -ish. One of the main characters of the story, Dorothea, was painted as a ridiculous religious zealot in the book. And I thought she deserved to be made fun of as George Eliot seemed to do in the book. However, in the film, she was made more sympathetic to every man. She  was portrayed as only wanting to improve the lives of those around her and feeling guilty at living a life of decadence and luxury.  So I suppose that i do recommend the film, but if you’ve read and loved the book you might need to go into it prepared for some monkeying with characterizations.

And this leads me back to why could I not finish it. The characters were a little too flat. They all had a touch of the ridiculous in them, which I generally like. But the characters all seemed so very one-dimensional to me–so much so that I could never really become interested in any of their stories; I never needed to see what happens next with them. I just didn’t care. But in a different way than I didn’t care about the characters from The Forsyte Saga for example.

In the Forsyte Saga, I was disgusted with them all–nary a sympathetic creature in the lot of them. So I didn’t care that their lives were painful and less than they could have been. It served them right for all being despicable human beings. In Middlemarch, I neither cared one way nor the other for the characters. Well, maybe I was a little happy the Mr. Casaubon bit it prematurely and his wife never gave him the satisfaction of guaranteeing that his memory would lord over her after his death. But apart from that, love, hate, live, die, I didn’t care.

So maybe it’s just as well that I didn’t get that job after all . . . It might have been an ugly match of two people whose taste in books never merge.

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