I gave this 4 stars on goodreads. But that's really an average of my two ratings. Objectively, this is a 5 star book. It's very well written, long but not unnecessarily so. There are many characters but that doesn't mean they aren't well developed. And while the plot is very interwoven and complex, it never veers to the unbelievably coincidental level. I didn't realize it has the sub-title "A Study in Provincial Life" until I first picked it up to read it but that is actually a great description. It really is a story form of a study of characters and life. Which I normally love. And I did spend quite a bit of time while reading it, pondering other relationships (some real but mostly fictional) and comparing them to the ones in Middlemarch so it obviously stuck with me as I read it. So in one sense, I will acknowledge it is wonderful and everything I was told it was but, I still was, personally, underwhelmed.
I say that admitting that the fault lies with myself. For starters, I like happy endings. Big fat happy endings with bows and bells and sparkles and sunshine. It's just who I am. And at about the half way point, I could tell that I just wasn't going to get that. I understand why. So much of the book dealt with an inability to see reality, in others and in oneself; add in an emphasis on bad choices and Eliot could hardly have had everyone end up living under a rainbow. But I still missed it, And what's worse, I think I had a hard time caring about many of the characters because I didn't think they would get that happy ending. In the end, I really only cared about one or two characters - and not necessarily the ones that ended up together!
I didn't dislike reading it but I never feel in love with it. I read my daily goal's worth and enjoyed it, but rarely read more than that. Unlike when my beloved Austen, I just always felt like Eliot was trying to teach me something about humanity by using a story. But with Austen (and another favorite author Gaskell), they offer up social commentary as well as timeless character study opportunities, but the point is the story and the people. So it's a good book and I'm glad I read it, but I don't think I'll be re-reading it anytime soon. Still, one of my lifetime goals achieved!
Middlemarch is my back to the classics long novel selection.