A.S. Byatt's Bookshelf
By George Eliot
Virginia Woolf said that Middlemarch was one of the few English novels written for grown-ups. It is a hugely ambitious, hugely successful, wise, and satisfying work. I never reread it without discovering something I hadn't noticed before. It is funny as well as tragic, sensible as well as profound. I myself am more moved by the tale of Lydgate—the doctor who fails because he doesn't think hard enough about the woman he marries—than by the tale of the ardent Dorothea, who, out of willful idealism, marries a dried-up scholar. But the two are inextricably part of the same whole. Eliot said she wanted to show "the gradual action of ordinary causes," and she does it triumphantly.