Middlemarch(822 pages)
by George Eliot (1819-1880)

Arguably Eliot's masterpiece, Middlemarch is a combination of romance and social commentary--as is appropriate for the Victorian time period. Eliot's heroine is a strong idealistic young woman, Dorothea Brooke. The plot follows her almost unreal purity and compares the entire community of characters "who want to be indulged in doing as they like..." to Dorothea and her unadulterated morals. One underlying theme of Eliot's is that each character "has to find out for himself what he should do and why he should do it. Morality in Eliot's fiction is not a system but a quest"(introduction to Middlemarch by Felicia Bonaparte, xii).

Eliot's work is comparable to that of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy. Other novels by George Eliot include: Adam Bede, The Mill and the Floss, and Silas Marner.