My sophomore year of college I was assigned Middlemarch by George Eliot as part of my Major British Authors class. Though I didn’t do this too often, for Middlemarch, I used my dad’s method of reading the beginning, middle and end, and close-reading (he could always memorize, but my brain is not as good at that) several other sections. (The professor also decided to assign this ‘big book’ over spring break, a popular move, to give students an extra week to finish it-but it’s still hard to get into when you’re vacationing on the beach!) So 4 years later, I added it to my TBR 2008 Challenge list. And this time around, I managed to read it cover to cover. Middlemarch is the provincial English town setting, and Eliot’s sprawling novel interweaves the stories of many of its denizens. Middlemarch‘s main characters include the aristocratic Brookes (particularly the religious and idealistic Dorothea), Rev. Casaubon, his young cousin Will Laidslaw, and the bourgeois Middlemarch burghers: the Featherstones, the Garths, the Farebrothers, the Bulstrodes, the Vincys (especially young siblings Fred and Rosamond), and Dr. Tertius Lydgate. Like many stories (or soap operas) with large casts-I certainly had my favorite characters in Middlemarch whose stories I was eager to get back to (and those whom I could have happily forgone). Many of the middle class villagers seemed uninteresting or extraneous to me. The descriptions of Dorothea Brooke and Rev. Casaubon’s relationship also reminded me (frighteningly) of Isabel Archer and Gilbert Osmond in one of my favorite novels, Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady . I could see the image of “the candle and the snuffer” equally applying to Dorothea and Casaubon. I found the story lines centering on Dorothea Brooke to be the most compelling. Similar to her other novels, I found Eliot’s narrator to be too moralizing and intrusive. However, akin to Son of a Witch, I was really thrilled by the novel’s climax. The climactic scene of Middlemarch deals with a confrontation between Dorothea and Rosamond that transforms into an open and compassionate dialogue. This scene to me was so powerful because it felt like the first time in the novel where the characters were speaking honestly with each other. Writing about this depiction of the interminable force of honesty in the face of gossip, appearances and reputation reminded me of Gossip Girl, suggesting parallels between the two universes. (And there will be more to come on Gossip Girl). Other Middlemarch readers, weigh in!