Here's another author that has had me intimidated for years and now I can't understand why - other than the covers of the book being so far apart. Middlemarch is a complex book, with 4 or 5 plots interwoven with 2 or 3 minor threads. But it moves well and is amazingly well-constructed. Though we follow the stories of multiple couples or individuals, none could stand as individual novellas and all require the interaction with the remaining seams. Mathematically, Middlemarch is the perfect sum of its parts, though it's more common to praise a work of this stature being greater than that.The subtitle is particularly apt, as well. The novel proceeds much as life does; it is populated with people who are initially 2-dimensional caricatures who gradually increase in dimension, sometimes intensifying characteristics identified in the first impression, but just as often surprising you with unexpected responses. As the characters grow in your estimation, what becomes most obvious is how tightly some cling to the convention of provincial life while others are constrained by it. You come to know what is socially acceptable and how that society impacts intellectual rigor, religious fervor, the contributions of women in the community, and, of course, the heart. The limitation being that what we're really learning in this study is the social circles of the upper- and upper-middle classes.Driving home the fact that this work of fiction is as much study as novel, is the remarkably un-romantic impact of the work. There are absorbing moments in the novels of Austen that pull you in to the story and make you wish to be there, enjoying the luxury of having, well, luxury and the only potential downfall of not having your heart's desire. Dorothea Brooke lives in a world of consequences suffered for actually obtaining what her heart desires. And there's never a wistful moment when you wish you were in her shoes.