Middlemarch by George Eliot
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Mary Anne Evans was already an accomplished writer and author by the time she adopted the pen name George Eliot. It’s thought that she wanted the fiction she produced to be free from bias stemming from her already massive body of work, or perhaps she wanted to insulate herself from stereotypes against female authors in 19th century England. Regardless, one could reasonably be forgiven for assuming that Evans and Eliot were separate people entirely, as each name is associated with a lifetime of masterwork.
For over 150 years, Middlemarch has been a focal point in exploring the class conflict and social mobility of mid-19th century England. Set in the years leading up to the First Opium War, Middlemarch first masquerades as a simple tale of love and friendship. Most of the residents' lives overlap in some way or another over the 30-year period in which the book is set. But in the contrast of the characters—the morally questionable doctor, the passionate artist, the childhood sweethearts—George Eliot reveals the more complex social dynamics at play.
Twenty years after its publishing, Middlemarch won the very first prize offered by the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty for Children.