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George Eliot, Middlemarch (1874)

This is Eliot's magnum opus. Though its spine is dauntingly thick, Middlemarch has earned its place as one of the greatest novels in English literature. Eliot wanted to write an "English" novel after setting her previous book in Italy. Subtitled "A Study of Provincial Life," Middlemarch follows the idealistic young woman Dorothea Brooke during a period of social change in England.

George Eliot, Silas Marner (1861)

This engaging novel is the story of a tailor falsely accused of stealing from his church congregation. The book takes several jabs at organized religion, an institution Eliot resisted all of her adult life.

George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss (1860)

This is Eliot's most autobiographical novel. Main character Maggie Tulliver falls in love with her cousin's fiancé; she then endures her family's rejection and social isolation when they learn what she has done. Sound familiar?

Gordon S. Haight, George Eliot (1968)

Haight, an English professor at Yale University, was the pre-eminent scholarly authority on George Eliot when he died in 1985. His 1968 biography of her, though a little dry, is considered the gold standard. He also compiled a massive nine-volume anthology of Eliot's letters that was published over the course of 24 years.

Kathryn Hughes, George Eliot: The Last Victorian (1999)

Born just six months apart, George Eliot and Queen Victoria lived polar-opposite lives. Victoria was the standard of decorum and propriety; Eliot was a symbol of sin. Yet the two women impacted one another's lives. Victoria and her daughters were fans of Eliot's work, and Eliot was undeniably shaped by Victoria's England. This book looks at the relationship between the two women.

Deborah Weisgall, The World Before Her (2009)

In this novel, author Weisgall follows two parallel stories about women traveling in Venice with their husbands. On one side is a fictional American artist vacationing in 1980. On the other side is an aging George Eliot honeymooning with her much-younger husband. Given that Venice is where Eliot's new husband chose to throw himself into the canal, the setting offers ample dramatic opportunities.

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