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Stray Thoughts, April 2017

superbly read by Juliet Stevenson. …Her voice for each character as well as her intonations and expression truly enhanced my enjoyment of the book. © 2017 Stray Thoughts Read complete review

Laurie Winer
Los Angeles Review of Books, November 2013

To say that no man could have written Middlemarch is meaningless; the person who wrote it is the only person who could have written it. A listener may feel, hearing Stevenson, that no one else should read Eliot aloud, or, at least, that no else needs to. © Los Angeles Review of Books Read complete review

Rachel Redford
The Oldie, November 2013

The main focus in Eliot’s portrait of Victorian provincial life concerns Dorothea’s suppression of her youthful vitality to serve Casaubon, her cold pedant of a husband; and Doctor Lydgate, whose noble aspirations are thwarted by being shackled to a silly, selfish wife. The whole teems with characters freighted with Eliot’s passions, including politics, religion and social reform. The pleasure of Juliet Stevenson’s spell-binding narration is not just her own beautifully modulated voice, but the subtly different voices she gives to each of them. © 2013 The Oldie

RUSA (A Division of the American Library Association), January 2012

Juliet Stevenson brings crisp clarity, a witty sensibility, and a charming tonal quality to Eliot’s masterpiece of provincial life. Through her deft management of pacing and tone, she reveals character motivation and illuminates the many themes of the novel. But most of all she reclaims Eliot for listeners who thought they did not enjoy classics. © 2012 RUSA (A Division of the American Library Association) See complete list

AudioFile, July 2011

Juliet Stevenson is unmatched in her narration of George Eliot’s sweeping novel, which puts a lens to the fictitious English town of Middlemarch. Eliot’s complex plot takes the listener into various households and lives, revealing scandal, secret longings, and unexpected ties. Stevenson’s pleasant, friendly voice makes this relatively lengthy audiobook a listening delight. She enhances the narrative passages through her consistent enthusiasm and ease of language. Capturing the voices of Eliot’s characters adeptly, Stevenson shifts flawlessly from gruff elderly bachelors to flirtatious young women. She displays a keen ability for a range of British accents, perfectly sorting the servants from the aristocracy and everyone in between. Stevenson’s execution heralds the triumph of female spirit that Eliot embodies within this literary classic.

Joanna Theiss
Sound Commentary, May 2011

If it were possible for me to add to Virginia Woolf, who once said that Middlemarch is one of the “few English novels written for grown-ups,” I would add that it is a novel for all kinds of grown-ups, because it spans such a variety of characters and emotions. For instance, romantic-leaning grown-ups will wait with baited breath for the scenes in which Sir James Chettam attempts to woo abstemious Dorothea, while her sister watches on, wishing to be in that spot, and for the adorable and feisty flirtation between strong and smart Mary Garth and Fred Vincy. Similarly, grown-ups who like a bit of schadenfreude in their literature will also enjoy where Dorothea’s actual marriage leads, and the smug and justice-driven will be positively gleeful when the beautiful but vacuous Rosamund Vincy gets stuck in a loveless marriage which she thought would prove more financially beneficial.

Middlemarch, written by George Eliot in 1874, also tackles the political issues of the day, and politicos in that period, and history buffs in ours, doubtless savor the wheelings and dealings which don’t seem to have changed much, though the issues and current events may have changed significantly. Cross-cutting the majority of these topics are those which will be familiar to those grown-ups who have surveyed the canon of English novels, particularly those written by women: friction between the classes and the dominance of men in nearly all realms. As could be predicted, in a novel as long as Middlemarch, the romantically inclined may find points at which their breath is not quite so baited (a scene at the auction comes to mind), though the evolution of Eliot’s myriad characters, and the frequent and surprising bits of humor, make Middlemarch well worth it.

Middlemarch is British actress Juliet Stevenson’s magnum opus. The very accomplished British reader has a voice capable of magic: the blustery (and aptly named) Mr. Bulstrode might as well be voiced by an entirely different person than that of the soft-spoken, genteel Celia Brooke, so adept is Stevenson in modulating her voice to capture the gruffest male and most retiring female. Another example is Stevenson’s reading of the character Mr. Casaubon, Dorothea’s aging and erudite husband. When Mr. Casaubon determines to propose to Dorothea, his letter expressing this intention is so formal that it is nearly impossible for Dorothea to figure out that he is trying to propose. Stevenson heightens this feeling by drawing out Casaubon’s words, adding in meaningful pauses and near-sighs, such that the listener is intensely drawn in to a dialogue with the muddling man. Middlemarch has something for all grown-ups, and Ms. Stevenson’s reading makes all the somethings that much better.

Joyce Saricks
Booklist, April 2011

Whether new to this classic 19th century novel or familiar with George Eliot’s elegant examination of English provincial life in the 1830s, listeners should not miss this splendid performance by actress and seasoned narrator Juliet Stevenson. Eliot uses multiple intertwined plots—the philosophical and romantic pursuits of Dorothea Brook, her uncle’s bid for Parliament, the tribulations of enterprising doctor Lydgate as he struggles to reform medical practices of the day while suffering an unfortunate marriage, and the unexpected alliance between Mary Garth and Fred Vincy—to address issues of her time from the rights of women to the institution of marriage and political reforms. Many other side stories and complications fill Eliot’s pages resulting in a novel rich in intriguing characters, both good and bad. Stevenson’s clear tones and precise accents transport listeners back in time and into the lives of the denizens of Middlemarch. Aged scholar Mr. Casaubon’s tedious pronouncements are made in a thin, whining voice that reflects his mean-spirited, pedantic nature. In contrast, Dorothea’s bright and crisp alto brims with energy and life. The other voices are equally distinctive and Stevenson’s incisive vocal portraits reflect the nature of each character. Mr. Brooke speaks quietly in slowly thoughtful and removed tones; Lydgate’s voice mirrors both his earnestness and his ultimate disillusionment. Fred Vincy is all sophomoric enthusiasms, while Caleb Garth’s stolid laborer’s drawl underlines his innate common sense. Among the women Rosamond Lydgate’s cool, self-centered, disparaging comments contrast neatly with Mary Garth’s sweet nature and sensible grasp of every situation. Stevenson’s elegant, heartfelt narration catches us up in these lives that explore Eliot’s social and moral concerns. Her sublime narration reflects every nuance of Eliot’s elegant prose. A stellar addition to Naxos’ collection of classics on audio.

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