Knit to This: Middlemarch

By Ann Shayne
June 4, 2022

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  • OOh, that sounds like something great to sink your teeth (ears?) into for some quality knitting time entertainment! Alongside some brioche, perhaps? 😉
    I completed my listen of Emily Brontë’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall just recently, which was an enjoyable, twisty tale about half that long that I will always associate with the blue-striped socks (both, yay!) which flew by while listening.

    • Anne Bronte wrote the Tenant of Wildfell Hall.

    • On your suggestion, I’ve been listening to Middlemarch, and I love it, thank you! Three versions were available on audible, and I chose the Julia Stevens version, she does a great job with the different voices.

  • Now you have me have me wanting to reading Middlemarch, something I’ve never wanted to read before. The narrator can make all the difference, can’t they. Tom Hanks reading The Dutch House never over-sold the story, but kept the drama where it was intended to be, in a very compelling way. The library version of Out of Africa by a non-household (femalej name was enthralling. Back then, decades ago, it was acknowledged that library versions were usually better than celebrity versions, but things have probably changed for the better these days with the celebrities. Hmm…Middlemarch sounds great for long stockinette bodies.

    • I loved The Dutch House. I recommend it. I can still hear Tom Hanks voice.

      • Yes, good one!

      • I recommend Ann Patchett’s book of essays These Precious Days, where she tells how Tom Hanks came to be the narrator of The Dutch House. It’s a lovely and poignant book.

  • I highly recommend the Juliet Stevenson version of Middlemarch. And check to see if you can get these through your local library! The New York Public Library offers audiobooks through an app called Libby. And if you don’t finish the book in one go, when you renew it, the narration starts where you left off.

    • Most libraries now offer audiobooks (and ebooks) as part of their collections. Free! And, because the New York City Library receives some state tax dollars, any resident of New York State, or anyone who works or attends school in the state, can get an NYC library card.

      • I couldn’t find the JS version in my Libby—-BUT Hoopla has it available in JS audio version. Hoopla is also available through your local library.

      • Thanks for the point about NY State residents — I am one, and did not know about this NYPL option. My own tiny regional consortium does its best, but there are areas where I draw a blank. Looking forward to exploring the NYPL collection!

    • I agree about the JS audio version. I enjoyed so much the first time that I bought it from Audible and read it again a couple of years later.

  • Juliet Stevenson is a fabulous narrator. I highly recommend knitting along to her reading of Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield. It’s a Dickensian mystery which follows a variety of characters living along a river very like the Themes.

    • Yes — I will always choose the version narrated by Juliet Stevenson if one is available. She has narrated some of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels.

  • Great idea. I checked my library, and found I had choices of two different productions. Played samples and put one on hold. No Juliet Stevenson, who is a wonderful audio performer, but two pretty good ones anyway. I listen a lot to audio books while I’m knitting my socks for a homeless outreach.

  • My Library has the Juliet Stevenson narration. I put it on hold. I have about a twelve week wait. I use Libro fm for audio books because they support my local bookstore. But the publishers have it on restriction and I can’t get it with my credits. I would have to pay about 4 indie dyed skeins worth of dollars for it.

  • I find with audiobooks the narrator needs to be spot on, otherwise it doesn’t really work. If you liked the audiobook you might like the BBC TV adaptation though – it was made years ago so possibly does look dated (the one I saw had Juliet Aubrey in the lead female and I think Rufus Sewell as the second husband). Middlemarch does have a reputation of being tough to read so I think it would qualify for stocking stitch/stockinette knitting.

    • I saw that version not too many years ago – I really enjoyed it. Of course, I’d be entertained by Rufus Sewell even if all he were doing was reading the phone book….

      • Yes, to Rufus for just about anything!

  • Our town librarian once told me she could always tell when my college breaks began because I would come in and pick up the fattest book I could find 🙂 Over the past 20 years I’ve gone 95% audiobook. It took a little while to learn how to listen, since it had been decades since I’d begged anyone to “read me a story,” but what a luxury once I got the hang of it and could stop rewinding 10 minutes of tape (yes!) to the point where my mind had drifted. I’m fortunate that my regional online library system now offers thousands of digital audiobooks, with samples – which helps me weed out the narrators who have the unhappy power of making it harder to knit AND killing (for me) a great book.

  • I LOVE audiobooks. For me, an actual book is best but I’ll take the trade off anytime. I get my audio books on my phone from the comfort of home. See if your library has iCloud books, Hoopla ( also has movies), Overdrive or Libby. Just go to the website for your library, with your library card number handy, and see what’s available. It’s a whole new, and FREE, world. Most of these apps also have ebooks you can read on your phone, tablet or computer.
    Once I get comfortable with a knitting pattern, the audio book goes on and I am a happy knitter. Also good for driving, weeding, cleaning, etc.
    Note: if you can’t abide the reader’s voice or style just give it up and go to a different book. It happens but not often. Good luck!

  • Just checked this out from my library (the long version). Have one book to finish before I start listening. I love books and knitting and audio books make it possible to do both at the same time.

  • I’m currently hooked on audiobooks by Louise Penny. The characters are such a delight. Start with book #1 and knit away……

    • Re: Louise Penney – I couldn’t agree more! (Figuring out how I (we) can move to Three Pines

  • There’s a good filmed version of Middlemarch from the BBC … and streaming on Britbox…. and then there is Rebecca Mead’s book “My Life in Middlemarch” …

  • I generally listen to nonfiction, for some reason, but each summer (to keep me company while weeding) I try for a classic I haven’t read. (I think I read Middlemarch a zillion years ago.) Last summer was Don Quixote. This could be the summer of Middlemarch. I love Juliet Stephenson.

  • Juliet Stevenson’s reading of Middlemarch is wonderful!!! I have listened to it twice and considering a third time. Give it a try!

  • Five Star Listens:
    A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
    Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
    Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
    The Emerald Mile by Kevin Fedarko
    Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry

    A bit of my list — all worth a listen or a read…happy dipping!

    • Dipping and knitting!

  • Oh my gosh, Ann, you HAVE to listen to it read by Kate Reading (it’s on Overdrive/Libby! Public libraries FTW!). Kate Reading is only one of THE best audiobook narrators ever, in the history of the world.

    • I second Kate Reading as a wonderful narrator. I loved her in THE STRANGE CASE OF THE ALCHEMIST’S DAUGHTER. She also does some of the Scarpetta novels (Patricia Cornwell) and many others.

  • After doing some family history research, my husband discovered he is George Eliot’s first cousin four times removed! Good to hear you enjoyed listening to Middlemarch, a nice thick book to take on a vacation too.

  • Maureen O’Brian, like Vicki from Doctor Who Maureen O’Brian?

  • Such a wonderful suggestion, and well worth the time. Juliet Stevenson’s version was riveting!

  • The Juliet Stevenson version is excellent— her readings of the Jane Austen novels are also amazing. Although I’ll always picture her as Mrs. Elton. “Knightley!” 🙂