I’m astonished to think I have never read a single book by George Eliot. She’s one of those authors who I’ve heard of for years but never bothered to read (I feel like there are many authors like that for me). I’ve been wanting to read Middlemarch, but when I stumbled upon this book at a second-hand bookstore, I decided to buy it, since it’s a short read.
And I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised
Synopsis: Silas Marner is a middle-aged weaver whose miserly, unfriendly ways make him unwanted when he arrives in the town of Raveloe after being betrayed and exiled from his old town. He is unhappy, until the theft of his money and the arrival of a little golden-haired child change his life.
This book feels like a mix of Heidi and The Christmas Carol. There are many plots which follow the idea of a young child changing the life of an old, unfriendly man. While this is not an extremely unique plot, it is one of the first books written which uses this trope quite effectively. Perhaps it is the contrast–a sweet child and a cold old man–or perhaps it is that happy feeling when someone changes for the better. The only thing I disliked about this book is that there is a lot of set-up before Silas finds the child, and then the story simply skips until she is eighteen. I would have liked to see their bond grow more instead of a few pages of a brief summery. However, this is such a sweet story.
Perhaps my favorite theme in the book is this idea that we often misjudge people. Just because Silas isn’t extremely friendly, people believe him to be a bad person. Eppie’s (the little girl he raises) real father is believed to be a good person in the community, even though he is really selfish and weak. It is so easy to look at a person’s external appearance and assume we know their motives and judge them accordingly.
In many ways, this book felt like it follows the plot of a Shakespeare comedy. In these comedies, Shakespeare boarders on tragedy, usually making the use of misunderstandings or deceptions, and then finally bringing everything to a happy conclusion. Even though this book is more Charles Dickens than Shakespeare, the plot itself reminded me of a play like The Winter’s Tale.
Eliot (or should I use Mary Ann Evans, which was her real name) focuses on society within the small towns in England, and it is the townspeople themselves who bring this story alive. Some of them are hilarious (like Dolly Winthrop) and others are horrible (like Godfrey Cass), but they all are interesting in their own way.
There is also a slight Christian presence in the book; the idea that Silas has never cared about God until he is told that it would be better for Eppie if she went to church. It is interesting to read most Victorian classics and see a religious presence, since modern writers have very secular ideas of the world.
All in all, this is an adorable and quick read. I finished it in about three hours, which tells you how short it is. And I am determined now to try to read more of Eliot’s books, especially Middlemarch.
Have you read this book? Or anything else by George Eliot? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,