Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot

Sorry faithful book review readers... if there are any ;-)  for my long absence from this blog, which I hope to remedy soon. 

A little bit of this....
has kept me to busy to blog over the last 7 wonderful, magical, sleep-deprived weeks.  But enough of that, on to the books!

The Mill on the Floss is one of those classics that brainy people brag about reading and you think "wow, I cannot believe he/she slogged through that dusty old thing."  I've had this book sitting on my book shelf for years b/c I got a yard sale box of classics once and just never got around to this.  The title sounds dusty, the cover looks dusty, the author sounds dusty, the story line sounds dusty.  Well, I was all prepared to choke this one down coughing and sneezing, and I was pleasantly surprised.  :-)

George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans) has a real talent for creating totally unlikable female characters - and this book stars the headstrong, intelligent, sensitive and incredible foolish Maggie Tulliver, who lives with her parents and older brother Tom at the Mill on the Floss River.  Maggie is forever on the horns of an ethical dilemma  - but I had a hard time drudging up sympathy for her because her own foolish actions create the dilemmas, which I found so frustrating.  Maybe I'm too hard hearted, because my sweet sister-in-law really sympathized with Maggie, and felt that it was her impulsiveness that got her in trouble.

Regardless of whether or not you like Maggie, there is a lot to be said for this book.  Eliot clearly writes about a location and landscape that she knows and loves, and this comes across in her beautiful descriptions thoughout the book.  And Eliot is very clever in her observations and evaluations of society, and if you have to time to take it slow, there's a lot of pleasure to be had in her detailed descriptions.  Like this one of Mrs Tulliver (pg 10) : " Mrs Tulliver was what is called a good-tempered person - never cried, when she was a baby, on any slighter ground than hunger and pins; and from the cradle upwards had been healthy, fair, plump and dull-witted; in short, the flower of her family for beauty and amiability.  But milk and mildness are not the best things for keeping, and when they turn only a little sour, may disagree with young stomachs seriously.  I have often wondered whether those early Madonnas of Raphael, with the blond faces and somewhat stupid expression, kept their placidity undisturbed when their strong-limbed. strong-willed  boys got a little too old to do without clothing.  I think they must have been given to feeble remonstrance, getting more and more peevish as it became more and more ineffectual."   What a picture that paints, eh?  And what an indication of what's to come between Mrs Tulliver and her children, Maggie and Tom. 

I enjoyed this book - even if I did feel like tossing Maggie into the mill pond myself, sometimes.  :-) 

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