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10 May 2009

The Mill on the Floss



So I finally finished The Mill on the Floss. It took me TWO. MONTHS.

"Childhood has no forebodings; but then, it is soothed by no memories of outlived sorrow."

"...no sound or motion in anything but the dark river that flowed and moaned like an unresting sorrow."


If you enjoy the classics and have never read, or read very little, George Eliot, I recommend you try her.

"Jealousy is never satisfied with anything short of an omniscience that would detect the subtlest fold of the heart."

The Mill on the Floss began slowly for me, too slowly for my liking. I grant that having so few chances to read may have compounded the feeling. But the first quarter of the story was just so-so for me. The other aspect that troubled me was reading regional accents. I find this laborious. A word here and there is all I need, not almost every word in a character's speech. However, the first part of the novel is critical to understanding the small-town social and political atmosphere.

"Mrs. Glegg paused, for speaking with much energy for the good of others is naturally exhausting." MotF

On to the good stuff....

While Jane Austen is lace and tea amidst neighbourhood gossip, George Eliot is grit and pain amidst the daily grind. Austen has a sharp wit and sharp eye for character nuances. Eliot however, is a master at deeper insight, imho. It is absolutely delicious to enter into the motivations behind a character's thoughts and behaviours. I find that Eliot laser-beams right to the core, every time. I only compare the two author's because Austen is so much more popular and I know many haven't delved into Eliot or were put off by having to study Silas Marner at school.

Eliot's observations also make for very well-fleshed out characters. At least for the three central ones. Maggie, our leading lady, is multi-layered. We know her, we love her, we feel her moral and romantic pains. Or she annoys us, but she leaves a real impact. This novel is also semi-autobiographical, which makes her childhood experiences particularly intriguing.

As for the tale, without spoiling it for you, I will simply say, that Maggie doesn't expect to be happy, she doesn't feel that she deserves happiness. And so life plays out her belief for her.

I didn't enjoy it as much as the soap-opera of Middlemarch, I'll likely never read it again. Yet Eliot always brings the beauty of rich characterization into my life.

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