George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss

I’ve enjoyed reading Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte and Louisa May Alcott this year but based on what I’ve read, in my humble opinion, the Nineteenth Century Female Author to beat all Nineteenth Century Female Authors is George Eliot. I felt this way after I read Silas Marner back in 2013 and immediately went out and bought The Mill on the Floss. I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to read it but I’m glad I finally did. I can’t wait this long to read more of Eliot’s work.

589061

From the beginning, Eliot’s own narration drew me into the story and I knew she wouldn’t disappoint:

Ah, my arms are really benumbed. I have been pressing my elbows on the arms of my chair, and dreaming that I was standing on the bridge in front of Dorlcote Mill, as it looked one February afternoon many years ago. Before I dozed off, I was going to tell you what Mr and Mrs Tulliver were talking about, as they sat by the bright fire in the left-hand parlour, on that very afternoon I have been dreaming of.

As I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about this novel since I finished it, the one thing I come up with as to why she is my favorite of the above mentioned authors is that her narrative and characters are so subtle and nuanced and yet she’s able to realistically surprise the reader by having characters respond in ways one wouldn’t have expected.

Like the heroines of the other authors, Eliot gives Maggie Tulliver an intelligence and strong will that pushes against and surprises her family and society, usually to their disappointment. Her brother Tom treats her in a less than noble manner while children but the reader (and Eliot herself, I believe) has to give a little admiration to Tom as he makes a tireless and ultimately successful endeavor to win back their lost family property and respect. The chorus of arrogant Aunts on Maggie and Tom’s mother’s side constantly chide Maggie for her nonconforming ways but eventually stand up for her when Tom feels he needs to banish her from the family.

As she develops a wonderful friendship and almost-romance with the shy and deformed Phillip Wakem, Maggie surprised me by getting caught up in the ways and words of the dashing Stephen Guest. Even Stephen Guest doesn’t fit the mold of “mean rich guy”; he reminds me more of Laurie in Little Women.

Then there is the finale that is arguably anything but subtle and nuanced. I firmly believe that many stories are worth reading even if one knows how they will end and The Mill on the Floss is one of them but I won’t reveal the ending. However, I couldn’t help feel that Eliot had given hints (subtle ones) along the way of how the story would wrap up. It was kind of like a literary de ja vu.

I’ll just say that of the three men between which Maggie’s devotion is torn, the one she ends up with is a fascinating choice.

What are your thoughts about George Eliot? Which of her novels have you read and how would you compare her to other popular Nineteenth Century Female British authors?

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Final TBR Triple Dog Dare Update

TBR Final Dare

The final TBR Triple Dog Dare is sponsored by James at James Reads Books and here’s my final update. The Dare requires participants to read only books that they already have during January, February and March.

As I’ve said in previous updates, the number of books I’ve read during the Dare has not been staggering; however, I’ve read some books that have been on my shelf for a long time and thoroughly enjoyed them:

1.) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (on my shelf)

2.) Voices in the Night: Stories by Steven Millhauser (borrowed from the library prior to the beginning of the Dare)

3.)Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (on my shelf)

4.) Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (on my shelf)

I just finished Jane Eyre yesterday so look for a post about Volume the Second in the next couple of days.  In addition, I read the beautiful story “The Turkey Season” for the April edition of The Alice Munro Story of the Month so a post about that will be coming up soon.

Next up is Andy Weir’s The Martian and after that I’ll begin a book I just got in the mail: The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings -J. R. R . Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams by Philip and Carol Zaleski.

So how did you do with the TBR Triple Dog Dare? And what’s up for you post-Dare?

18007564

23526522

Jane Eyre – Volume the First

So far, what has made Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre great to me has been its perspective or, perhaps, “point of view” might be the better term. Bronte puts her novel firmly and confidently into the hands of her heroine using what is almost “stream of consciousness” before anyone had ever used the term (to my limited knowledge, anyway).

While Nelly Dean’s narration of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is intriguing, Nelly knows significantly more about the inner thoughts and emotions of everyone involved in the story than is realistic. But I’m not sure complete realism is what Emily Bronte is going for in her only novel.

4722840

Charlotte, on the other hand, pulls the reader into one character and nothing in the novel is seen outside of the title character’s thoughts – at least not in Volume the First. I admit I’ve plunged into Volume the Second since starting this post and as the plot thickens, we get a little more point of view from another character. But I’ll save that for another post.

Here’s a nice example of Jane’s matter-of-fact practicality in a conversation she has with herself regarding her employer, Mr. Rochester:

“You have nothing to do with the master of Thornfield, further than to receive the salary he gives you for teaching his protege, and to be grateful for such respectful and kind treatment as, if you do your duty, you have a right to expect at his hands. Be sure that is the only tie he seriously acknowledges between you and him: so don’t make him the object of your fine feelings, your raptures, agonies, and so forth. He is not of your order: keep to your caste; and be too self-respecting to lavish the love of the whole heart, soul, and strength, where such a gift is not wanted and would be despised.”

I’m finding Jane’s conversations with herself to be quite enjoyable.

 

Another TBR Triple Dog Dare Update

TBR Final Dare

The final TBR Triple Dog Dare is sponsored by James at James Reads Books and here’s another update. The Dare requires participants to read only books that they already have during January, February and March. Only a few more weeks to go and while I can’t get too excited about how many books I’ve read during these months, the books I have read have been worth reading. In February, I completed Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, a classic that has been on my shelf for a long time. I’m glad to have added this to my “Books Read” list.

Currently, I’m in the middle of Emily’s sister Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre.  So far, I’m liking this one better but it’s taking even longer to get through it. Look for a post about “Volume The First” sometime soon. Reading the forewords and afterwords in these novels, has sparked an interest in the Bronte sisters. At some point this year, I might have to read a biography or two about this family of authors.

I received Andy Weir’s novel The Martian for my birthday last month so it will probably be the first book I read in April which at the rate I’m going will also be the book I read after Jane Eyre.  If I, by chance, finish it before the end of March, my plan is to read some more Ray Bradbury short stories that are already on my shelf.

Are you currently taking the dare? If so, how is it going?

Wuthering Heights

I wanted something to happen which might have the effect of freeing both Wuthering Heights and the Grange of Mr. Heathcliff, quietly; leaving us as we had been prior to his advent. His visits were a continual nightmare to me, and, I suspected, to my master also. His abode at the Heights was an oppression past explaining. I felt that God had forsaken the stray sheep there to its own wicked wanderings, and an evil beast prowled between it and the fold, waiting his time to spring and destroy.

348914

There’s the old adage that no good deed goes unpunished and that seems to be the case for Old Mr. Earnshaw in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.  When he brings home the gypsy orphan boy, Heathcliff, he starts in motion what might be called a tour de force of creepy dysfunction.

Probably since high school English, I’ve heard of Heathcliff and Catherine as the epitome of tortured love. Now that I’ve read their story all of these years later, I can say that whoever said that wasn’t kidding. The foggy moor, the dark and cloudy nights, the full moons and the large old houses all coincide very well with the eerie storms raging in the minds and souls of the principle characters, not least of which is Heathcliff.

The families involved in the story live their lives mostly secluded from the rest of the world. Is the seclusion a result of the dysfunction or the cause of it? As with questions like this, I don’t think there is an answer; however, mulling it over can give literary and pychology types hours of fascination. I found it interesting that Lockwood, the gentleman to whom the story is being told, briefly contemplates marrying into the family and this is after he knows their story. I think it says more about the institution of marriage during the early 1800’s than about his questionable judgement – although maybe it says a little of both.

The servant Nelly Dean gives one of the better “narrator” performances that I’ve read in a while. Being both involved in the daily lives of the characters but also detached due to her servant status provides an interesting perspective.

For much of the novel, hope seems something far away or even non-existent. However, I always like stories that can find a glimmer of hope in an otherwise hopeless world. When the younger Cathy begins taking an interest in her cousin Hareton’s education and teaches him to read, it seems something good might come of this spooky mess.