07/03/2006

Silas Marner

For some reason I had never read this classic novel. It was written in 1861 and was apparently historical even from that perspective, being written about bygone days when weavers still plied an important trade. George Eliot - pen-name, of course, for a female author - writes a good story, although it's very long-winded and philosophical in places. I found it quite hard going for the first few chapters as she describes the places, the style of people, the trades and so on. Fascinating social history, but not my usual light bedtime reading.

However once the story got going, I found it enjoyable and quite moving in places. Silas Marner is a hermit - not old, but hurt by circumstances, and he keeps himself to himself. Then - about half-way through the book - dramatic events take place and his life is changed forever. We see him partly through the eyes of the villagers, whose opinions change as his actions do, and also through the Squire and his family, who also have significant parts to play in the story.

It's not a long book - less than 200 pages - and the plot isn't all that exciting. I was slightly disappointed that there's a sudden gap of 16 years just after it started to get interesting, but perhaps it's just as well. It worked, anyway. I had guessed what part of the climax was going to be a couple of chapters before it was revealed, but that in no way detracted from the drama. And then it became poignant - so that I now think of the book as enjoyable, rather than thinking about the tedium of the early chapters. None of the humour of Jane Austen, but still recommended.

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