Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts: Silas Marner by George Eliot

"As the child’s mind was growing into knowledge, his mind was growing into memory: as her life unfolded, his soul, long stupefied in a cold narrow prison, was unfolding too, and trembling gradually into full consciousness."
Silas Marner, where do I even begin?

I want to say I hugged this book to my chest, and leave it at that. That, however, won’t be enough. When the Future Me (who I envision as a graceful champagne-drinking twenty-something with pearl earrings) reads this post, she will wonder at the laziness of Current Me. Now, I am all for making my future self proud.

On the surface, Silas Marner sounds like an incredibly boring book. *Dodges tomatoes hurled by angry book bloggers.* It’s about a weaver who was mistakenly accused of a crime he didn’t commit, and now lives alone in a rural community. His horde of gold is the great love of Silas’ life. When the gold is stolen and replaced by a golden-haired child, Silas Marner is forced to disentangle himself from his web of loneliness and reclusion.

Honestly, I thought I would HATE Silas Marner. The premise alone could put me to sleep, and I only read it because I thought it would be a great way (a short way, actually) to get acquainted with George Eliot’s work. I never thought I would be hooked by the first page. (I said this about Rebecca and To the Lighthouse, too. Will I ever learn my lesson?)

There’s a certain warmth and wit in the book—like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens thrown in together with a dash of something different. I was reminded of Charles Dickens by the bumbling/scheming characters (and their names), and Eliot’s descriptions of a particular romance in the novel screamed Jane Austen from miles away. And the warmth of the book? I owe it all to the characters. Most of them are incredibly endearing, like the barman who knows everything or the squire hell-bent on marrying off his eldest son.

Aside from the characters, the warmth, and the wit, do you want to know the REAL reason why I loved this book so much? There’s only one answer for that: Silas Marner. In the first half of the book, Silas Marner is probably one of the saddest characters I’ve ever encountered in fiction. He has no friends or relatives, and spends all day with, you know, himself. His life revolves around increasing his horde of gold, and he weaves all day to do just that.

I can actually see where he’s coming from. This might sound like a strange comparison, but the way Silas Marner feels about his gold is probably the same way I feel about my books. I know it’s not cool to be attached to objects, but, sometimes, when I just want to get away from people, I just take a look at my TBR pile and take a deep breath. Silas Marner counts his gold every night, while I never fail to run my fingers through the spines of the books I haven’t read yet, thrilled by the knowledge that I’ll get to them soon.

When Silas finally finds Eppie (the golden-haired child), I couldn’t have been happier for him. Finally, here was someone who could love him back, someone who could finally keep him company even for just a little while. I love the way she opened up his world, and encouraged the people around him to think that maybe, just maybe, they completely misunderstood Silas Marner.

Loved, loved, loved, Silas Marner.

21 comments:

Joanne said...

What a lovely review! It's made me want to pick up Silas Marner and read it again. Thank you.

Jessica said...

ah that sounds really good. I have Middlemarch in my pile which I am determened to read this year, I will add this also!

mooderino said...

Good review. He sounds like a lot of writers i know.

cheers,
mood

Reading Rambo said...

I...guess relating to him would make the book a much more enjoyable experience. I read it like six years ago and all I remember is that it was one of my least favorite of Eliot's novels. Maybe the main female character wasn't featured enough? I dunno, that's usually what does it for me in terms of not liking a book. It's always nice to get different perspectives on classics though, and see what resonates with people and what doesn't.

Ben said...

I like that premise. Almost makes me want to read the book right now. Replace gold by real estate and stock and you have a story that's crackling with actuality.

Seems like you have found a forgotten gem to me.

Charlie said...

I haven't heard of this book, only Middlemarch, and it sounds perhaps a better starting point (the length of Middlemarch is daunting!)

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Funny, I never would have thought to pick up Silas Marner (or any George Eliot, come to that) if I hadn't read your review of it here. Mill on the Floss is the only one I've ever tried to read, and despite the required reading element to it, I never quite got through it. Now that I have more time to read, though, it's easier to let myself be seduced by beautiful language and be carried on the ebb of a slower story.

Megs said...

I haven't read this one yet, but George. Oh, George. I almost don't care if there's no plot, because her writing is like food to me. I want to go back in time and give her a really awkward, lingering hug...wanna come?

Cassandra said...

To be honest I intended to read this out of the same reason as you: because it is so much shorter than Middlemarch.
I thought it would be okay, not great, not excruciating, but since you loved it so much I am looking forward to it much, much more!

Brenna said...

George Eliot is one of my all-time favorite writers. I've read all of her novels, some of them twice. If you're interested in reading more of her, I would go to The Mill on the Floss next (it's really good and super accessible) then Middlemarch, then Daniel Deronda.

Zibilee said...

I am reading Middlemarch now with Aarti, and though there are some parts that are a little involved, I can totally agree with you on Eliot's brilliance. I think I would love this book, and can totally see what you mean about your books being like Slias' gold. I feel the same way. Incredible review today!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I'm so glad you loved this one. There's something so beautiful about Silas Marner's redepption through that sweet girl.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

You are right, it does sound a bit boring, which is why I have never picked it up before. But you've gone quite a way towards changing my opinion....

Andi said...

I loved this book. I whipped through it a couple of years ago in no time, and I also wanted to hug it. Such a "filling" little book. :)

Trisha said...

This is on my list of to-read classics, so I'm thrilled to hear it's so good!

Allie said...

I'm really happy that you loved this one. :) I love Eliot as she was one of the first classics writers I "discovered" on my own. And I agree, Silas Marner...he is just so sad. The first time I read this, I just wanted to give the poor guy a hug!

I like your comparison of his gold to our books. I do the same thing-stare at my shelves when things get overwhelming.

I do want to tell you that this one is in a much different tone than Eliot's other work. Simple isn't the right word, but this book is simpler in its message than her others.

Kailana said...

George Eliot is an author I have wanted to read FOREVER! One day...

Jillian said...

Aw!!! I've only ever heard people complain about this one, so I've avoided it. You make me want to read it! I've read Eliot's The Lifted Veil and Brother Jacob, and I'm currently reading Middlemarch. I'm definitely a fan, and I definitely get what you say about Austen and Dickens. :D

moshimoshinekobookreview said...

Wow, that;'s great news. Like a million others, I read the synopsis and thought it wasn't for me, although I enjoyed Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss. Maybe I'll give it a go after all.
Thanks!

Rebecca Reid said...

your reaction is similar to my reaction when I read this as a teenager. I reread it recently but I think I was in a funk because I found it so SLOW to get moving. I really have loved the other Eliot I've read so I'm looking forward to revisiting Silas Marner at some point and giving him another chance. Eliot is a wonderful writer!

mel u said...

I read this book last month and I was actually shocked how much I liked it-I loved it when the action jumped ahead 16 years. I really enjoying seeing how adopting the child changed Silas both inside and how he was treated. Great Post

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