Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Silas Marner

This is one of those books that everyone has heard of, but I'm not sure very many people have read. I think there was a time it was required reading for high school, or maybe junior high english students, but I think that time has passed. I read it as part of the Lexica reading challenge we are doing at Schell games. Lexica has approximately 400 books in it, and we are trying to see if collectively as a studio, we can read them all. No one in the studio signed up for Silas Marner, and I've always been a fan of George Eliot, so I went for it.
I can't say it is an excellent book. It is definitely a good book, but it has a kind of uneven feel, and the main character, an antisocial weaver who becomes a miser, and then, uh, stops being one, is a bit hard to relate to, and doesn't always seem completely believable. But for all the uneven parts, the strength of the book for me is the moments. It has fascinating and powerful moments. The attention to detail draws you in, and makes you feel like you are there. I'm realizing, now, as I write this that most of those moments are when characters are alone, and noticing things in their environment. And that is a really fascinating part of this book -- it is very much like a time machine. You get a really clear sense of what it would be like to be in a village tavern in the mid-1800s, or at a loom, or what cooking over a fireplace was like. How George Eliot (really a woman named Mary Ann Evans) had such insight into the world of men (taverns, the workplace, a private argument between brothers) is somewhat beyond me. She must have been an amazing listener.
I did enjoy it, it kept moving, and I'm glad I read it. It makes me want to go back and finish Adam Bede, and makes me look forward to Middlemarch, which people generally call her masterpiece.

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