The Mill on the Floss entered my To be Read list in 1960 when I learned about it in The Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman. I was motivated to at last read this incredibly powerful work when I read in a biography of Constance Fenimore Woolson by Anne Boyd Rioux, Constance Fenimore Woolson Portrait of a Lady Novelist that The Mill on the Floss was a tremendous influence on Woolson. I saw the influence at once in the opening natural descriptions. So a book added to my TBR list 55 years ago is now completed!
The central characters are Maggie and Tom Tulliver, brother and sister. Their parents own a mill on the river Floss. Maggie is nine when we meet her, Tom maybe twelve. The novel follows about fifteen or so years of their lives. The characters of the siblings are brilliantly realized. Like a mill stone crushes grain, life crushes Maggie and Tom, spiritually and physically. There is not pity for the human condition in Mill on the Floss. The frequent authorial observations on life put us in touch with a great intellect.
The feeling of children growing to maturity is truly powerful. I actually gasped in delight after reading the chapter where Maggie, trying to run away from home, thought she had been captured by evil Gypsies. Maybe the best thing in the book is the development of Maggie.
The final chapter was just overwhelmiingly, brutally harsh and shocking. There is tremendous social commentary and satire in The Mill on the Floss.
This is far from a "feel good novel". It is a profound work of art with much to teach the willing reader.
I am hoping some will share their experiences with the five Eliot novels I have not yet read.