Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (1860)

George Eliot (1804 to 1886), UK) is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest of all novelists.  I have previously posted on her acknowledged by all masterwork Middlemarch and Silas Marner.

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.  

Mel u


Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Adam Bede and Daniel Deronda were certainly worth reading. I do not doubt that they are all worth reading. Eliot is always pushing hard on what the novel can do, which results in some clumsiness that I had to struggle with for a time. But it is the clumsiness of ambition and difficulty, not artlessness.

The later novels are wiser, for what that is worth, but both the earlier and later have some outstanding characters. Maybe no one quite as easily likable as Maggie Tulliver, though!

Arti said...

Looks like everything by GE is epic sounding. I must admit I've not read Middlemarch mainly due to its length. This one sounds very sad and heavy but I'm sure it's very well written. Thanks for posting your review on it.

Rummanah Aasi said...

This was my first foray into Elliot's works and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've also read Silas Marner too, but I unfortunately didn't have time to pick up Middlemarch. I hope to read it one day when I have plenty of time to dedicate to it.

mee said...

It's such a coincidence that I just watched BBC's latest Secret Life of Books series - 3rd episode of which is about The Mill on the Floss. If you can get it somehow I'm sure you'd enjoy it.

Mel u said...

Amateur Readsr - thanks for your valued input. I will,try to read at least these two by year end 2016

Rummanah Aasi-I limed Silas Marner a lot. Thanks very much for your comment.

Arti. This is a very sad work. Middlemarch is truly great

Mee. I will try to find away to view that. Thanks very much for mentioning it.