My original intention when I started my summer reading challenges was to read one Gothic novel and then a Victorian novel and to continue this pattern until I completed all of them. And so far I have stuck to this program. However, the reviews will not match the order. I read Dracula with a fellow blogger and currently she is on vacation so my next review is Silas Marner by George Eliot. Before starting my challenge of reading 1001 novels this book was never on my list of books to read. In fact, none of Eliot’s books were on the list. However Eliot has five books on the 1001 list so I can’t avoid her.
Before discussing the novel I would like to share some background information about George Eliot. Her real name was Mary Ann Evans. She used a male pen name so her works would be taken seriously. This isn’t to say that women writers during her time were not published but she wanted to avoid the stereotype that female authors only wrote romantic novels. She may have had another reason for using a pen name. She may have wanted to hide from the public since her personal life at the time was unusual. Evans lived with a married man, George Henry Lewes, for more than two decades. Maybe she didn’t want people to voice their opinion about her personal life. Lewes was separated from his wife. However he was unsuccessful in obtaining a divorce. They lived together until Lewes’s death in 1878.
These facts intrigued me. Also, since I am working on a Victorian reading challenge this summer, it was only fitting to choose two of her works to read since she is one of the leading English writers during the Victorian era. Charles Dickens may be considered the preeminent Victorian writer but I am saving his novels for a different project which I hope to share soon. He has ten novels on the list.
Silas Marner’s story was not the story that I was expecting. And this was a good thing since to be honest, I thought the novel would be depressing and boring and that I would find it a chore to read it. However, right from the start I was hooked. Silas is a weaver who is wrongfully accused of a crime. He learns that his friend set him up. Silas’s fiancée breaks off the engagement when she learns of the accusation and she marries the friend who set up Silas.
Silas leaves his town and moves to Raveloe. Here he lives as a recluse who only lives to work and to hoard his money. Each night he counts his money and this is his only source of happiness. That is until his money is stolen. Silas is devastated. A twist of fate intervenes when a young child with golden hair wanders into Silas’s home.
This story has many twists and turns. And it wasn’t boring. There are crimes, unsavory characters, mystery, and love. I’m glad that I read the novel. Henry James wrote, “I think Silas Marner holds a higher place than any of the author’s works. It is more nearly a masterpiece; it has more of that simple, rounded, consummate aspect…which marks a classical work.”