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This is Eliot's somewhat autobiographical novel, and tells the story of Maggie Tulliver and her brother Tom. The story takes place in the village of St. Ogg, and at the Mill on The Floss that's been in the Tulliver family for generations.
The joy of reading this novel or any other by Eliot is her gorgeous prose and brilliant characterizations, even with the minor characters. Just be warned, this is not an action packed, sit on the edge of your seat, can't put it down until it's finished type of novel.
This is a story to savour and enjoy the multi-faceted characters and the author's glorious prose like a fine red wine or a box of chocolates (or both). If you are looking for high action and adventure, this is not the book for you. Highly recommended for any lover of 19th century English literature, not as dark and brooding as Hardy can be, but the prose is just as lovely, if not better.
Mill on the floss (fiction)
George Elliot (Author)
customer reviews (Yes)
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Reviews from Amazon:
RUN, do not walk, to bookshop or library and soak yourself in this glorious treat. Eliot is both bracing and ineffably comforting. All of humanity is here, beautifully observed, but best of all are the meticulous and kind descriptions of Maggie Tulliver's childhood, her rebellions and reactions, and the staring incomprehension of the much duller adults by whom she's surrounded. No-one conveys childhood boredom and bewilderment so well as Eliot does here. As the jaws of society close on Maggie, there's a dull-ish Dickensian plot about family ruin and suitors, but it hardly matters - what matters is the dazzling characterisation, the rolling Miltonic majesty of the prose. This is a nice edition with a good clear typeface.
Maggie Tulliver is an intelligent, impetuous little girl who lives in the Mill of the title. She plagues her mother with her unwillingness to behave in a neat, respectable way; she adores her straightforward but proud and litigious father; and she worships her older brother Tom, living for the times when he comes home from school. As she grows up, the Tulliver's fall on hard times and she is forced into more subdued behaviour, although her passionate nature and readiness to love remain simmering beneath the surface. Slow and forthright Tom finds his place in his sister's affections challenged by other men and Maggie faces difficult decisions.
Instead of focussing on romance as I expected, The Mill on the Floss is a book which explores relationships of all different kinds. It examines the ties that bind an extended family network of aunts, uncles and cousins together through thick and thin, so that the relatives who scold and tut and say "I told you so" can nonetheless always be relied upon to provide support and lend a helping hand where necessary. There are people drawn together out of pity, duty, friendship and tolerance. The romantic relationships depicted in the book vary widely in their nature, their causes and their means of expression; some arise out of kindness and mutual loneliness rather than love, while others are due to restlessness and adventure. Some relationships are easy and others are difficult and these are not always the ones that the reader might expect. And of course, there is never any doubt that the two most important men in Maggie's life are her brother Tom and her father Mr Tulliver.
Maggie herself is a fascinating character. As a quick-witted, volatile little girl of violent passions she is utterly believable. Her emotionally charged decisions to cut off her hair or to run away with the gypsies are shown as being perfectly logical through Maggie's childlike reasoning, though her repentance following these irrevocable decisions is swift and easily anticipated by the reader. Her growth into a quieter, more mature and subdued figure is equally believable, although it is not a little disappointing to see her spirit being crushed by circumstances. She is not the sort of character that is always likeable, but she is constantly fascinating and the reader genuinely wants her to find happiness.
The best aspect of the book, for me, was George Eliot's prose which is always insightful and heartfelt. Unfortunately, I found myself loving The Mill on the Floss right up until the ending, which I loathed. I'm desperately trying not to give anything away, but it is overly sentimental and completely out of keeping with the rest of the novel up to that point both in content and tone. I really wish that it had ended differently. .
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