So I finally finished The Mill on the Floss. It took me TWO. MONTHS.
I was beginning to despair but then read The Time Traveler's Wife and finished it in a week (similar post to follow). So this is really my second to last read.
"Childhood has no forebodings; but then, it is soothed by no memories of outlived sorrow." MotF
Two things have aligned to make the smoother reading possible. Firstly, the Wildflower and I slowly snuggled our way into a natural daily rhythm that has now been enhanced by her calmer disposition and ability to entertain herself. Secondly, the warm weather has meant outside time. Most of the day is spent on the terrace instead of indoors. This is something that not only makes me happy, but has always made her happier. She is content to read her books or play with her toy animals or the potting soil, while she spots birds, butterflies, and the wind through the trees. We exchange
"...no sound or motion in anything but the dark river that flowed and moaned like an unresting sorrow." MotF
If you enjoy the classics and have never read, or read very little, George Eliot, I recommend you try her.
"Jealousy is never satisfied with anything short of an omniscience that would detect the subtlest fold of the heart." MotF
The Mill on the Floss began slowly for me, too slowly for my liking. I grant that having so few chances to read may have compounded the feeling. But the first quarter of the story was just so-so for me. The other aspect that troubled me was reading regional accents. I find this laborious. A word here and there is all I need, not almost every word in a character's speech. However, the first part of the novel is critical to understanding the small-town social and political atmosphere.
"Mrs. Glegg paused, for speaking with much energy for the good of others is naturally exhausting." MotF
On to the good stuff....
While Jane Austen is lace and tea admist neighbourhood gossip, George Eliot is grit and pain admist the daily grind. Austen has a sharp wit and sharp eye for character nuances. Eliot however, is a master at deeper insight, imho. It is absolutely delicious to enter into the motivations behind a character's thoughts and behaviours. I find that Eliot laser-beams right to the core, every time. I only compare the two author's because Austen is so much more popular and I know many haven't delved into Eliot or were put off by having to study Silas Marner at school.
Eliot's observations also make for very well-fleshed out characters. At least for the three central ones. Maggie, our leading lady, is multi-layerd. We know her, we love her, we feel her moral and romantic pains. This novel is also semi-autobiographical, which makes her childhood experiences particularly intriguing.
As for the tale, without spoiling it for you, I will simply say, that Maggie doesn't expect to be happy, she doesn't feel that she deserves happiness. And so life plays out her belief for her.
I didn't enjoy it as much as the soap-opera of Middlemarch, but Eliot always brings the beauty of rich characterization into my life.