Silas Marner may be the shortest book of George Eliot(the pseudonym of Mary Anne Evans) but it remains one of her most renowned ones. Published in 1861, the book takes place in Raveloe where Silas, a linen weaver exiled from his land, lives a lonely and meaningless life, his only solace a pile of gold that he hoards in his small house. Everything changes when his gold is stolen and Eppie comes to his life.
What I liked most about this book is the prose. Packed with images, while playing with the senses and also the power of language, George Eliot manages not only to make us closer to Raveloe and its denizens but also pay attention to our minds and find things that greatly surprise us. Her constant commentary is food for thought, and doesn’t impede the flow of the story but helps clarify it.
The characters are not flat, not even the supporting ones such as the townsfolk. Each has his own voice, motives, and goals. Sufficient development is given to almost every one, and I really like how the author conveys their feelings, digging deep into the conscience like she does with Silas or Godfrey. My favorite characters are Silas and Nancy, the former for his transition, the latter for her soft and kind nature, shown especially at the ending. Last but not least, the books shows in a clear and vivid way the power of faith and how superstition is rooted in the minds of small, enclosed communities.
On the other hand, Silas doesn’t move the plot forward right away. Instead, the author chooses to fill us in with a lot of boring details about the town, in addition to things about the past of Silas that I think they could have been saved for later. Moreover, the actual writing sometimes is hard to understand. The book is full of large sentences with many complex meanings and nuances, and every too often one can be easily confused. I did have to read twice or thrice a few of them in order to grasp them. That sadly makes the book longer than it looks and robs a part of its narration.
Eppie, the girl that Silas adopts, also appears quite late. Albeit being vivacious and changing the life of Silas, I didn’t understand her actual personality, rather thought that the second part was rushed, and failed to offer any opportunities for her upbringing. We do learn that Silas cared for her and refrained from any kind of punishment, yet there don’t seem to be enough obstacles they have to face until the ending, but even that is far from clear. I don’t intend to spoil it though.
Silas Marner is like a pleasant fairy tale with the didactic message of love, one I would suggest reading both to young children but also for your own pleasure, yet the story as such lacks a few things. George Eliot is a wonderful writer I’d love to read more from, yet don’t intend to revisit this one.