Lizzie's Reviews > The Mill on the Floss

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
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Five thousand stars.

I don't really know what to say. To me, old novels sometimes feel too emotionally remote, usually the fault of the conservative style imposed on them, but this was one of the most emotionally vibrant things I've ever read. Maggie was such a vivid character that every page she's on feels true. And yet, it's such a novel, with themes so richly built. Because of Shannon's numerous discussions of it for many years, I knew most of the ending before starting, but that only made it even richer. The symbolism is effortless and perfect and needed. (And is it really possible people don't like the ending?)

It was a really visceral read: lots of face-clasping and jaw-dropping. Maggie says some of the truest things I've ever seen in fiction, and it's wonderful. Eliot's omniscience says the rest of them. I was stunned how sharp the commentary was, painful and real. She seems to have known everything. So I felt kind of silly for a while; why didn't I listen to Shannon and read it when this happened to her? But really, it doesn't matter, because reading this felt like it was written especially for me to read in my life right now. Which is how your favorite books always make you feel, right? (It's official. I changed my GoodReads relationship status to "Favorite books: The Mill on the Floss.")

Not every page thrilled me to pieces. The aunts remained annoying throughout; I guess I didn't find them as great a foil as they're supposed to be. My interest slackened a little during some of Tom's sections. But I think it is really obvious to point out: Basically my criticism is, "Maggie Tulliver is so outstanding that I longed for her in every chapter that wasn't all about her." Which, really, is not a criticism at all. It's not like it's shortsighted to write a protagonist so good a reader can't stand to be away from her. (I especially think we should have gotten to see as much of Maggie in school as we did Tom. But still: not seriously concerned.)

Though I purchased a copy as I neared the end so I could always have it, I read it all via DailyLit in 242 parts over two months. One of the things I like most about reading through DailyLit emails is that though most pages can be deleted after they're read, emails with passages I really like I save instead. Just in case. (I think this is the same kind of thing that makes people underline or dog-ear pages in real books, but I've never been able to do that.) So in my email right now I have 5 saved pages of Night and Day, 1 page of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, and 110 pages of The Mill on the Floss. For a little perspective.

It is needed.
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Reading Progress

08/24 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by drea (new)

drea Have you read Middlemarch? Also awesome and amazing. I am such a George Eliot fangirl, but haven't read this one yet. That will obviously have to change.


Lizzie Oh, that is awesome! Our friend Shannon from college read this then, and was like "UM YOU GUYS," and has now basically memorized every one of her novels because she's like that. So I've been meaning to grab this for a while, and now I definitely could take direction on where to go from here! Also, could take books. (cough)


message 3: by drea (new)

drea Books can be gotten! *cough*




message 4: by Amitabh (new)

Amitabh I was very taken up by Thomas Hardy as a teenager (read all his novels) and now a few decades later I decided to do something about not having read that other Victorian novelist George Eliot. I have just finished Mill on the Floss, my first Eliot, and it's completely haunted me. I find myself thinking about it all the time, during my sleeping hours as well.


Lizzie I understand that haunted feeling. For months I couldn't stop wishing whatever I was reading was this book instead.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I think I am going to be reading this on your recommendation soon--our mutual friend Emily suggested that I read along with her and I went and bought it today. I always thought that Middlemarch would be my next Eliot, but after reading your review I am quite excited about this one. Have you read Daniel Deronda? It's one of my favorite books ever. Eliot is so good at picking out and articulating pieces of humanity that just knock me down with a sense of Truth. She was genius.


Lizzie Oh, that's fantastic! I was really flattered she wanted to read it on my recommendation, but it doesn't have the speediest beginning. It got my heart real early on, though. I will be more than happy to talk about it once you guys make progress! I'm reading my second Eliot now, Romola, which has a reeeally slow start, but I know some wonderful things happen soon. I'm glad you love Daniel Deronda, I have a copy of that I'm saving for later.


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