Richard Derus's Reviews > Silas Marner

Silas Marner by George Eliot
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Oct 08, 2011

really liked it

This book was a real-life Book Circle read that, well, got mixed reviews. Some people thought the writing was brilliant and others found it dated; some people thought it was too short, others too long for the short story they felt it truly was and not the novel it's pretending to be.

I think it's a lovely book. I think Silas is about as honestly drawn and cannily observed a character as fiction offers. I think the village of Raveloe is as real as my own village of Hempstead. It's a delight to read about real people, presented without editorial snark, in a book from the 19th century.

And therein the book's real achievement. When it was published in 1861, it was a revolutionary tract! The hoi polloi were not to be represented in Art, and novels were then most definitely considered Art, unless they were romanticized, made into prettier or uglier or in some way extreme examples of a Point of View. Simple, honest, direct portrayal of people that novel-readers employed but never conversed with?! Shocking!

A book of great importance, then, for its groundbreaking treatment of The People. But also...and this is the reason it helped wreak the revolution whose Robespierres and Dantons were Hemingway and Company...it is a simple story of a man's journey down an ever-widening path that leads to enlightenment, told without A Message or A Moral, in prose that remains graceful 150 years later.

If you read it in high school, don't blame IT for the hatred your English teacher left you feeling...blame the teacher. It's not fairly presented in English courses. Read it as an adult, and judge it for itself. Maybe it'll be to your personal taste, maybe not, but I think a grown-up read of a book this seminal to all the others we read today, never thinking about how improbable their existence is, isn't too much to ask.

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Quotes Richard Liked

George Eliot
“The dull mind, once arriving at an inference that flatters the desire, is rarely able to retain the impression that the notion from which the inference started was purely problematic.”
George Eliot, Silas Marner


Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2009 – Finished Reading
October 8, 2011 – Shelved

Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Love the use of "hoi polloi." That term needs a resurgence. Really nice review. I am going to add this as one of the classics I visit/revisit.


Richard Derus "Hoi polloi" is in desuetude? Really? You need to hang out with my book circle...we're old, but we're erudite, and far too independent to not use the full extent of our various vocabularies at all times.


message 3: by Stephen (new) - added it

Stephen Oldfan wrote: ""Hoi polloi" is in desuetude? Really? You need to hang out with my book circle...we're old, but we're erudite, and far too independent to not use the full extent of our various vocabularies at all ..."

My vocabulary expands just reading your reviews for which I am extremely grateful.


Richard Derus Thanks, Israel!


message 5: by Allie (new) - added it

Allie Riley Really must get round to reading this one, too. One of my Mum's favourites.


Richard Derus I recommend the read.


message 7: by Allie (new) - added it

Allie Riley Fairly sure it was dramatised by the BBC when I was little - I seem to remember the little child and the old man.


Richard Derus help the sentimentality help help


Angelos Sk One of my life-changing books! Along with Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Mill Flanders. great review!


Helen Just finished Silas Marner. Though I felt it could have been longer, that is my only "criticism". Who am I to criticize George Eliot. I am in complete and utter awe of her genius as a writer.

Great review, as usual. Thank you.


Richard Derus Helen wrote: "Just finished Silas Marner. Though I felt it could have been longer, that is my only "criticism". Who am I to criticize George Eliot. I am in complete and utter awe of her genius as a writer.

Great review, as usual. Thank you."


Thank YOU, Helen, for stopping in to say such nice things. I agree with the point, "Who am I to criticize George Eliot," with the caveat that no writer on earth is above making mistakes (eg, Charles Dickens' career :-P).


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