Fortunately, I did not have to read this book in grade school, because I would not have gotten anything out of it at the time. I actually own a copy that once belonged to my high school, but avoided it for years. I think this was because I misread the title as “Silas Mariner,” and assuming it to be a classic about seamen, associated it with Moby Dick. And obviously, I didn’t want to read anything like that
. As it turns out, Silas Marner contains neither essays showing off the author's research, nor mariners. Silas is, in fact, a weaver.
This short book tells the story of a man who more or less withdraws from life after a crushing betrayal, to be eventually reawakened through his love for a child. It’s a sweet story, at times saccharine and with some all-too-convenient plot elements, but still, it’s a good one. The writing, of course, is excellent, sometimes sarcastic, and peppered with incisive observations about human nature. For the most part, the characterization is excellent; I fully believed in the Raveloe villagers, and even the minor ones are distinct and realistic.
But then there is Eppie, the original Pollyanna--so perfect she’s more plot device than person. Even when she misbehaves, she does so adorably; as a toddler she never throws tantrums, and as a teenager she’s never for a moment rebellious or selfish or withdrawn. She’s a fantasy child, with none of the human foibles the other characters display, and it’s because of her that the later part of the novel sometimes becomes saccharine.
Overall, though, a sweet, enjoyable story from a gifted writer. I decided to try this one before Middlemarch, and it’s good enough that I’m eager to try Eliot’s major work.