Classics club spin stops at George Eliot

Title page of the first edition. Source: Wikipedia

Title page of the first edition. Source: Wikipedia

The Classics Club spin landed on number five which means I will be reading Adam Bede by George Eliot. This was the first novel she wrote, published pseudonymously in 1859 at a time when, as Mary Ann Evans, she was a highly respected scholar.  Its merit was recognised immediately though not unanimously. An anonymous review in The Athenaeum in 1859 praised it as a “novel of the highest class,” and The Times called it “a first-rate novel. Henry James however was irritated by the narrator’s interventions and many critics have accused Eliot of concluding the novel in a way that undermined the moral lessons learned by her main characters.

The novel follows four characters’ rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope—a rural, pastoral and close-knit community in 1799. The plot revolves around a love “rectangle” among beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel; Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her; Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor; and Dinah Morris, Hetty’s cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher.

When I read this the first time, many years ago, I enjoyed it simply as a good story and sympathised particularly with Adam, the loyal intelligent carpenter and man of integrity.  At that time I wasn’t aware of Eliot’s theory that authors should extend their sympathies to all their characters, a theory she put into practice in Middlemarch where the narrator makes us realise that even the distasteful Casubon has his inner doubts and feelings. I’m going to read Adam Bede with an eye to whether she had already began to use this notion in her early work.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on August 31, 2015, in Classics Club and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I love Middlemarch and maybe I’ll try reading her other works. Also, my Classics Club progress is so sluggish. And I only have a couple of years left.

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  2. I read this book and enjoyed it quite a bit, but I don’t actually remember her extending much sympathy to Hetty. Maybe my memory is mistaken though.

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    • That’s what will intrigue me most Nish. I don’t recall Hetty being very sympathetic either so does that mean Eliot was able to apply her theory only in part or did I just. Is some subtleties

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  3. How interesting. I read this as a teen and honestly don’t remember much of it. I’ll be interested to read your thoughts.

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  4. I remember reading and enjoying this some years ago, but I haven’t been back to it since. The Eliot novel that I love this most is, and will remain, I think, ‘Daniel Deronda’.

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  5. I am currently reading The Mill on the Floss and enjoying it. I had read it before along with other George Eliot books but had little memory of it. The classic spin gave me My Career goes Bung by Miles Franklin.

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