Silas Marner – George Eliot

Book #875

REVIEWER: Ange, of Tall, Short & Tiny


Silas Marner is a story about redemption, sin and repentance, love, honesty, loyalty and prejudice. It tells the story of Silas, an unimposing and unfortunate (in looks as well as experience) young man who is unfairly run out of his home village, Lantern Yard, for a crime he did not commit. He begins a new, reclusive life for himself in Raveloe, where the villagers consider him to be a rather enigmatic, unusual character. Silas is a weaver by trade, and spends every possible moment at his work; he weaves when he is sad, he weaves when he is lonely; he weaves. Consequently, he amasses quite a fortune, which brings him great joy. However, when his fortune is stolen, he finds himself aided and finally accepted by the village; when a young child is left orphaned and appears on his doorstep, he is desperate to adopt and raise her, believing his golden fortune to have been symbolically exchanged for this golden-haired toddler.

He raises Eppie alone, and she grows up to be a beautiful, sweet young woman. As she promises herself in marriage, she also promises Silas that she will never leave him alone.

When the thief is discovered, 16 years later, Eppie’s real father, and brother to the thief, wishes to do right by Silas and the daughter he failed to own previously. The story ends with he and his wife proposing to Eppie that she live with them, expecting her to choose their higher position in society over that of her adoptive father.

The blurb on the back of my copy touts Silas Marner as one of Eliot’s most successful and admired works, but I’m not sure I agree. I enjoyed it, but found it very predictable, and there were some chapters that I thought quite irrelevant and unnecessary. Eliot writes in the typically and excessively descriptive style of the 1800s, and I am a little ashamed to admit that I actually fell asleep whilst reading on more than one occasion.

None of the characters really gripped me. Silas was sweet and slightly endearing; I felt for him and the injustices he faced, but was never fully drawn to him. Eppie was bland, although her love for Silas and her strength of conviction for him did give her an extra edge not often found in 1800s heroines. However, the only characters I thought had any real substance were the young cad, Dunstan Cass, and Silas’ motherly neighbour, Dolly Winthrop.

The bonus with this story is that it’s very short, so there isn’t too much time for real boredom to sink in; if it had been longer, I think I would have struggled to get through it in one piece. However, the beginning meandered so slowly that I found my mind wandering quite often. In saying that, it’s not that I didn’t like Silas Marner…I just felt it didn’t live up to my expectations, which were based solely on the blurb on the back of the novel. A good friend of mine loved it, so it obviously has its appeal for some.

I’ll give it 3/5 stars.


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