Book Review

Silas Marner by George Eliot

a lovely fucking novel

What a lovely fucking novel.

I’ve never read any George Eliot before, she’s a bit of a gap in my reading tbh. I don’t know how long I’ve had this copy of Silas Marner, nor the still-unread copy of TheMill on the Floss, but I was a fool to neglect it, because even though I went in expecting to be at best bored and at worst angrily bored, it turned out that this nineteenth century titan was as wonderful as her reputation states. It’s fun, repairing the canonical holes in my own literary knowledge, because – as with I, Claudius a few weeks ago – this is a real treat of a novel.

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I’ve never read much 19th century fiction that doesn’t end up being tragic, or at worst horrendously bleak, but Silas Marner isn’t that. There are, of course, bad people who get punished, but the good people do not suffer, needlessly, as a result of the caprice of others. The titular character is a weaver who grew up in a weird Christian cult but was ejected after being framed for stealing cash from a dying old man. Boo hoo. He relocates to a quaint little village where he works hard and never has any fun or does any socialising, until one day the dastardly local complete dickhead younger son of a squire steals all of Marner’s money, then a few months later he finds the secret child of the secret, dying, junkie wife of the older, lesser-dickhead son of the same local squire. The lil poshboy doesn’t want anyone to know about his secret party marriage to a drug addict, so doesn’t claim the child as his own and instead marries the prim local hottie who he’d been blowing hot and cold with because he was, secretly, married.

Silas Marner adopts and brings up the child as a single father, but like all old novels (and most modern ones, too), all the truth and secrets are eventually revealed. Before that happens, though, Marner is able to ingratiate himself, finally, with the local community, he is able to find a purpose to his life in raising this foundling, and he finds a way to take pride in his life other than in the mere collection of money. Money can be stolen, but a child can’t. Or can it, if it is the legal progeny of the local rich man?

Well, Silas Marner isn’t the sad tragedy of loss that it threatens to be. There is peril and there is fear, but there is a happy ending and there is personal growth, narratives about responsibility and community, and the piece is an uplifting, engaging, read.

Eliot’s short novel is human and emotive, and though there is an over-reliance on classist phonetic speech patterns to assist the poorer characters’ use as comic relief, but if you ignore these trying passages it still remains impossible to see this as anything other than a pleasant and deeply readable text. Its plot makes sense, the writing is clear and humane – it’s a great read, and it’s a great shame I’d never bothered to pick it up before. I’ll definitely read The Mill On The Floss soon.

I loved it: a top piece of deservedly-canonical fiction. Nice!


On November 14th 2018, I launched my first (and so far only) book, Bad Boy Poet, in the basement of Burley Fisher Books, Dalston. Here are some of the songs and poems I performed:

Order Bad Boy Poet from the UK publisher here.

Order Bad Boy Poet with free Worldwide Shipping from The Book Depository here.

Order Bad Boy Poet from Amazon/Waterstones/Hive/Foyles etc if you’d prefer.


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