Silas Marner by George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans)

A warm fire makes a snoozy kitty.
A warm fire makes a snoozy kitty.

Why I Read It: It was highly recommended by a friend.

Where I Got It: Borrowed from a friend.

Who I Recommend This To: If you are into classics that have strong moral storyline, then you might be interested in this book.

Narrator: Nadia May (AKA Wanda McCaddon)

Publisher: Blackstone Audio (2008)

Length: 6 CDs

Author’s Page

Silas Marner is a weaver in 1800s England. The story starts out with a stolen pocket knife and a bit of coin and Silas is accused of taking both. His friends and society believe him guilty and so he leaves, embittered, to go live near a small village called Raveloe. There, Silas continues to work as a weaver, leading a solitary life. Little by little, he builds up his hoard of coins. His life becomes three activities: weaving, delivery of weaving for payment, and counting his coins nightly. He’s a very lonely man and quite OK with that. Next, we jump to the brothers Godfrey and Dunstan Cass. They are troublemakers – making trouble for others and for themselves. Their father, Squire Cass, is the biggest landowner in the area. While Godfrey married secretly, and keeps his wife and child at arm’s length stashed away in poverty, Dunstan has some money troubles. Someone steals Silas’s coins and that same night a child wanders in to his place to warm up from the winter snow. A woman is found dead on the path that leads to Silas’s house. Silas adopts the kid and raises her as his own.

A weaver friend of mine lent this book to me because I am also a weaver. It is my first George Eliot book. I found it rather boring. The story could have been told as a novelette and gotten the same moral points across. I also found the moral points to be one-sided and hence, not interesting. The characters are pretty much one-dimensional never really straying from their initial set of traits. There are a few women in this book, but they have very minor, slim roles: mother, wife, lover, daughter.

Also, there was a religious bent to it that I didn’t fully get. Silas came from northern England and there attended chapel. Whereas in Raveloe people attend church. I am not too sure what the distinction is and how it relates to 1800s England. But it was clear that church was the way to go if you wanted to be a fine upstanding citizen. Also there was one scene where a neighbor’s wife comes over with her youngest to teach Silas some basics of child care and she brings lard cakes. She uses a stamp (probably iron) to put some letters in to the top of the lard cakes while squishing them flat (IHS) which she assumes are good letters as she sees them at the church. She is illiterate and doesn’t know what they mean and the book never explains to the reader assuming everyone will know. When I see IHS, I think industrial hygienists. But I am guessing these stand for some Latin religious phrase. The religious bent itself didn’t bother me; the lack of explanation so that I, the reader, can fully understand the culture bothered me.

The book ends with a strong scene that upholds the morals already laid out in the book. While the over all message seems to be that love is extremely important to a happy life, it is given to the reader is a very high-handed way.

Narration: The narration was decent. Each of the female characters had individual voices. Silas’s voice was well done. The various Casses kind of blended together, but they are related so I can see how the narrator wanted them to all sound similar. The best voice was that of Dolly Winthrope, the neighbor’s wife who helps Silas with his young charge.

What I Liked: This is was a small slice of 19th century conservative small-village England.

What I Disliked: The pacing was slow; the characters were one-dimensional; rather heavy on the morals.

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