Three stars, read in December 2015.
I remember starting this book in seventh grade, though I didn’t get far. (It was around the same time I attempted the unabridged Les Miserables, so maybe I was just overwhelmed by my own ambition.) It took me almost twenty years to pick it up again, but I’m so glad to finally know how lovely George Eliot’s writing is. Every few pages, it seemed—starting on page one, with the quote below—I was stopping to reread a sentence or paragraph that was so unique, so perfectly descriptive, I wanted to write it down.
It did drag a bit in places, mostly around the middle when she was setting up the background with Godfrey Cass, who is useless and whiny and totally uninteresting to me. But the book is beautiful, and I can’t wait to read more of her titles that have been on my “to-read” list for essentially my whole life.
No one knew where wandering men had their homes or their origin; and how was a man to be explained unless you at least knew somebody who knew his father and mother? To the peasants of old times, the world outside their own direct experience was a region of vagueness and mystery: to their untravelled thought a state of wandering was a conception as dim as the winter life of the swallows that came back with the spring; and even a settler, if he came from distant parts, hardly ever ceased to be viewed with a remnant of distrust, which would have prevented any surprise if a long course of inoffensive conduct on his part had ended in the commission of a crime; especially if he had any reputation for knowledge, or showed any skill in handicraft. All cleverness, whether in the rapid use of that difficult instrument the tongue, or in some other art unfamiliar to villagers, was in itself suspicious: honest folk, born and bred in a visible manner, were mostly not overwise or clever—at least, not beyond such a matter as knowing the signs of the weather; and the process by which rapidity and dexterity of any kind were acquired was so wholly hidden, that they partook of the nature of conjuring. In this way it came to pass that those scattered linen-weavers—emigrants from the town into the country—were to the last regarded as aliens by their rustic neighbours, and usually contracted the eccentric habits which belong to a state of loneliness.