The many phases of George Eliot. First you think 'Oh, a dude.' But no. Then 'Wait, which is George Eliot and which is George Sand? And why was 'George' the preferred pseudonym for mid-19th c. ladies?' And then 'Middlemarch is SO LONG OMG' and then 'Middlemarch is SO AWESOME OMG.' Then 'Wow, that was not an attractive woman.' THEN, 'I shall now be reading all her books.'
I grant that this might not be the order for everyone. And I still have The Lifted Veil and Daniel Deronda, but I have read EVERYTHING ELSE she wrote. Which I will now be discussing.
Middlemarch - I read Middlemarch when I was 19 and got very, very into it. Its heroine, Dorothea Brooke, is my favorite literary heroine. Marian Halcombe now is a close second, but Dorothea is basically me at a very very conservative Christian age 19. 'Oh, I like horseback riding? Maybe I should give that up for God then...' And wanting to marry a great man in order to help him with his work? Yeah. THAT WAS A THING I WANTED TO DO. And Middlemarch is all "Yeeeeeah, no. Don't do that." Plus the characters are basically all complex and amazing and it should just be read.
Adam Bede - George Eliot is very, very into Masculine Men of the Land, with clear brows and penetrating eyes and big hands who make things. So that's kind of what Adam Bede's all about. Oh, and good people making bad decisions with far-reaching consequences. Also Methodists.
Scenes of Clerical Life - I love this book's face off. It was the first thing she published. It consists of three short stories, and they are all awesome and adorable. I bought a 1907 edition when I went to NYC this year, which is a thing I've been looking for for SEVEN YEARS. It was a good moment.
Me: "I GOT A 1907 TWO VOLUME EDITION OF GEORGE ELIOT'S SCENES OF CLERICAL LIFE."
My mom: "Well. I'm sure that was about to be snatched up."
The Mill on the Floss - I loved Mill on the Floss until the last third, where it started SUCKING.
Felix Holt the Radical - I have a theory about this book (which is about the Reform Act of 1832 -- THRILLING STUFF). And that theory is that Eliot saw the misogynistic shitstorm that was Our Mutual Friend and went 'Oh no no no, I will do this but do it right.' And from that came Felix and Esther and general awesomeness.
Romola - Ugh. Yeah. This book. No.
One thing I find hilarious about George Eliot is that she wrote a lot about the country, and people praised this, but her brother was like "No no -- do not be fooled. When we lived on the farm, she did nothing. There was no charming milking-the-cows scene. She just sat around." Brothers.