Title: The Mill on the Floss
Author: George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish (The Great Writers Library, 1986)
Format Read: Hardcover
Basically, The Mill on the Floss is the story of a brother and sister told in five segments. The novel was written by Mary Ann Evans aka George Eliot and originally published in 1860.
Tom and Maggie Tulliver are the siblings in question. They are residents of Dorlcote Mill on the banks of the river Floss, and in Boy and Girl, the first section of the novel, they’re children. Maggie is the younger – emotional, impetuous, and always looking for her brother’s approval.
Tom, the elder, is a bit of a bully. He cares for his sister but is stubborn, and his father fears he is not exactly bright.
Maggie on the other hand, is physically darker than the rest her family. They comment on that often. She’s also impulsive. Obviously they think her very strange.
You are introduced to Tom and Maggie’s seemingly peaceful life in Boy and Girl, but there is an undercurrent of tension running through the story. For one, their father has started making an enemy in Wakem. And then there is the problem of Mrs. Tulliver’s bossy, judgemental family. Her sisters are clannish and do not approve of her marriage. They approve even less of Maggie. Girls are not supposed to be impulsive. Or dark haired, it seemed.
Some of their snobbishness rubs Mr. Tulliver the wrong way although the man is too obstinate to admit it. He sends Tom to Rev. Stelling for tutoring. Except that Stelling also allows another student to join him – the son of Wakem, Philip. He is described as a hunchback.
The story is told slowly. As the segments progress, Mr. Tulliver’s obstinacy and tactless dealings leave him in dire straits. Tom and Maggie are thrown into financial difficulties.
I thought the premise was fairly simple, however, there is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of philosophical musings in The Mill on the Floss and the text is fairly verbose. Not exactly an easy read, and the text moves from philosophy to the story and back to philosophy again.
Characterization though is spot on, especially of the she-who-looks-down-her-nose-at-everybody Mrs. Glegg. Tom and Maggie’s relationship is complex but realistic. Maggie’s romantic interest was…strange? I didn’t get it. Probably because Maggie confused herself as much as she did me.
Overall, a slow paced and unexpectedly interesting book with plenty of interspersed and realistic human interactions.