Friday, September 20, 2013

Adam Bede by George Eliot

A friend once told me that Uncle Tom's Cabin was the most Christian novel he'd ever read. Since I haven't read it, I'll have to reserve that label for George Eliot's Adam Bede. This is the third novel I've read by Eliot and I'm again amazed that a woman of such ungodly principles could write so winsomely about men of women with sterling characters.

Apart from her excellent writing, Eliot has tremendous insights into human nature and into human suffering. And she's funny! Her little asides about the foibles and weaknesses of the characters in her story had me chuckling throughout the book. Another treat to me were the glimpses into early Methodism (Itinerant Methodist preacher, Dinah Morris, is one of the main characters in the book.)

Adam Bede is the story of young English carpenter at the turn of the 19th century. He's in love with Hetty Sorrel, a beautiful woman far beneath him in brains and heart. You'll spend the first half of the novel dreading the culmination of his dream to marry her.  But by the time his lady love topples from her pedestal, your judgments will not be so clearly marked against her since Eliot has the gift of making her characters seem flawed and loveable at the same time. I cannot tell anymore of the story without spoilers.  I can only say that it is a powerful story of redemption, manhood (both true and false), and love (both shallow and deep).

One of my favorite themes in Adam Bede was echoed in Eliot's Middlemarch, the idea that common, honest people contribute more to the good of mankind through their quiet acts of love and duty than do famous heroes.

Be warned that the first half of the book is slow-going and some of the dialect makes it difficult, but then things pick up quite a bit; it's worth the effort and it's free for Kindle.


Becky said...

Have you read Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell??? It is excellent!!!

Annette said...

I'm very fond of George Eliot. I've read only two of her books: Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss.
I second, read Ruth by Elizabeth Gaskell, it's one of my favorites.

Barbara H. said...

I just finished one of her books, Daniel Deronda, and want to read more some time. This sounds like a good one.

Sherry said...

Yes, Adam Bede is my favorite George Eliot novel, and I, too, am surprised at the "christian-ness" of Eliot's novels, especially this one.

Vintage Reading said...

I've just read this novel, too. I felt so sorry for poor, foolish Hetty. I also felt compassion for Adam's kind-hearted brother Seth who doesn't marry the woman he loves. I agree that the rustic dialect is difficult at times although a source of wonderful humour. It's not quite as good as The Mill on the Floss but a pretty fine novel.

Janet said...

I remember reading this in college, but I remember more about the plot of Middlemarch. You've piqued my curiosity enough that I find myself wanting to reread Adam Bede... even though I'm in a phase when it's difficult to find large enough chunks of time to make much progress in a Victorian novel!