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January 24th, 2013

The Mill on the Floss centres around Tom and Maggie Tulliver, whose parents own the eponymous Mill on the Floss. The first chapter is about their childhood, and how they grew up together, including an episode where Maggie runs away from home, and the plans to send Tom to a boarding school.

When Tom goes to boarding school, he makes friends with a hunchbacked boy named Philip, who falls in love with Maggie. However, Philip's father then sues Tom and Maggies' father, who ends up bankrupt and bedridden following a riding accident; the mill has to be sold to Philip's father, and it drives a wedge between the two families, causing Tom to start hating Philip. Maggie remains very much in love with Philip, despite her family's objections.

The relatonship between Tom and Maggie is fleshed out very well from the start and is made to be one of the story's main focuses. Maggie's continued love for Philip is very well set out, as events conspire to prevent them from finding happiness, including the appearance of Stephen, who is eager to marry Maggie himself. The storyline just keeps getting bleaker as the story continues, and at each point when there seems to be some hope for the characters, a sudden plot twist spoils things. There is also a noticeable deterioration of the relationship between Tom and Maggie running throughout the story.

Overall, I enjoyed this immensely, and it was very well written, in a way that was sympathetic to all characters, even those who should have been very dislkeable. I found it to be very easy to read, despite being long-winded in places, and so I would definitely recommend it to others.

Next book: The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy

Book 2: House of Splendid Isolation

Originally posted by audrey_e at Book 2: House of Splendid Isolation
2 HOUSE OF SPLENDID ISOLATION Edna O'Brien (Ireland, 1994)

A terrorist of the IRA chooses the house of an old and isolated Irish widow to hide. Their relationship gradually develops into a one-of-a-kind friendship as she reflects on her difficult marriage. 

This is a rather short novel - a little over 200 pages - that is not trying to be thorough, but rather to give glimpses of the Irish experience, both on a political level and on a more gender-focused one. Those glimpses are often very poetic, with a dreamlike quality, although there are regular shifts in tones throughout the novel. 
I have to admit I was expecting the two main characters' relationship to develop more slowly. But the policemen, neighbors and relatives were almost as equally central to the novel as the old lady and the terrorist, especially considering what a small book it was.
Overall, the novel was quite post-modern and fragmented, unlike the more conventional Country Girls I read a couple of months ago. Past the surprise, I was fascinated to see how O'Brien grew as a writer and I'm still planning on adding more of her books to my list. 




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