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quote 2017-07-01 15:50
A friend is one to whom one may pour out the contents of one's heart, chaff and grain together, knowing that gentle hands will take and sift it, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.

—George Eliot

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review 2017-06-10 16:50
Peasants are the real heroes...
Adam Bede - Hugh Osborne,George Eliot

That's the thing with free 'purchases' on the Kindle isn't it, one wonders 'why'? Is the offering so value-less? Even with the pedigree of George Eliot there is a temptation to look such a gift horse tentatively in the mouth. But, I needn't have worried.

 

Published in 1858, "Adam Bede" was the author's second novel and came more than a decade before "Middlemarch" (see previous review) and yet it turned out to be wonderfully self-assured. Set in Hayslope in Loamshire, which we learn is in the north midlands, the book focuses on a slice of nineteenth century pastoral life, but Eliot's examination of social divisions and connections across class, gender, generations, religion, wealth, etc has some powerful resonance with contemporary Britain. For example, preaching by Christian women (150 years later and still being debated!!); the moral conundrum of support for the poor; teenage pregnancy; gender inequality; and even the responsibility of powerful elites to wider society.

 

As the title of the book suggests, the central character is Adam Bede, who is a master carpenter and curiously in this homage to the humble working man/woman, Eliot offers a compelling antidote to the modern obsession with fame and celebrity. Indeed, the book deliberately lauds several characters of substance and I particularly liked Lisbeth Bede (Adam's doting mother), Dinah Morris (who might equally have been entitled to entitle the book, if you see what I mean) and Mrs Poyser (wife of a local farmer and a complete tartar). Each of them is made all the more praiseworthy in that they must make their respective ways without the advantages conferred by privileged upbringing. Moreover, the characters are buffeted by the twists and turns of life, but it is their capacity to 'do the right thing' in the context of their respective social codes that set them apart. What Eliot seems to be implying is that it can be very difficult to warrant the deceptively simple epithet of a 'good' man/woman and consequently they represent the best of us. Yet, they are "...reared here and there in every generation of our peasant artisans - with an inheritance of affections nurtured by a simple family life of common need and common industry, and an inheritance of of faculties trained in skilful courageous labour.....They have not had the art of getting rich, but they are men of trust, and when they die before the work is all out of them, it is as if some main screw had got loose in a machine; the master who employed them says, 'Where shall I find their like?' "

This shining of a perceptive light on the value of the industrious working class was rather more interesting to me than tiresome tales of the innately powerful and rightly elevates the author among her Victorian peers.

 

Curiously, at a couple of points in the book, Eliot affects a 'time-out' and proceeds to explain her approach to the story. "So I am content to tell my simple story, without trying to make things seem better than they were; dread nothing indeed but falsity.... Falsehood is so easy, truth so difficult."

This could be perceived as almost an apology for a tale steeped in realism, which might be deemed banal and yet, I found the book thoroughly absorbing. Rather, it was this signposting, explicitly leading the reader to understand an underlying theme and not trusting for it to be gleaned from the narrative that was interesting, but slightly odd.

 

Adam Bede is seen as quite eligible in his community and has set his cap towards local beauty Hetty Sorrel, but she in turn has come to the attention of the heir of the local squire, Captain Arthur Donnithorne. Indeed, the story deftly describes two successive love triangles, with Adam featuring in both, but these are hardly mainstays of the book. Instead, it is the strength of the 'supporting cast' that truly sets this book apart and the meshing of the various cogs in the community machine that mesmerize the reader as smoothly as the engine in a Rolls Royce Phantom. Certainly that compelling desire to know what happens, not only to Adam, but to half a dozen characters, is the hallmark of a great read. And 'love' in its many guises - romantic, familial, communal - triumphs, not in some mushy sentimental way, but as the warm oil that soothes the heat and grinding of components.

 

For me, the only grit in the Eliot machine was the language, which, true to form, was also kept 'real'. That is, the Loamshire dialect was written as pronounced,and slowed my reading until I got the hang of the rhythm. But, even that faint criticism had faded by the end and on reflection was absolutely right for the rural inhabitants and further separated the workers from their (not so much) 'betters'. I don't give out five stars lightly, but then my favourite shelf is fairly sparse too and yet I have placed Adam Bede there with little hesitation. 

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review 2017-03-01 07:32
Ein Auftakt, der neugierig macht
Das Lied von Eis und Feuer 01: Die Herren von Winterfell by Martin, George R.R. (2010) Paperback - George Eliot

Inhaltsangabe

Eddard Stark, der Herr von Winterfell, wird an den Hof seines Königs gerufen, um diesem als Berater und Vertrauter zur Seite zu stehen. Doch Intriganten, Meuchler und skrupellose Adlige scharen sich um den Thron, deren Einflüsterungen der schwache König nichts entgegenzusetzen hat. Während Eddard sich von mächtigen Feinden umringt sieht, steht sein Sohn, der zukünftige Herrscher des Nordens, einer uralten finsteren Macht gegenüber. Die Zukunft des Reiches hängt von den Herren von Winterfell ab!

 

Meine Meinung

Wie recht häufig, hänge ich bei sogenannten Hype-Büchern etwas hinterher. An diese Fantasy-Reihe bin ich eigentlich ohne Erwartungen und auch ohne jeglichen Vorinformationen herangegangen. Vor allem, weil diese Buchreihe nicht aus meinem beheimateten Genre kommt.

 

Nun zum großen Aber.

Ich habe jetzt schon die Meinung, dass George R.R. Martin hier großes erschaffen hat. Eine Reihe, die bisher 10 Bände umfasst, benötigt sehr viel Durchdenken und Beachten und ich bin in der Hinsicht wirklich gespannt, was er sich da alles zusammenfantasiert hat, so dass es irgendwann das große Ganze wird.

 

Nach dem ersten Band merkt man recht schnell, dass der erste Band im Englischen Band 1 und 2 beinhaltet. Für mich war das Ende des ersten Buches recht offen bzw. neutral. Den fiesen Cliffhanger erwarte ich erst am Ende des zweiten Teils. Natürlich verführt es die deutschen Leser schnellstmöglich mit Band 2 weiterzumachen, wozu auch ich mich zähle. Er liegt bereit.

 

Im Auftakt konnten mich zwar einige Figuren bereits neugierig machen bzw. begeistern, aber meine Highlights liegt hier tatsächlich in der Sprachgewalt des Autors und in den Beschreibungen des Settings. Mich zieht es aktuell in den Norden und hoffe, dass man Winterfell nie so ganz aus den Augen verlieren wird. Denn als nicht Seriengucker habe ich einfach gar keine Ahnung wo die Reise hingeht.

Nach Band 2 ist die erste Staffel allerdings geplant. Allerdings vermute ich, dass mein Highlight Landschaft und Umgebung in der Serie eher vernachlässigt wurde. Dies sind einfach Punkte, bei denen die eigene Fantasie durch das Lesen eines Buches immer punkten kann.

 

Einige Leser, bei denen diese Reihe nicht so gut angekommen ist, waren an eine Seifenoper erinnert. Natürlich wirkt dies aufgrund der vielen verschiedenen Familien und deren einzelnen Familienmitgliedern so, aber mir gefallen bisher diese Intrigen und Machtspiele. Als Leser fiebert man einfach die ganze Zeit der Aufdeckung entgegen. Aber dies brauch Zeit vermute ich.

Für eine Game of Thrones – Anfängerin war ich sehr dankbar über die Karten und die Namensregister im Buch. Vor allem am Anfang eine unglaubliche Hilfe, um sich erst einmal orientieren zu können.

 

Hinsichtlich der Charaktere freue ich mich sehr den weiteren Werdegang vom Bastard der Familie Winterfell zu verfolgen, ebenso wie die weiteren Geschehnisse um dessen kleine Halbschwester Arya.

Hinsichtlich des Setting freue ich mich, mich wieder in Winterfell, auf der Mauer und auf Hohenehr einzufinden. Diese Schauplätze haben es mir wirklich angetan.

____________________________________________________________

 

Mit super werde ich dieses Buch nicht bewerten, da es ein Auftakt ist und ich einfach finde, man merkt, dass hier der zweite Teil fehlt, der in der Originalversion einfach vorhanden ist.

 

Mein Fazit

Meiner Meinung nach nimmt uns der Autor in eine ganz andere Welt mit. Und welcher Leser wünscht sich so etwas nicht. Dem Alltag entfliehen und sich in den Seiten verlieren. Es ist ihm gelungen. Ich freue mich auf jeden Fall auf mehr. Schreiben kann der Mann!

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2017-02-18 13:50
Water Motifs - The Mill on the Floss
The Mill on the Floss - George Eliot
In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development - Carol Gilligan

A friend recently posted on social media some thoughts on water motifs in feminist and proto-feminist fiction. George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss" certainly deserves a high spot on a short docket of such books. 

 

Poor Maggie Tulliver has been singled out for her looks and headstrong disposition since childhood. And as fate sinks her family, her first priority is to be able to take care of herself. Her second priority is to be a credit to her family and honor her friends with kindness. She is open to love, but not at the expense of her selfhood and values. 

 

Eliot does not submerge Maggie's fate - the final line of the novel is also its epigraph - and her fate is foreshadowed again and again. She ultimately is drowned by two men, her emotionally negligent and abusive brother, Tom, and her cousin's manipulative lover, Stephen. 

 

There are a few place in the novel where Maggie could chart either an easier or more manipulative course for herself, but she remains true to her values. And she lives in a  society that does not recognize or honor those values. 

 

Carol Gilligan examines Maggie's plight in her famous work of feminist criticism, "In a Different Voice." Gilligan certainly helps us understand why Maggie can't overcome her circumstances and change the tides of her life. 

 

A proto-feminist classic novel and a modern classic of feminist criticism both deserve a spot on everyone's reading lists. 

 

-cg

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review 2017-01-01 13:49
The March of Time for the Middle Classes
Middlemarch - George Eliot This was my first reading of George Eliot, but this glorious observation of nineteenth century provincial life is has been an absolute treat. A novel of its time, the language is sumptuously expansive ( I benefited from the in-built Kindle dictionary function) threaded through the eighty seven chapters, which I have imbibed with due relish. In particular, the means by which the central families and community reinforced an established set of common values and commensurate societal norms and behaviours was both intriguing and a fascinating backdrop to the novel. Certainly the sense of what constitutes 'honourable' behaviour was calibrated rather differently to the contemporary world and yet the underlying questions of Eliot's narrative resonate strongly with today's anguish around the distribution of wealth, power and the 'right' by which they are wielded. The 'elite' in the case of Middlemarch include those connected by traditional familial ties to the land-owning gentry, the church, a wealthy banker (ever the weak link it seems), professionals and those with business interests. But, while the pivotal positions are occupied largely by men, it is the influence of the strong female characters, which provides the light and shade and confers real texture in this book. The mercurial nature of fate and the accompanying deposit of fortune and none on the guilty and the guileless make for compelling reading. Yet, Eliot also challenges 'black and white' judgements of what it means to 'do the right thing' and as in the case of Dorothea, the central heroine, the surrender of duty and position for personal happiness seems a very positive trade, with which the reader has every sympathy. It is interesting to speculate on whether the author's personal experience of public condemnation, for her rejection of the social norms of her day influenced the writing of 'Middlemarch' (Mary Ann Evans - her real name - was vilified for openly living with a married man, George Henry Lewes, between 1855 - 78). Still, whatever the truth, among her legacies is this extraordinary Victorian novel, published in 1871, which is rightly revered and cherished.
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