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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars `Sorrow such as may live next door to you', 9 April 2011
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Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Scenes of Clerical Life (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
It's easy to see why this collection of three stories, George Eliot's first work of fiction, was such a critical and popular success when first published. Its depictions of the homely everyday life of three ordinary, and in many ways unremarkable, churchmen are sketched not only with a good deal of gently ironic humour, but more importantly with a great deal of sympathy for, and interest in, them as human beings. In all three, it is suffering - their own and that of those to and among whom they minister - that, more than anything else, draws out our sympathy for them with `the love that sees in all forms of human thought and work, the life and death struggles of separate human beings' (229). No convoluted plots, no Dickensian focus on external foibles, just a gentle, understanding, very human focus on all the vicissitudes of bereavement, romance, illness and the burden of others' suffering - the `heart-pulses that are beating under the mere clothes of circumstance and opinion' (229), as Eliot describes it.

This Oxford World's Classics edition comes with a brief but insightful introduction from Eliot scholar Thomas Noble, in which he draws attention to the importance, in the work, of sympathy and fellow-feeling with all manner of people as a guide to conduct - at a time when the possibility of supernatural faith as a guide to how one should live life had, for Eliot herself, dried up. Scenes of Clerical Life is, he argues, a means by which Eliot managed to achieve a mature evaluation of what her own, now dead, evangelical faith had bequeathed her - as well as a proof of the continuing hold that the rural north Warwickshire of her childhood still had on her. It is, he suggests, part of the `immovable roots' of the novelist's experience.

This edition also comes with a chronology of the author's life, and explanatory notes to the text.
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Scenes of Clerical Life (Oxford World's Classics)
Scenes of Clerical Life (Oxford World's Classics) by George Eliot (Paperback - 25 Jun 2009)
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