Customer Review

38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A small literary masterpiece., 15 Jan 2002
This review is from: Silas Marner: Complete & Unabridged (Audio Cassette)
Newspaper readers were invited recently to submit their choices for the greatest works published in the English language. When the choices were totalled, two works by Shakespeare featured in the top ten. Also featured, I was pleased to see, was a novel by George Eliot. Internet users, familiar with her works, will probably guess which of her novels was chosen. For those unfamiliar with her works, the best one to start with is "Silas Marner", a much shorter one. It is short, it is easy, it even works well in schools (as I can testify), and yet it is undoubtedly a masterpiece.

George Eliot sets her 1861 novel in the early decades of the nineteenth century in rural England. Silas Marner is a weaver. In the pattern that life weaves, he usually features as a victim. Because he is unjustly "framed", he loses his reputation and his betrothed in the town where he grew up. After years working as a weaver and living like a hermit in a rural district then, he is robbed by an unknown thief who uncovers and makes off with the cache of gold guineas Silas keeps under his floor. Happiness and joy come to Silas, however, and at the end of the novel he is told, "Nobody could be happier than we are".

George Eliot tells her tale with a mixture of womanly sympathy, sharp observation, tact, and humour. Her depiction of a long-gone past, and her clear pointing of right and wrong impulses, give the story qualities that are sometimes found in morality plays or in fairy tales. Don't skip over the scenes in the local inn, the Rainbow, where the simple-minded rustics discuss relevant issues, including the existence of ghosts.

For those who appreciate hearing good literature read aloud, I recommend the unabridged audio format of "Silas Marner" where the reader is Andrew Sachs. As you might expect of this fine English actor, who made Manuel from Barcelona so memorable in "Fawlty Towers", he is especially wonderful in portraying the argumentative, credulous, muddle-headed rustics that foregather at the Rainbow. His reading extends for nearly seven hours.
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