Siblings Tom and Maggie Tulliver grow up in the mill their father owns. But things don’t go too well and their father is indebted and keeps fighting with his creditor, Mr. Wakem, forcing pragmatic, serious Tom to quit school and work at the mill. Meanwhile the more idealistic Maggie becomes friends with Philip Wakem, the son of the creditor. But their friendship cannot stand in the face of the antipathy between families and puts Maggie at odds with Tom. Years later, Philip and Maggie meet again at the house of her friend Lucy Deane. Another guest there is Lucy’s fiancé Stephen Guest who starts to pay more attention to Maggie.
It was a fight for me to get through this book, but by the end it had gripped me and then it frustrated me again with the ending. Nevertheless, it’s well-written enough that I will definitely try another Eliot in the future.
The first part of the book was a real struggle for me. And by first part, I mean the first 400 pages. Then, suddenly, I was completely into the story for the last 100 pages, only to feel that the ending was an absolute slap in the face for me. Making me fight so hard to feel with the characters, really live with them, and then not giving me a happy ending? Aaaaah.
If Eliot hadn’t been so very good with the prose, I probably wouldn’t even have gotten to that point, though. But her writing skills made me want to fight for it – and definitely made me willing to check out another of her novels. She does have a way with words.
But I wasn’t entirely sure what the book wanted from me. The synopsis on the back cover framed it in a way that emphasized the romance aspect (maybe like my own synopsis does at well), but, really, the book is much more about the relationship between the siblings. But I understand that the love story was focused on – it is the part that worked best for me about the book as well.
I also felt very much for Philip who never even stood a chance, just because he is disabled. I was definitely rooting for him, but I also felt sorry for him – and from the point of view of empowering disabled people, it’s very clear that this story does not do that, unfortunately. At least, his portrayal is more layered than a lot of other disabled characters.
It is promising, and since it’s only a second novel, I’m definitely going to check out what else Eliot has written.
Summarizing: exhausting, but not without its rewards.