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ADAM BEDE. A NOVEL Hardcover – 1111

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  • Hardcover
  • ASIN: B00005VATI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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WITH a single drop of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakes to reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. Read the first page
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By MR G. Rodgers on Feb. 3 2004
Format: Paperback
After having read "The Mill on the Floss" some years ago and being thoroughly bored by it, I thought I'd never try a George Eliot novel again. But I'm glad I did. "Adam Bede" is a rich and complicated book; not without its imperfections, yet which stands above many of the nineteenth century novels I've read.
I thought that here was an author with an enquiring mind regarding human nature in all its imperfections, not afraid to wander outside of the wealthier classes for her setting, and certainly interested in examining the motivations and thought processes of her characters.
Throughout "Adam Bede", the better-drawn and more interesting characters are the women. The men, especially Adam Bede himself, are almost all two-dimensional figures around which the females drive the action. I thought that perhaps Eliot was trying to expose the real role of women in society - bereft of equal rights, they had to exercise their influence through men. This must have been deeply frustrating - witness Mrs Poyser's tirade against Squire Donnithorne while her husband stands by impotently. At its worst, women had to secure their future by marriage - thus Hetty Sorrel begins by being an unsympathetic, materialistic figure, but when seen in context, her options in life are strictly circumscribed. Can the reader really blame her for trying to make an "advantageous match"?
There were themes in the novel which I thought might have been developed more than they were - the challenge to the Church of England from Methodism features early in the novel, only to fade away as a real issue. Eliot alludes to the connection between class structure and the role of the Church of England, but seems to lose interest after making her point.
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By A.J. on July 28 2003
Format: Paperback
Adam Bede, the titular hero of George Eliot's first novel, is of a character so sterling that one little anecdote serves to define his whole life and work ethic: He's a carpenter, and he had done some work for a lady whose father, an old squire named Donnithorne, suggested that she pay him less than the fee he requested. Adam insisted that he would rather take no money for the job, for to accept a reduced amount would be like admitting he overcharges for shoddy work. By standing on his principles, he won his full fee in the end and cemented his reputation as a businessman of honor and acumen, proving his fairness to both his customers and himself.
Thus he seems an unlikely match for Hetty Sorrel, the prettiest girl in the village of Hayslope. Vain, selfish, materialistic, hating her laborious farm chores, Hetty bears more than a passing resemblance to Flaubert's Madame Bovary. However, while Madame Bovary's unattainable dream world is inspired by her reading romances, Hetty "had never read a novel" so she can't "find a shape for her expectations" regarding love. Unable to foresee any possible consequences for her actions, she allows herself to be seduced by Arthur Donnithorne, the old squire's grandson, who stands to inherit the land on which most of the Hayslopers live.
Arthur is a radiant example of Eliot's mastery in complicated character creation. Acutely aware of his position in society, he has the kind of charisma with which he can talk to his tenants politely but with just the slightest hint of condescension and completely win their respect for his authority.
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Format: Paperback
George Eliot weaves a simple story of love, suffering, and goodness. While the plot is hardly complex (boy loves girl, another boy gets girl, unhappiness abounds - also reused in Mill on the Floss), the manner in which Eliot develops her characters and their emotions and actions ring as true and resoundingly as a bell. It's so clear, so obvious, but also moving and textured. You feel Adam's absolute love for vain little Hetty, Dinah's calming grace, Arthur's good intentions, Lisbeth's fretting nature. Eliot draws you in with her honest observations of life in a country town, without the background becoming a dominant factor. The near idyllic life the characters lead is a healthy contrast to the town's emotional upheaval.
Adam is an upright, genuine character, and not as perfect as he seems. If his love for Hetty seems unfounded at times, it only serves to highlight how dangerous delusions can be. All the "sinners" are ultimately redeemed by truth - true love, true friends, true promises, and true acceptance. Religion plays a significant part in the novel, but don't let that deter you. It's so much more than that - Adam Bede is truly one of the few works that encompass a world of humanity between two covers.
AB reminded me of Tess of the D'Ubervilles a bit, but there is no villain here, just flawed, honest people in search of unattainable dreams. In the process of trying to get a bit of happiness, they stumble and bleed, but ultimately find something truly worth having. Bittersweetness is Eliot's trademark for good reason.
George Eliot's first full novel is obviously a bit less polished than her later works, but you see the wonderful command she has over language and expression. The book, the people, the story all come alive with her touch. A rare read that has something to say and says it beautifully.
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