Silas Marner (1861)

by George Eliot

George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) is one of the greatest novelists England has produced, acclaimed for her realistic storytelling and psychological insight. Silas Marner, one of her earlier novels, is an exploration of both the destructive and the rejuvenating power of human relations.

The title character, a weaver in the north of England in the early 19th century, is betrayed by his longtime friend and falsely accused of theft. Silas leaves his home and for the next 15 years lives as a recluse near a Midlands village. His only pleasure is the gold he hoards from his weaving jobs, and then it is stolen.

A toddler wanders into his cottage; Silas finds her mother’s frozen body nearby. Silas determines to adopt the golden-haired girl he names Eppie. Their relationship brings Silas not only love but also connection to a community. An intertwined plot concerns a prominent member of that community who guards a secret: he is Eppie’s father.

George Eliot wrote more critically acclaimed novels than Silas Marner, but it would be hard to make a better choice than this short book to grasp her theme of the need for humans to connect.


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