Inspiring women: Mary Anne Evans

Silas Marner was on the curriculum at school and around the same time, I first read Middlemarch. In all honesty, it probably didin't hurt that the BBC production was airing, starring Rufus Sewell, whose name to this day makes me swoon inside a little (those cheekbones!)

It's too easy in our pretty period-drama world to compare George Eliot (her pen-name) to Jane Austen. Austen wrote in the Regency period, Eliot in the Victorian. And Austen wrote mostly about young girls falling in love, culminating in weddings. But Eliot focused on what happens after all that, to different casts of characters and, especially in Middlemarch, to women who chose wrongly.

In this way, Middlemarch seems much more grown up to me and, when I read Silas Marner, its characters' complexities seemed finely wrought. Today, in The Bone People, I read a line "Now I feel like the best part of me has got lost in the way I live". And it resonated with me and comes to me again as I think about Eliot's characters.

In youth, we move so lightly through the world, taking our own foibles lightly too, unaware what quicksand they can make of adulthood and how those foibles compound over time to determine our future character. Eliot's characters are mired in their own individual complexities, but also those of the world they inhabit.

I mentioned on Sunday that I feel like it's time I reread Middlemarch and I will as soon as a finish my current book. And, as I consider rereading it, I've been taking the time to think more about its author. She was a complex woman too; headstrong but insecure, she made many choices then considered "unbecoming of a lady" and in many ways herself embodied the contradictions that make her characters so beautifully and hopelessly relatable.

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