September 13, 2019 -Book Group discussion of The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot.


Although only six members were present for the meeting on September 13th to discuss The Mill on the Floss, it was a lively discussion.  Anne presented the book, which had been suggested by someone else, who, in fact, had not read it before recommending it, but considered it a book that should be read.  This led to a quick discussion of our guidelines, and a reminder about the change of books made one year when several members were so disappointed by a book that we replaced it with another before the discussion. 

Anne started the discussion of the book by noting that George Eliot is the pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans, who, according to Anne’s research, was a “monster, by the standards of her time.”  Anne said that she preferred the biographical details of the author to the book itself, and continued by providing some of those details.  She said that although Mary Ann Evans lived on a farm, she had access to a huge library, and a lot of her books were influenced by Greek tragedy.  Since she was considered quite ugly (ed.- Please remember that I’m copying my notes) and it was felt that she had little hope of marriage, her father chose to have her educated.  She was able to meet writers and philosophers, and she started questioning her faith, so her father threatened to throw her out.  She took that step herself.  She travelled widely, then returned to London and became assistant editor of the Westminster Review.

As to the book, Anne noted that some of the characters were probably based on the author’s own ghastly aunts and uncles, and that they probably didn’t even recognize themselves.  In Anne’s opinion, Tom Tulliver is one of the nastiest characters in English literature, and although we did not really contest her on that, one member felt that Tom is a victim too, and that he is “a stupid boy in a hopeless situation.”  We all agreed that Maggie Tulliver is intelligent and beautiful, and that between the two there seems to be a love-hate relationship.  Two members said they liked the book, and one said she loved it.  One liked the beginning, and another liked the beginning and the descriptions of people, and admitted thinking it’s a “marvelous” book.  She said she would like to go back and finish reading it some time, for example, if she’ strapped down with a broken leg.  The sixth member present at the discussion, who had not yet voiced an opinion, when pressed, replied that she didn’t really know if she liked the book or not, but that she felt it was “an experience,” and she noted that there were so many similarities between the author’s life and character Maggie Tulliver’s.  She, like the two members who said they liked the beginning of the book, said she hadn’t read it all the way through, but had skipped parts to reach the end.

One member who was not able to attend the discussion sent a message saying that the whole system of values was so different then, that it’s a bit hard to follow the characters in their stories.  It was noted that women were completely dependent on men.   We all agreed that we liked the descriptions and enjoyed the social comments, although we were not enthralled by the parts where sisters call each other “sister” while at the same time being horrible to each other.  One member remarked that we are not used to reading books of this style.

We all thanked Anne for the presentation, which entailed a fair bit of research, and for her ever-amusing insights.  We, of course, forgave the person who recommended the book without having first read it, but we told her to watch her step in future.