Adam Bede by George Eliot

I’ve finished reading the 50 books on my first Classics Club List, but there are two books I didn’t review immediately after I finished reading them, which means now I can only write short reviews as the details are no longer fresh in my mind. And that is difficult as they are both long novels.

The first is Adam Bede by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). It was her first novel, published in 1859.

Rating: 3 out of 5.


Carpenter Adam Bede is in love with the beautiful Hetty Sorrel, but unknown to him, he has a rival, in the local squire’s son Arthur Donnithorne. Hetty is soon attracted by Arthur’s seductive charm and they begin to meet in secret. The relationship is to have tragic consequences that reach far beyond the couple themselves, touching not just Adam Bede, but many others, not least, pious Methodist Preacher Dinah Morris. A tale of seduction, betrayal, love and deception, the plot of Adam Bede has the quality of an English folk song. Within the setting of Hayslope, a small, rural community, Eliot brilliantly creates a sense of earthy reality, making the landscape itself as vital a presence in the novel as that of her characters themselves. (Amazon)

This is a long and slow-moving novel set in the rural community of Hayslope, a fictional village, based on Ellastone in the West Midlands in 1799. Overall I liked the book, but not as much as I remember liking Middlemarch, which I read long before I began this blog, and Silas Marner (my review). As in those two books it took me a while to get used to George Eliot’s style of writing, with her long, long sentences – some so long I had forgotten how they had started, before I got to the end. But I liked the dialect used by the characters, according to their class, that helps identify their position within the village community.

They’re cur’ous talkers i’ this country, sir; the gentry’s hard work to hunderstand ’em. I was brought hup among the gentry, sir, ‘an’ got the turn o’ their tongue when I was a bye. Why, what do you think the folks here says for ‘hevn’t you?’ – the gentry, you know, says, ‘hevn’t you’ – well, the people about here says ‘hanna yey.’ It’s what they call the dileck as is spoke hereabout, sir. That’s what I’ve heared Squire Donnithorne say many a time; it’s the dileck, says he.’

It is about love, seduction, remorse, crime and religion. a study of early 19th century rural life and education. It emphasises the value of hard work; the power of love; and the consequences of bad behaviour. As the title indicates the main character is Adam Bede, a hard working young man, a carpenter, with a strong sense of right and wrong, strong and intelligent:

In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his name; but the jet black hair, made the more noticeable by its contrast with the light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes that shone from under strongly marked, prominent and mobile eyebrows, indicated a mixture of Celtic blood. The face was large and roughly hewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such as belongs to an expression of good-humoured honest intelligence.

The novel revolves around a love ‘rectangle’ – the beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel; Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her; Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor; and Dinah Morris, Hetty’s cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher.

This short post doesn’t do justice to the novel. I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads when I read it in 2015, but I have started to re-read it and I am enjoying it. I think that this time round maybe l’ll change my rating to 4 stars …


The other book I have left to review is Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens – my post will follow next week.

9 thoughts on “Adam Bede by George Eliot

  1. Sometimes those slow-moving novels are really good at drawing the reader in and inviting the reader to be a part of the world the author’s created. I do think they’re best enjoyed when one’s really in the mood, and perhaps even more with a re-read?

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    1. I am most definitely a ‘mood’ reader! And I am often impatient with slow-moving novels. It’s often a case of the right book at the wrong time – or vice versa, if you know what I mean.

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  2. I haven’t read this one, it sounds good I think I’ll put it on my next classics list – which brings me to. . . Congratulations! Are you going to make another list? I’m just about to finish mine and I’ve got some outstanding reviews as well so I feel I’m in good company!

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    1. Thanks, Jane. I have already made another list. It’s writing reviews that take almost as long as reading that I often find difficult. I hope you’re getting on well with your outstanding reviews.

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  3. Just posted my last review today too! Are you going for a second list? I wasn’t as keen on Middlemarch as you, so I think I’d skip this one if it’s another long one. I have Silas Marner on my new list though, so I’m glad you enjoyed that one.

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    1. Well done on completing your last review – I think you finished yours much quicker than I did mine!

      I think I liked Middlemarch because I read it soon after seeing a TV adaptation and that was fresh in my mind, which helped through some of the long (and boring) sections. I have made a second list and already read a few.

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