Adam Bede - Hugh Osborne, George Eliot

George Eliot's Adam Bede hinges on that most uninspiring 19th-century topic: the fallen woman. I've been running into these novels here and there with David Copperfield and Anna Karenina. The theme never does much to move us as modern readers, tending instead to showcase itself as an interesting museum piece for us to consider before returning to the certainty of our own century's issues. So while there are a number of aspects (character, setting, dialogue) to admire about her book, this doesn't work well. The whole thing is made more incongruous by the fact that the author must dance around the particulars of Hetty and Arthur's sexual involvement, owing to moral sensibilities of the time. And that Hetty is dropped like a hot potato once Eliot is done with her.

I plan to go from here to Middlemarch later this year, and it will be interesting to trace the development of Eliot as a writer in those intervening years.