A review by chalkletters
Adam Bede by George Eliot

emotional reflective sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


This must be at least my third time reading Adam Bede and yet, I always expect it to be more difficult than it is. It’s hard to say whether that’s because it gets easier every time, or just that I’ve somehow stored an incorrect impression. Admittedly, some of the accents in the dialogue take a little getting used to, but even that hardly drew me out of the story this time around.

Though they’re not the kind of people I meet in real life, Adam Bede’s characters are great. Hetty and Arthur are especially sympathetic, even as they’re behaving in ways you wish they wouldn’t. You can see the consequences of their actions coming a mile off, which makes the plot feel grounded and realistic. The only character I had a slight problem with was Dinah, whose religious fervour is a little less appealing in 2021 than it may have been in 1799. I particularly disliked the moment when she made Bessy Cranage feel bad for liking pretty earrings. Even so, by the end, I was rooting for Dinah’s happiness as much as anyone else.

George Eliot indulges in a few metafictional digressions, one of which I really enjoyed on this particular read. At the same time, a couple of the detailed descriptions of the countryside or farm life came at highly suspenseful moments when I really just wanted to experience the next stage of the plot and was cursing Eliot for not getting there as quickly as I’d like.

The climax of the story I thought was very well done. Despite having read it before, I’d forgotten enough of the plot details that I was briefly concerned I might be expected to think a purely religious ending was satisfying. George Eliot pulled through and actually delivered as happy a resolution at that moment as could be realistic. The actual ending of Adam Bede doesn’t feel rushed exactly, I was pleased with how much time it was given to develop, but it does feel just a little bit tacked on.

Even so, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this reread. It’s definitely one I’ll keep coming back to.

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