Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
I know I'd regret it if I didn't read something by Dickens during his bicentenary year even though the memories of what I read when I was young didn't inspire me much. Obviously I was too young to appreciate what I was reading because this week Mr Dickens has delighted me.
I decided to borrow the library copy which I knew they kept in their back room and was thrilled to discover it was the 1952 New Oxford Illustrated edition with all the wonderful original illustrations.....what a bonus!
The opening lines...
" In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a dark girl of nineteen or twenty, sufficiently like him to be recognisable as his daughter. The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man, with the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his waistband, kept an eager lookout. He had no net, hook, or line, and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a sitter, no paint, no inscription, no appliance beyond a rusty boot-hook and a coil of rope, and he could not be a waterman; his boat was too crazy and too small to take in a cargo for delivery, and he could not be a lighterman or river carrier; there was no clue as to what he looked for, but he looked for something, with a most intent and searching gaze."What a wonderfully dark and polluted atmosphere Dickens creates in this first chapter as he slowly reveals exactly what Gaffer Hexam is up to!
The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
" A wide plain, where the broadening Floss hurries on between its green banks to the sea, and the loving tide, rushing to meet it, checks its passage with an impetuous embrace. On this mighty tide the black ships - laden with the fresh-scented fir-planks, with rounded sacks of oil-bearing seed, or with the dark glitter of coal - are borne along to the town of St Ogg's, which shows its aged, fluted red roofs and the broad gables of its wharves between the low wooded hill and the river brink, tinging the water with a soft purple hue under the transient glance of this February sun."Quite by chance I chose two books in which a river features in the opening paragraphs and I love how the contrast between the two captures the light and dark, urban and rural settings and the life and death symbolism of a river.
The Mill on the Floss is also my Classics Challenge book for June so I'll be focusing on getting it finished first. Loving it so far.