One of the reasons I love Eliot's writing is the way she crafts her characters and their relationships. In every novel I have read by her (which includes all except this and Daniel Deronda), she creates such spectacularly realistic people.
The Mill on the Floss is no exception. While I think that the beginning 100 pages dragged for lack of action, the characters brought it to life. While I of course love and adore Maggie, the main female character, I think I might love the crazy assortment of aunts a little more.
Mrs. Tulliver, Maggie's mother, is one of four sisters. Each of them is married and boy, do they have opinions about everything. Near the beginning of the novel, the family is called to discuss Tom's education (Maggie's sister). Each of the aunts arrives, with her husband, and conversations that ensue are pretty humorous. There is a lot of, "Well, I wouldn't do that," and "I always said that..."
It makes for enjoyable reading.
I also really like the development of the relationship between Maggie and Tom. While sister and brother, they also seem to be friends, which must be tough for Tom. Even when Tom goes away to school (at a clergyman's house), he still tries to maintain that relationship with his sister. She comes to visit and he tries to impress her with his learning.
One fun scene is when he is explaining how tough his lessons are in Latin. Maggie takes up the book and shows him up.
Score one for the little sister.
I know, even now when I haven't reached the halfway point, that disaster will inevitable strike. Maggie and Tom won't always be friends. I know that life and circumstance will get in their way.
The last character I really want to talk about is Philip Wakem. A student beside Tom, Philip is a hunchback and his father is an enemy to Mr. Tulliver. For a boy who was probably made fun of all his life, and who has no expectations, Philip is remarkably nice to both Maggie and Tom. While he might be more wary with Tom, you can tell that Philip and Maggie have a remarkable budding friendship.
And I guarantee there will be feelings on both sides before the novel is through.
Anyway, I seem to be flying through this hefty book. Time for more reading!