Well, I've left the pre-Civil War America and taken a jaunt back to Merry Olde England. Same time period, just across the pond. The book is George Eliot's "The Mill on the Floss". I thoroughly enjoyed "Silas Marner" and I'm eager to enjoy this one as well. I'm about 100 pages in, and it hasn't let me down so far. Yet the book is quite different from "Silas Marner". That book seemed something like a fable. The characters and the story had almost a mythical quality. But "The Mill on the Floss" is different. Here the characters are all quite human, and in wonderful ways. Let me just say that George Eliot rocks! It's not just her language that's so wonderful, though it is...thick and rich like maple syrup. It's her characters which she draws so well that they seem alive.
The lead characters in this book, at least so far, are Tom and Maggie Tulliver, the two children of the local miller. Tom, the oldest, is an earnest kid, but not all that bright. Maggie, on the other hand is extremely bright, and has an incredibly vivid imagination. She's also rash and moody. The great thing about these kids is that Eliot makes them so damn real...the way they act is so just like a kid would act. And when Eliot leads the reader through their thought processes, and then shows the reader how they subsequently act upon their thoughts, it makes one think "Oh yeah, that WAS how it was when I was a kid". Maggie, in particular, is so great. She'll be in a bad mood, and get some crazy, impulsive idea in her head, and then she'll just suddenly do what she was thinking...and then, just as suddenly, she'll realize what a bad idea it was and the tears will start to flow. Even when she's mean, as she is to her cousin Lucy, you still can't help but sympathize with her. She wants to be good, really, but she just can't help herself.
So we'll see what happens. I think the kids grow up in this novel, and it will be quite interesting to see how Maggie turns out.