To be honest, I knew nothing about The Lifted Veil by George Eliot (1859) before I started reading it—and that’s precisely how I recommend approaching this little novella. I picked it up because I enjoyed Eliot’s massive novel Middlemarch and wanted to read more of her writing. However, this Victorian novella is a significant departure from Eliot’s usual writing–not just because it’s part of the horror genre. I finished this novella with a lot of mixed feelings.
On the one hand, it was fine. The writing itself is beautiful and lyrical and gives you plenty to ponder as you go along. The idea behind the plot is really interesting (again, I don’t want to say too much because I think it’s better to go in a bit blind) and made me want to learn more about it. It all started out perfectly fine.
Eliot sets the reader up for a fascinating read… and then it falls a bit flat.
From reading Middlemarch, I expected there to be a complex web of characters with a lot of depth and a bunch of moving parts that were woven together seamlessly. I know it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to compare two books by the same author, but I think it is sort of justified when talking about writing style. Rather than balance a lot of different elements, The Lifted Veil focuses solely on the interiority of the main character who experiences a mysterious ability. This is interesting at first, but after a while you start to wonder when a plot will actually unfold…
And then BAM! Right at the end ALL OF THE THINGS start happening and it suddenly turns very dark and twisted and violent. The last few pages of the novella are starkly different from the rest of the text, so much so that it almost made me feel as though I had accidentally missed something while reading. I actually liked the intensity of the ending; however, I wish the rest of the novella had had that tone as well. The ending just felt very out of place and made me think about the text as a whole in a confused, conflicted way.
I don’t mean for this review to sound overwhelmingly negative. I did enjoy reading it, although it was frustrating at times. I think this story has a lot of potential in general–it just could have been executed better.
Overall, George Eliot’s novella The Lifted Veil was just meh for me. I recommend it if you’re looking for a quick spooky read, but not if you’re looking for a dose of Eliot’s usual style.
Have you ever read The Lifted Veil? Any recommendations for other books by George Eliot? How do you deal with conflicting feelings about books that just seem to fall flat? Let me know in the comments section below!