"Silas Marner" by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) (1861)
"I suppose it is the way with all men and women who reach middle age without the clear perception that life never can be thoroughly joyous: under the vague dullness of the gray hours, dissatisfaction seeks a definite object, and finds it in the privation of an untried good."
George Eliot was a pseudonym used by Mary Ann Evans, the woman who wrote "Adam Bede," "The Mill on the Floss," "Middlemarch," "Daniel Deronda," and this book, "Silas Marner." She wrote as a man in the hope of being taken more seriously. Her book "Middlemarch," which I haven't read, has been described as the greatest novel in the English language.
"Silas Marner" is set in England in the early 19th century. Silas, a weaver by trade, is shunned by the community in which he was born, and he afterward takes up residence in Raveloe, a town some distance away. He is held as an object of suspicion by the people of Raveloe, until the discovery of an orphaned child brings him into closer contact with his fellow townspeople.
As Victorian novels go, this one is very short. It is also very well written, though at times the author tries too hard to make grand, sweeping observations about life in a small town. Just the same, this novel is largely free of the improbable coincidences that mark other novels of the era, and the narrative flows quite smoothly. I enjoyed "Silas Marner," and never grew bored of either the characters or the story.
If you are the kind of reader who still has the patience for Dickens or the Brontes, I would recommend this novel. It never becomes taxing, and the plot advances briskly toward a satisfying conclusion.