Wednesday, December 31, 2008

George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
George Eliot, Daniel Deronda. Daniel Deronda is a smart, sweet, slightly aimless young man with unknown parentage being raised by a kind uncle. Gwendolen Harleth is a bratty, beautiful girl who would be rebellious if she had more brains or imagination. So far nothing surprising, and the story begins like many less imaginative Victorian novels. It's where the story goes that is remarkable. Eliot showed the few options available to Gwendolen and the extraordinary narrowness of her life without making her flat or robotic. Deronda, despite his dubious origins, has much wider horizons, and the only choice he really has to make is what to do with himself. While he doesn't change so much as Gwendolen, his outlook, opinions, and goals subtly shift as he becomes immersed in a different culture and history. The window granted through Deronda into early Zionism as well as 19th century mysticism was fascinating. Although the novel has the slow-moving ornate style of the era, it has great intensity. I'm going to go back and reread Silas Marner and tackle Middlemarch - I appreciate Eliot so much more than I did when I was younger. She's subtle and engrossing and her characters are real people (she's also slyly funny).

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