Thursday, November 4, 2010

Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Once I read The Mill on the Floss, I had to see what other George Eliot books were in the yard sale box, and I found this one too.  Daniel Deronda is a bit fatter (700 pgs rather than 500 pgs) and that made me a little nervous at first, but once I got going, I was happy to keep reading on and on.

This book starts off the moment that Daniel Deronda meets Gwendolen Harleth across the room at a gambling hall while they are on vacation.  Gwendolen senses that Deronda disapproves of her behavior and feels judged by him, while at the same time believing that his judgements are just and trusting him.  Deronda admires her for her poise and beauty while her feels repulsed by her lack of strong moral fibre.  The contradictory feelings that color their first meeting go on the affect their whole relationship and Gwendolen's relationships.

In many ways, Gwendolen is nearly as unlikable as Maggie Tulliver and Gwendolen complicates her life by her own foolishness.  Yet, I found Gwen much more sympathetic - likely because she comes across as a much more complex character than Maggie.  The other main female character in this book, Mirah is sweet, talented and naive... and so pure as to form a dramatic contrast with Gwendolen, who seems so "real" in comparison. 

The real star of this book though, is Daniel Deronda, who "discovers" himself in this book, uncovering a whole host of fascinating minor characters in the process, including his artistic friend, his dying, eccentric actress mother, the wholesome Jewish family, and brilliant Mordecai, who passes on his quest.

Again, not an easy read, but worth the effort!
 (BBC made this book into a movie, too -  I'll have to check that out!)

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