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Daniel Deronda

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Book Overview

'she felt herself standing at the game of life with many eyes upon her, daring everything to win much' Gwendolen Harleth gambles her happiness when she marries a sadistic aristocrat for his money.... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Two books in one

These 710 pages are really two books in one. Don't read it for a deadline. It's the sort of book you keep by your bed for about a year and read a few pages every night before going to sleep. I had to read it for a deadline and dreaded about half of it. One book concerns an attractive, selfish girl-woman with not too clean scruples. I'll bet Scarlett O'Hara is based on Gwendolen Harleth. Having been careless about her education and talents, she has the bad judgment to marry a rich, sadistic man with nobility prospects. Eliot elucidates the psychological sadism, but as a true Victorian, omits the probable sexual sadism. Daniel Deronda is an embodiment of her conscience and tries to help her through her eventually overwhelming feelings of guilt. Daniel is also the connection to the so-called other book, which describes the Lapidoth/Cohen family,their hardships in a Gentile world, and their Zionism as a hope for their unity with God. There are mysteries concerning Daniel's heritage, but the reader can pretty well guess what it is long before it is revealed. I had mixed feelings about this book. Some of it is delightful, witty in its description of the British gentry and their prejudices of religion and rank. Other parts are ponderous, with 80-word sentences embodying lofty and vague ideals. The Jewish parts are written with good will, but some of the things are wrong and actually a bit patronizing. Example: A boy is named after his living grandfather. Naming is actually done in honor of a person who has died, to further their memory. Victorianly, circumcision is omitted. Nevertheless, the writing is terrific and evoked genuine emotion in me.

Great style

'Daniel Deronda' is witty, descriptive, and romantic. Before there was Scarlett O'Hara, willful Gwendolyn Harleth schemed to get her way in a society that offered security only to the rich. The author offers fascinating glimpses of mid 1800's drawing rooms, hunting parties, casinos, and more, filling them with memorable characters. This is a classic English novel, verbose perhaps, but with a clarity that's lets the reader inhabit another century. For those not familiar with Eliot's style, narrative and description may seem to set a slow pace.

Fantastic Example of Fine Victorian Literature

I read this book as part of a graduate class on the "study of the novel" and was absolutely blown away by it. This was my first attempt at George Eliot and though I had been wanting to read her for some time, the sheer girth of most of her works prevented me from adding them to my "leisure reading" list. The character of Gwendolen Harleth is strong and commanding, Henleigh Grandcourt is perhaps one of the best villains ever written into literature, and Daniel Deronda is unequivocally the most inherently flawless character ever created who does not bore the reader with his goodness. This is a big book to be sure, but it reads fast and there is much said about the appearances and prejudices of Victorian society. There are many recurring themes and parallels to be on the lookout for. This is an intensely "smart" read, and for that reason it is one of my favorite Victorian novels ever---next to Dickens' "Dombey and Son" and "David Copperfield," that is. I look forward to reading more of Eliot's work in the future. She was a brilliant writer and observer.

Another monument to Eliot's brilliance

"Daniel Deronda," the culmination of George Eliot's distinguished career, is a tale of two cultures which explores the themes of concealed heritage, bigotry, and marriages of convenience in a manner never done before or since. Like its predecessor "Middlemarch," it is a long novel of perfectly structured complexity and impressive intellectual exposition, built upon a cast of characters so sharply and meticulously defined that the plot is propelled solely by the power of their presence. This is the novel that Henry James wanted to write, and even he could never match Eliot's passion and linguistic effortlessness. The forward story in "Daniel Deronda" is that of Gwendolen Harleth, a coquettish, conceited, superficial girl -- in company she often affects a sophistication that is never quite convincing -- who could be called the heroine even though she lacks most heroic attributes. She is from an upper class family, but when misfortune strikes and she is faced with poverty, she consents to marry a man named Mallinger Grandcourt, heir to a large estate, rather than reduce herself to taking a job as a governess, and despite having received a warning from a mysterious lady about Grandcourt's having fathered illegitimate children. The secondary story is that of Daniel Deronda, the title character, a young man who first sees Gwendolen in a casino in Leubronn at the beginning of the novel. Daniel, who happens to be the ward of Mallinger Grandcourt's uncle, Sir Hugo Mallinger, is inquisitive about his obscure parentage and unsure of his place in the world. One portentous day, he rescues a girl from drowning herself -- this is Mirah Lapidoth, a Jewish girl who has run away from her father in Prague and come to London to look for her long-lost mother and brother. Daniel decides to help her by playing detective, which eventually leads him to befriend a family of Jewish shopkeepers named Cohen, whom he supposes to be related to Mirah, and a deeply religious man named Mordecai. Eliot intertwines this Judaic element with that of Gwendolen's unhappy marriage, as Daniel maintains a steady companionship with her while he spends time immersing himself in Jewish culture, learning about a past he never knew he had. The event by which Gwendolen's situation resolves itself is foreshadowed by a particularly eerie symbol: In her family's house, there is a painting she dreads, apparently conceived by a morbid ancestor, depicting a figure running away in fright from an upturned dead face. As a plot device it may seem unrealistically gothic, but Eliot's treatment of her material is too somber and mature ever to succumb to the absurd.This novel, while not as consistently great as "Middlemarch," confirms my opinion that Eliot is the most accomplished, intelligent, and original of the Victorian novelists, boldly ahead of her time. She is undeniably one of the greatest psychological portraitists in literature; better than most other authors, she understands the w

A stunning gamble by an eminent Victorian.

This novel, originally published in 1876, was Eliot's last. It has remained controversial ever since, and some critics delete it from her first-rank work. It is an ideological novel, and its plot is forced at times (too many coincidences, for one thing). The central character appears to be Gwendolen Harleth at the start (note the echo of her last name with "harlot"), who pawns a necklace at a gaming table only to have it returned by a disapproving observer--the eponymous Deronda. While offended, Gwendolen is also fascinated by Daniel and finally takes him on as her conscience as the novel continues, at great length, weaving a multitude of characters and issues into a fabric with an echo-chamber effect (in the sense that various elements of the book echo each other in odd and unpredictable ways throughout the novel, such as the continuing ways that people gamble with their own fates and the lives of others). This is a novel of sensibility, a link between Austen's method and Woolf's. But it is also a romantic treatment of Zionism (well before it was a popular issue, especially in Victorian England), with all the Jewish leads ennobled and idealized. In this sense it reads differently than MIDDLEMARCH, which was strictly realistic except at the very end. It's closer to SILAS MARNER, a morality tale with symbolic characters. Gwendolen is one of the saddest and most beautiful figures in any novel. She wants so deeply to be the center of attention, and finally can't even be the title character of the novel she's in. There are so many marvellous moments in this book, it repays the time it takes to read it many times over. I do not think Eliot arrived at a satisfying structure for the book, though; her need to promote Zionism prevented it. The Oxford paperback edition is the one I read, and I can recommend it highly -- its notes are superb. But the print is very small, so if that bothers you use another edition.

Daniel Deronda Mentions in Our Blog

Daniel Deronda in Happy Bachelor's Day: Literary Heroines who Pop the Question
Happy Bachelor's Day: Literary Heroines who Pop the Question
Published by Ashly Moore Sheldon • February 28, 2020

Tomorrow is Leap Day, also known as Bachelor's Day. This is the day (once every four years) on which women are encouraged to propose marriage to their fellow of choice. To celebrate, we've pulled together a roundup of literary heroines who take the bull by the horns.

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