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The Whirlpool by [Gissing, George]
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The Whirlpool Kindle Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product description

About the Author

George Gissing (1857-1903) wrote a series of startling novels principally set in London, including New Grub Street, The Whirlpool, The Nether World and The Odd Women. He lived a chaotic, often poverty-striken life from which he frequently drew for his fiction. He is generally viewed as the greatest English realist novelist. He was a friend and contemporary of Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells and Henry James.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1073 KB
  • Print Length: 294 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1517565448
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0082YVE4C
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #9,356 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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By Robin Friedman TOP 500 REVIEWERTOP 1000 REVIEWER on 17 May 2011
Format: Paperback
George Gissing's novel "The Whirlpool" is a grim, pessimistic and thoughtful examination of materialistic, fast-paced urban life and of the difficulties of what today is frequently described as companionate marriage. Of all Gissing's novels, this book is probably the most modernistic in theme. Published in 1897, "The Whirlpool" is a late work of Gissing (1857 -- 1903. It was written after the author had achieved a degree of critical and popular recognition after writing in relative obscurity for much of his life. Most of Gissing's books deal with the London poor or with the middle class. "The Whirlpool" is unique for Gissing in its upper middle-class setting, and the book has some similarities to the writings of Henry James. Gissing wrote best about places and people that he knew. In some respects, he seems uncomfortable in his descriptions of the worlds of finance and of the business of music that form the backdrop of this novel. In its pessimism, the book is typical of Gissing. Thus, in an earlier novel, "The Nether World", Gissing's most detailed look at the London poor, Gissing observes that there is little to distinguish the nether world of the slums from the world of the upper-class. In many respects, "The Whirlpool" is "The Nether World" transferred.

The title "The Whirlpool" is the key metaphor of the book. Gissing and his main character, Harvey Rolfe describe the world of late Nineteenth Century London as "a ghastly whirlpool which roars over a bottomless pit" (p. 47)for its ceaseless and senseless activity devoted to the pursuit of money which draws everyone into its maw. In discussing the difficulties of raising children, Rolfe observes that "There's the whirlpool of the furiously busy. Round and round they go; brains humming till they melt or explode." (p.
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Format: Paperback
Gissing, traditionally known for his pessimistic take on the working classes in late nineteenth century London, broke his own mold with this novel. Full of intrigue, affairs, blackmail and even murder, this novel presents a very English version of fin-de-siecle degeneration.

Harvey Rolfe, a typically Gissing protagonist, attempts to enliven his existence by marrying the beautiful Alma Frothingham, but he soon finds that the marriage which was meant to encapsulate the burgeoning equality of 'modern' marriage is not all he imagined, and he instead seeks solace in becoming a very modern father to his beloved son. Alma meanwhile wishes to follow her avant-guarde dream of becoming a professional female violinist, only gradually realising it is her own mediocrity which holds her back. In progressive acts of self-delusion, she attempts to prove her own worth, and becomes increasingly tangled in a web of lust, debt, drug dependency, and the dark and seedy demi-monde of London society.

Backed up by a vivid cast of end-of-the-century casualties, this novel is an exciting, idiosyncratic, depiction of a moment in time. In my opinion, Gissing's best novel, and certainly his most enjoyable!
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By Keith M TOP 500 REVIEWER on 20 Sept. 2016
Format: Paperback
This ‘late’ (1897) novel by George Gissing, charting the fractious marriage between aloof bachelor, Harvey Rolfe, and the mercurial, 'disgraced’ Alma Frothingham did not have quite the same 'grip’ on me as his earlier works New Grub Street and The Odd Women. Although Gissing’s central premise of a woman (Alma) fallen on hard times, due to the disgrace (financial mismanagement) suffered by her father, does allow for a good deal of dramatic tension to be set up, I felt this was only partially carried through. Despite the novel seemingly reflecting Gissing’s own troubled domestic circumstances at the time and, in particular, his apparent disdain for women, it is the women here, both Alma, struggling to find fulfilment between domestic duties and an embryonic independent career as a musician, and her eventual rival (both romantic and social), Sybil Carnaby, that were for me the most compellingly drawn. By comparison, Rolfe was actually rather dull, coming across as little more than a cipher opposite Alma. It is, however, a novel worth sticking with, since the slow-burn drama does eventually gain a good deal of traction latterly, leading to murder and a highly engaging ‘showdown’ between the Gissing’s main protagonists.
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Format: Paperback
This is the story of upper-middle class late-Victorian families/couples following the collapse of a bank. This is Gissing's last big novel written in 1897.

The real drama centres around Alma, a young girl of 20, who's father's shameful performance lead to the banks losses and his suicide. She has to go abroad to make plans and further her questionable musical career; she has two admirers follow her Cyrus Redgrave a wealthy bachelor (who makes an indecent proposal in the most understated Victorian way imaginable) and Harvey Rolfe (the nice one whom she ends up marrying). Harvey has a close friend Hugh who marries Sibyl. The underlying and all too subtle catalyst is what are Sibyl and Alma may or may no be prepared to do to have Cyrus as a friend and patron?

`Whirlpool' is a misrepresentation of the drama you might expect: it refers more to `life's woes' in general rather than the turmoil of the banking crash which occurs early on. At the outset it has to be said that this should really have been called `storm in a teacup'. There are some interesting parallel stories/characters but quite early you realise that the story has no drive, passion or colour - the society depicted may be rendered in realistic literary classic way but it's so, dare I say it, boring; the low key dry innuendo between the women in the story leading to the all too late (450 pages of close text) finale didn't rescue the story for me. I like Gissing but this really was an un-engaging slog for me: read Odd Women, Nether World or Grub Street first.

I felt I had read the story before and it is remarkably similar to 'Portrait of a Lady' by James written about the same time, which I also didn't rate for similar reasons. So I guess if you liked 'P o a L' then Whirlpool may be for you
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars 12 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only the fittest survive 10 Aug. 2009
By Diane Byrnes - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a book that demands to be read - as do all of Gissings' books but "The Whirlpool" has been unjustly
forgotten. When Gissing wrote "The Whirlpool" he was quite an expert on disfunctional families. The 1890s
were the time of his greatest literary success but privately he was in the depths of despair.
Harvey Rolfe (who was George Gissing's voice in the novel) marries Alma Frothingham. There are ominous signs
before they are wed. Alma's philosophy is that she wants to live life free of duty and obligation (read
selfish). Harvey doesn't see that - in his view she wants to be totally independant, he sees her as a "new
woman". Alma is ultimately a tragic figure, whose love of praise and adulation is eventually her downfall.
Gissing was interested in the "blood will out" view. Alma's father committed suicide but her mother is never
mentioned. Harvey makes different remarks about Alma, maybe inheriting her unstable temperament from her
mother but it is never gone into in detail.
Gissing has some forward thinking ideas - a conversation with Mary Abbott, a widow who he helps
financially when her husband commits suicide. She and Alma's stepmother, Mrs. Frothingham are two women, who
by strength of character survive. Rolfe predicts there will come a day when there will be "establishments for
young children of the middle class" - child care and kindergarten. The strongest relationship in the book is
ulimately the one Harvey Rolfe enjoys with his little son Hugh - he is determined to bring him up and educate
him in a new way, free of the restrictions of old.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fin de Siecle in London: without the capacity to deceive ourselves, we couldn't live at all 23 Nov. 2011
By H. Schneider - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
George Gissing's last major novel was written during the 1890s and can thus appropriately be called late Victorian. Its social setting, unusually for Gissing, is among the upper middle class, in the financial world of London, which includes victims, speculators, gamblers and swindlers. With my hindsight position the book has two startling anachronisms: it reads like an invitation to occupy Wall Street, and like a prophecy that a major war is coming in the not so distant future. The men in their idle club conversations are strutting their aggressive imperialism, their sexism and racism in a nasty spirit of `social Darwinism'. Knowing that their equals in Germany talked in the same way, I smell that the clash of 1914 was in the air.

A main concern of the author and his main hero is the impossibility of a satisfactory and fulfilling married life. The weakness of the novel in relation to that theme is that GG does not let us come to this conclusion ourselves, but he needs to tell us from the start. When the future couple meets, we know right away that this is never going to work. GG was not devious enough. We are not deceived about the woman in the same way as her future husband is. He picks up with our knowledge fast enough when it is too late, but is a good sport and tries to make the best of it. Not that he is a nugget of a man himself.
And, lest I forget to mention it, having children is entirely inconvenient. That is accepted as a matter of course, hardly a debate about it.

The story starts in the year 1886. Central character is an independent gentleman who came into his moderate fortune only after living more modestly as a business employee. Harvey Rolfe, 37, is not a man who is meant to be liked much. He gets to marry a young beauty without much brains, little purpose of mind, and only middlish talents as a violinist. The marriage happens only because the girl's father commits suicide after his big investment vehicle fails. The father was a sort of minor Madoff with a prehistoric sense of honor, which led to his doing himself away before being put away. Without that, his daughter would have been in the hunt for a millionaire, not content with small fry like Rolfe.

Some have compared Gissing's style and subject to Henry James. I can't agree on that. The main similarity between the two novelists is time and location. Apart from that they are rather far apart, not only in their dominant social setting. HJ was clearly an upper class fellow, while GG had his roots in poorer strata.
Gissing was a much more direct and much less elaborate author. James could have told the same story but it would have been a different story. He would have been less explicit. You couldn't have trusted him the way you can trust Gissing. Gissing tells you his version of the truth. James tells you a story and you must blame yourself if you believe him. Gissing is full of ideas, James never had an idea in his life, as somebody said, approximately. I say this as a James admirer who wants to point out the differences, not to pass judgment. James is certainly the greater novelist, but with Gissing you get more to chew on. Reading Gissing is a dialogue from sentence to sentence. Reading James is like looking at a painting in a museum.
1.0 out of 5 stars Good premise and vivid characters but disappointing plot points and missed opportunities 25 May 2016
By Mark Levitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stock market crash, failed banks, violin recitals, accidental homicide, sensationalist jury trial...what should/ could have been a compelling read was instead a pretty boring exercise. gissing keeps cutting from a scenes most dramatic moments to describing them weeks later when all the tension has been cut and the characters are tacitly dealing with the aftermath. Toward the final pages the death of a pivotal character felt like a footnote and the ending seemed to belong to another tale. Skip this one
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 29 April 2016
By Michelle Oakley - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
got it for dad he loved it
5.0 out of 5 stars 20th Century Realism's Guiding Figure 11 Mar. 2014
By Bill Moor - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Seminally important and beautiful writer, a transition from 19th to 20th century realism. Gritty and haunting. Grub Street considered his most influential work.
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