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on 11 January 2012
this book was a great hit, The Everyman books, make the writing a reasonable size so that they are readable.
The original classics, but with modern type. Very good.
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on 14 November 2009
This tale is brilliantly crafted and a great page turner (all 675 of them). The contrast between outward appearance and inner emotion, particularly of Gwendolen, is particularly well drawn. The lady who appears to have everything; wealth, beauty, attractive accomplishments, houses, horses, fancy frocks and jewellery galore; is inwardly in torment.

The reader is drawn straightway into this remote world of 19th century English 'society', with all its strange mores and values. The melodrama of lost relations, show business, Jews as exotic outsiders, attempted suicide, a drowning, a kept woman and disputed wills are all here.

There is a wealth of engaging characters. Gwendolen is transformed, via a terrible marriage for money, from spoilt little rich girl to mature woman, the embodiment of benevolence. Mirah, the beautiful Jewess with the beautiful singing voice, is saved from suicide and reunited with her long lost family. Mordecai is the saintly and ailing bookish Jew. The Meyrick family are, even with their Bohemian, and sometimes junkie, brother, the embodiment of kindness to an almost sickly degree.

The main man, Daniel Deronda, betrays George Eliot's attitude to Jews. For the plot to have meaning, one must agree that the Jews are a race, and not simply followers of a particular faith. The book was written in the 1870s, when some Jews in Europe were first taking practical steps to return to the Promised Land and create for themselves a new nation. Such a future seemed bright and open; justice and freedom lay ahead. That is where the book ends. What George Eliot would have made of the modern State of Israel, the result of Deronda's great mission in life, we cannot possibly say.

For all the mistaken assumptions about Jewish identity, the starkly good and evil characterisations, the novel is a great monument to the storyteller's craft.
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"Daniel Deronda" was the last novel George Eliot wrote, and it's an appropriate finale to her career -- a lushly-written, heartfelt story about a young man searching for his past (and clues to his future), as well as a vibrant strong-willed young lady who discovers that life doesn't always go your way. Even better, Eliot deftly avoided the cliches and caricatures of the Jewish people, portraying them with love and respect.

Daniel Deronda is the ward (and rumored illegitimate son) of a nobleman, who is unsure of his past (particularly of his mother) catching a glimpse of pretty, reckless, arrogant Gwendolyn Harleth at a casino. Gwendolyn (who boasts that she gets everything she wants) is interested in Daniel, but when her family loses all their money, she marries a rich suitor, a relative of Daniel's -- knowing that his mistress and illegitimate children will be disinherited. But she soon finds that her new husband is a sadistic brute, and sees Daniel as her only help.

Meanwhile, Daniel rescues the despairing Mirah Lapidoth from a suicide attempt in the river, and he helps the young Jewish singer find a home and friends to care for her. As he helps her find her family, he becomes passionately attached to the Jewish population and their plight, embodied by a dying young visionary and a kindly shopkeeping family. Then he receives an important message -- one that will illuminate his roots, and give him a course for the future.

When Eliot published her final novel, it caused a massive stir -- not many novelists tackled the plight of the Jewish population, or how it compared to the gilded upper classes. In a way, "Daniel Deronda" is both a love triangle and an allegory -- Daniel must choose between the pretty, shallow English life (Gwendolyn) or a rich Jewish heritage (Mirah) with a background of tragedy.

The biggest problem with Eliot's writing is that it becomes a little too lush and dense at times, and the narrative moves a bit slowly (in the Victorian manner). But that flaw doesn't rob her writing of its power or beauty -- she describes every feeling, gesture and emotion in detail, as well as the sumptuous balls, exquisitely gilded mansions, and every shadowy tree or rich expanse of land ("a grassy court enclosed on three sides by a gothic cloister").

Yet the greatest power is in the stories that twine like ivy over the main plot -- a young Jewish girl's search for her family, a sadistic man's search for a wild lovely girl he can break, and especially of the composer Herr Klesmer and his sweet, atypical love story with Miss Arrowpoint. And the last quarter of the book is wrapped in Daniel's search for his own family, culminating in a quietly tense encounter with someone from his long-ago past.

Daniel almost seems like a character too good to be true -- unselfish, kind, universally kindly and very intelligent, though possessed of a vaguely searching quality. Gwendolyn is his complete opposite: she has been raised to be selfish, disdainful and immature, but as the book goes on she learns that selfishness doesn't pay -- marriage to the despicable Grandcourt changes her from a selfish little girl into a scarred but stronger woman.

The third leg of the triangle is Mirah, who is not given the loving attention that Gwendolyn is, but who is still a compelling figure -- her father tried to sell her, and now she wanders through England searching for her family. And the book is littered with many other striking characters: the sadistic Grandcourt and his creepy servant Lush, the crotchety but kindly Klesmer, the spirited artist Hans, the kindly Sir Hugo and the doomed, strong-willed Mordecai.

"Daniel Deronda" is a beautiful portrait of a young man's search for his past, and a young woman's struggle with the fruits of her own selfishness. What's more, George Eliot's last novel is a loving, powerful portrait of the Jewish people, in a time when they were caricatured at best.
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on 16 May 2003
Within reading the first few chapters, Daniel Deronda became my most beloved and favourite of books. I was reading my first Eliot novel, Middlemarch when I saw the advertisements on BBC one for their serial of Daniel Deronda, and knowing little of Eliots other work I watched it with little knowledge of this story. But I was enchanted by the characters and their lives and couldn't wait to read the book. As soon as I had started I wished I hadn't seen the programme first and knew how the story ended, however there was so much more to learn about the characters whilst reading the book that I was consoled. Eliot is a master storyteller and is capable of completely emmersing her readers into her world. I have read of adults finding Eliot difficult to take in, but I was fifteeen when I first read Daniel Deronda and Middlemarch and once I got used to her complex language and analogies I couldn't put it down. I found myself waking up early in the morning just to read and rushing home from school to pick up from that morning. I would recommend Daniel Deronda to anybody that loves romance and drama - Daniel Deronda is packed full of both. Gwendolen is such a tragic heroine, Daniel and Mirah are so impossible not to fall in love with and Grandcourt such a wonderful character to completely detest that I'm sure many other readers will agree that Daniel Deronda is a classic work of genius.
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on 28 July 2010
Weird merging of polemic for a Jewish Homeland with neat human story of the search for personal identity. The themes fit together but the novel doesn't really make sense.

Before I read this book I visited Eliot's grave in Highgate Cemetery, close to where I live. A number of her enraptured fans bought plots near by so they could be with her in death, and she was clearly an extraordinary and thrilling person, with a piercing and academic intellect, but somewhat frail, so that she could not, for example, travel to the US to see the New World.

This was her final book and in it, "I meant everything in the book to be connected to everything else," she said. But what an immense downer that sentence puts on the reader who is compelled to examine every phrase in conjunction with all others at the expense of enjoying the narrative. Nobody wants to read a book looking only for clever interconnects, since that reduces the reader to the role of an engineer admiring the mathematics instead of the form of a complex structure; the interconnectivity of a novel's themes and gestures should be there to be enjoyed if you look for them but, given Eliot's introduction, the reader can never be sure which were intended and which are invented in the reader's own mind. Perhaps that is the point, or perhaps anyway doesn't matter, but the search for intent can be rather maddening when it is supposed to be enlightening.

Superficially there are two books here, one about Gwendolen Harleth, a middle class girl who is determined to be herself in a world where she is expected to be what society requires; and the second about Daniel Deronda, born as the apparent nephew of the aristocratic Sir Hugo Mallinger, but who doesn't know who his parents are and spends the book, like Gwendolen, in search of his identity.

Gwendolen is splendid stuff as she makes a complete hash of her life and finds that her wild and independent spirit is brought down by her marriage to Sir Hugo's nephew, Grandcourt. She becomes a destroyed human being with no identity save that which Deronda is able to give her.

So far so good, but the Deronda branch of the story is heading in an unexpected direction, as he discovers that he is Jewish and embraces Judaism. This is a clumsy bit of plotting that only matters because it is the central narrative of the novel, which explores the identity of the Jewish race and whether or not it should have a homeland (this is 1876 remember, when the idea of a Jewish Homeland was almost entirely new). This has nothing in plot terms to do with poor old Gwendolen although the idea of identity obviously flows through. Nonetheless Deronda plugs into his Jewish past with enthusiasm and sails off to try to establish a Jewish Homeland

Deronda and Gwendolen are sort of intertwined as she leans completely on him to show her the path out of her despair. On the other hand he is never really very interested in anyone in the book except himself but is frightfully polite, kind and earnest so he gives support to Gwendolen without actually being of any real use.

Even at the time reviewers differentiated the `Jewish' and `Gwendolen' parts of the book and there were editions published with just those parts in them (and sequels where Deronda came back for Gwendolen). All in all then it's a bit of a mess, neither coming out properly as a pamphlet concerning the plight of minorities nor as being a novelistic examination of identity. Because she was a genius, Eliot easily papers over the cracks and so there is much here to be savoured. But if you step back from the work and ask the simple question as to whether or not you enjoyed it and would read it again, it becomes problematic and can be seen to have missed the mark.
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on 8 May 2003
'Daniel Deronda' is a very satisfying novel - at over 800 pages, it is verging on epic proportions, and its meandering style is at times at odds with a page turning cranking up of the plot - but nevertheless, I seem to have gotten through it surprisingly quickly! Having literally caught a glimpse of the recent TV version, I was intrigued by one line: 'it shall be better with me for knowing you' - and such simple but profound reflections characterise Eliot's style. It is an intensely psychological novel, and Eliot's study of her emotionally self centered heroine, Gwendolen Harleth, as she evolves, through experience, into an admirable woman is really remarkable. It is the kind of novel where the insight shown in portraying the characters makes you feel like you are truly learning something about yourself and others, and to me that is what makes a novel great. Eliot is also concerned with questions of religious and national identity, and the tension between separateness and togetherness is still resonant today. 'Daniel Deronda' is probably less famous than Eliot's other novels 'The Mill on the Floss' and 'Middlemarch', and possibly less finished, but nevertheless highly successful on its own terms. Full of insight - give it a try!
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on 20 July 2014
Daniel Deronda centres around several characters. It relates to an intersection of Jewish and Gentile society in 19th century England. With references to Kaballah, Jewish identity and the return of the Jews to the Land of Israel. Gwendolen Harleth a spoiled but poised and spirited of a family of recently impoverished English gentry enters into a loveless marriage for money, with the cold Mr Grandcourt., but soon sickens of his emotional sadism. The novel centres around Gwendolen as much as it does around Daniel Deronda. It takes us through the lives of both major character's pasts ., before joining the two narratives into the present so to speak.
Daniel Deronda is the adopted son of an English aristocrat, with who Gwendolyn falls in love. Deronda rescues the beautiful Jewish actress and singer Mirah Lapidoth from suicide by drowning, introducing us to another interesting and endearing character. He then becomes intimately involved with the society of English Jewry.
Deronda later discovers his Jewish birth from his dying mother who was the daughter of a prominent Rabbi, who married her cousin. Deronda's story therefore as that of a Jew brought up as a Gentile aristocrat before discovering his identity and committing himself to the national welfare of his people is partly based on that of Moses.
The book puts some focus, mainly through conversation on the yearning of the Jewish people to return to the Holy Land to rebuild the Jewish Commonwealth. Deronda and Mirah later leave
England to help rebuild the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel. This component of the novel has lead some prejudiced bigots, such as the loathsome Edward Said to condemn this 1876 classic as `Zionist propaganda'-an Orwellian charge indeed.
People like Said cannot abide the anything that relates to the right of the Jews to live in and return to their ancient homeland.
At the time of this novel's writing progressives saw the revival of nations and national self-determination as a positive thing. It was only nearly a century later that the nihilistic New Left in a sick and bizarre twist began to label the return of the Jews to their ancient homeland as an act of `colonialism'.
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on 9 December 2012
Some of the bullying between Grandcourt and Gwendolen was awful. I admit I haven't read the book since I was about 18 and couldn't remember much of it as I was asked to read so much at the time that I think the potential impact of each book got confused.

However, a couple of months ago I saw the BBC series/adaptation of George Eliot's novel and was shocked at the portrayal there of Jewish slums in London - I suppose I thought that the character in Oliver that sung 'Got to pick a pocket or two, boys' was some kind of eccentric - not that all Jews, or most Jews were confined to some slum Jewish quarter? According to Margaret Drabble in'The Oxford Companion to English Literature (1985) the novel was published in 1876...I hadn't realised that the quest for some sort of land/place of their own for the Jews had started so recently and from what background of prejudice in places like London. Margaret Drabble says that F.R. Leavis in 'The Great Tradition' (1948) says that the Jewish plot is 'embarrasingly fervid'. I'm wondering why he chose 'fervid' and not 'fervent'?
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on 30 May 2013
It's not just that the story is interesting; it's also that Ms Eliot uses such diverse, amazing references. The notes on the text are interesting in their own right. References from 150BC to her own era and such striking forward thinking politics. It has helped me understand how we got from Dickins to the Nazi way of thinking. The sense that you are not in a Victorian novel so much as in a precursor to the Great War. I also like the way the Gwendoline story (a bit more traditional dodgy marriage story) sits alongside the Jewish story although, it is initially strange going from one to the other. Top feminist too!!
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on 19 November 2013
George Eliot is one of the truly great authors of the 19th century and this, her last novel, is equal or perhaps exceeds anything she wrote previously. Her research into the character of Daniel Devon day and Jewish beliefs and practices goes well beyond that to be expected from someone with probably little or no knowledge of the religion.

One of the distinct advantages of obtaining this novel in paper form is that it, unlike it's electronic editions (Kindle and Project Gutenberg), is in the original English and not been "translated" into American.
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