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The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith

The Honeymoon

by Dinitia Smith

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464356,213 (3.85)17



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This is a frustrating novelistic treatment of the life of George Eliot, opening in Venice as the 60-year-old novelist is beginning her honeymoon with her 20-year-younger husband John Cross, whose behavior become increasingly erratic (resulting in a suicide attempt). Long flashbacks flesh out Marian Evans's arrival to this point -- a sad sequence of seeking love and affection from a series of unavailable (usually married) men. -- All comes together into a relatively satisfactory resolution (hence the 3rd star in the rating), but the fact remains that I felt like throttling almost all the characters from time to time! ( )
  David_of_PA | Jul 14, 2018 |
I kept forgetting it was a novelized biography. Her story felt very real and I loved this George Eliot every bit as much as I expected to, maybe more.

Fun things I didn't know, or had forgotten, about George Eliot:
(1) She was pretty darn famous in her day. Like, she wore a big lace mantilla (the original oversized sunglasses) so that people wouldn't recognize her. How many authors would you recognize on the street?
(2) She wrote SO. MANY. great novels. Not just [b:The Mill on the Floss|256658|The Mill on the Floss|George Eliot|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|3277447], not just [b:Middlemarch|271277|Middlemarch (Penguin Audiobooks)|George Eliot|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1173306085s/271277.jpg|1461747], but [b:Adam Bede|256651|Adam Bede|George Eliot|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348557826s/256651.jpg|21503633], [b:Silas Marner|383696|Silas Marner|George Eliot|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1347255685s/383696.jpg|3049535] (my personal favorite), [b:Scenes of Clerical Life|627572|Scenes of Clerical Life|George Eliot|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1365462421s/627572.jpg|3125343],[b:Daniel Deronda|775596|Daniel Deronda|George Eliot|https://s.gr-assets.com/assets/nophoto/book/50x75-a91bf249278a81aabab721ef782c4a74.png|313957],[b:Felix Holt the Radical|811375|Felix Holt the Radical|George Eliot|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1349023556s/811375.jpg|1513414]... It was really fun to see these put into the context of her life: what order she wrote them in, how she felt about each one during and after writing it, and how she sought out inspiration.
(3) She was the original cougar. By which I mean, she married a man roughly twenty years younger than she was ... when she was about 60 years old.

All in all, this was a lovely read, and I felt an enormous welling of sympathy for Eliot ... or I should say, for Marian Evans Lewes.

I received a copy of this ebook from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. ( )
  BraveNewBks | Aug 8, 2017 |
An atmospheric biographical novel that imagines the last years of George Eliot's life, when she married a man 20 years her junior. A beautiful portrait of the time that follows known facts about Eliot while onky taking liberties in areas that seem to have been obscured in the original sources. An interesting and thoughtful novel on the nature of marital love and the restrictions of the usual romantic formulas. Well plotted and engaging. ( )
  kaitanya64 | Jan 3, 2017 |
Dinitia Smith has done more than written a fictionalized biography of George Eliot; she’s recreated the woman and her world. Eliot- the pen name of Marian Evans, taken because woman authors were not taken seriously back then- lives and breathes in these pages.

The story is framed by what is happening in 1880, when Marian is supposed to be enjoying her honeymoon with John Cross in Venice. She’s not enjoying herself, though; Johnnie- who is twenty years younger than Marian- is behaving oddly, manic and not his usual caring and supportive self. During this time, Marian remembers her life, starting with her girlhood.

Eliot started life in a rural middle class family. Considered not to be marriage material because of her plain looks, she was encouraged in her studies as her father felt she could become a governess. Luck had it that she was given the run of a private library where she could indulge her joy in reading and learning. She falls in with free thinkers and polyamorous couples, and has a couple of relationships. But she want more; she wants a relationship where she is the primary, not an extra. Then she and George Lewes fall in love, and they have a happy, 26 year relationship until he dies. The laws would not allow them to marry, even though his wife had bourn multiple children to her lover. Lewes had allowed the children to bear his name- which meant he was aware of her adultery, considered a horrible thing, unlike his own relationship with Marian.

This relationship provided a goad for Marian to start earning real money. While she had done translating and was an editor of many works, she had not written her own pieces. Now she did, and became a best seller. Lewes was an author as well, but not nearly so popular as Marian, and they had to support not just themselves, and Lewes biological children, but his wife’s children by her lover, who contributed not a penny to their upkeep. Thankfully, Marian is able to do this, and put away enough money for the rest of her life, thanks to the management of John Cross. Cross is asked by Lewes to take care of Marian. Whether Lewes ever considered that it would be by marrying Marian, this is how Cross felt he could best do it. He truly loved Marian, although apparently not in a physical way. Smith presents him as possibly being gay, as well as having a hereditary form of unipolar mania.

I felt like I was living in Marian’s world. Smith truly inhabited Marian as a brilliant but insecure woman who was told from day one she was not marriage material because of her looks. I loved the passages describing how she worked and developed her novels before writing them- I’m always a sucker for descriptions of the artistic process. I’m ashamed to say I’ve not read Eliot’s work- something I’ll fix soon- but I was very impressed by her writing procedure and the amount of research that went into her novels.

The author also did a huge amount of research, going into mountains of letters written by and to Eliot and others. Some of her lines are lifted straight from Eliot’s own words. She also examined biographies not just of Eliot but of the people in her life, as well as reading Eliot’s work, some of which, while fiction, is also semi-autobiographical. It’s a solid story as well as an absorbing one. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Apr 16, 2016 |
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"Based on the life of George Eliot, famed author of Middlemarch, this captivating account of Eliot's passions and tribulations explores the nature of love in its many guises. Dinitia Smith's spellbinding novel recounts George Eliot's honeymoon in Venice in June 1880 following her marriage to a handsome young man twenty years her junior. When she agreed to marry John Walter Cross, Eliot was recovering from the death of George Henry Lewes, her beloved companion of twenty-six years. Eliot was bereft: left at the age of sixty to contemplate profound questions about her physical decline, her fading appeal, and the prospect of loneliness. In her youth, Mary Ann Evans--who would later be known as George Eliot--was a country girl, considered too plain to marry, so she educated herself in order to secure a livelihood. In an era when female novelists were objects of wonder, she became the most famous writer of her day--with a male nom de plume. The Honeymoon explores different kinds of love, and of the possibilities of redemption and happiness even in an imperfect union. Smith integrates historical truth with her own rich rendition of Eliot's inner voice, crafting a page-turner that is as intelligent as it is gripping"--… (more)

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