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Daniel Deronda by George Eliot

Daniel Deronda (1876)

by George Eliot

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,810352,954 (3.89)1 / 220
  1. 50
    The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (ncgraham)
    ncgraham: Surprised this recommendation hasn't already been made ... scholars throughout the years have noted Gwendolen Harleth's influence upon James in creating Isabel Archer.
  2. 20
    The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton (davidcla)
    davidcla: Wharton's 1913 novel is excellent, and very interesting to read as a companion to George Eliot's Daniel Deronda. Wharton's Undine casts Eliot's Gwendolen in a new light. And vice versa.
  3. 00
    Harrington by Maria Edgeworth (nessreader)
  4. 01
    Ulysses by James Joyce (kara.shamy)

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
3.5 stars-rounded up to 4

George Eliot’s tome, Daniel Deronda, was her last novel and it is anything but an easy read. Quite frequently when the narrative began to move and become quite interesting, Eliot would veer off into another direction and leave me champing at the bit to get back to the story.

Having recently read Middlemarch, I couldn’t help feeling that these characters were all pale and colorless next to those I had just left behind. The character, Daniel Deronda, was a particular puzzle to me, with reactions that did not seem to be realistic and too much of an effort to make her a type instead of an individual. Perhaps I was just too worn out with his “goodness” to really like him. Gwendolen was understandable and flawed enough to make up for it. She was both interesting and represented the most growth and change through the course of the novel.

I started this novel with a pretty serious dislike of Gwendolen, the spoiled girl, but by the end of the novel my attitude toward her had softened. I saw her as a bit of a Hardy character, caught in the awareness of her faults, without any avenue for correcting them or atoning for her sins. Without giving anything of the plot away, I cannot help admiring her resistance of giving in to the basest reaction to her situation. At the last, I think she was much harder on herself than I would have been inclined to be.

Obviously, much of the purpose of this novel is to address the place of Jewish customs and society in 19th Century Europe. Eliot appears to have some very strong feelings about the maintenance of the Jewish people as a separate identity vs. the efforts to absorb them into the Christian society, with the loss of their own specific religion, customs and heritage. I could not help reading this novel with an eye toward what came later, the holocaust and the rise of the Jewish State. I was very interested in what I saw as the struggle to understand Jews and admit them to be on equal standing with their peers. I wonder what kind of reception this got at the time it was written.

Although I recognized Eliot’s purpose being to explain and perhaps endear us to the Jewish characters, they were the characters I could least understand. Mordecai’s almost paranormal recognition of Daniel as a like soul, Mirah’s perfection (along with Daniel’s), and the coldness of Daniel’s mother make them seem less accessible. And, she cannot resist bringing in some of the oldest and most cliched stereotypes when dealing with the Cohens...the typical Jewish family.

I did find this passage from Daniel’s mother very interesting:
”Had I not a rightful claim to be something more than a mere daughter and mother? The voice and the genius matched the face. Whatever else was wrong, acknowledge that I had a right to be an artist, though my father’s will was against it. My nature gave me a charter.”
We are confronted with the idea that a career and motherhood cannot exist side-by-side. She is the bold woman who chooses the career. She hasn’t a speck of motherly feeling. She is painted throughout the entire episode as cold and unnatural. Superwoman had not yet been invented.

While I did find this a worthy read, it cannot live up to the precedents set by Middlemarch and Mill on the Floss to my mind. I had scheduled it to read in 2015 and had to push it over to 2016, so it feels like a personal accomplishment to have it behind me. I will be thinking about it for some time, I am sure and it may be one of those novels that grows in importance as it settles on my mind.
( )
  phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
So often Eliot is held up as the paragon of 19th century English prose. Here is yet another novel to demonstrate why I simply cannot afford her the accolades that others offer.

Although the term schizophrenia wouldn’t be coined for another forty years, studies of the illness were extant and influential among them no doubt is George Eliot’s last novel. Firstly, as with Adam Bede, the novel is a misnomer. For the first third of the book, you’ll be wondering what Deronda has to do with anything at all. For someone with obvious creative abilities, Mary seems to have been a bit stumped when it came to naming her overlong writings.

There are a number of novels in here, and critics of her day even suggested that abridgements be created which allow the reader some focus. There’s the story of Gwendolyn Harleth which, on the face of it, is the simple and pretty obvious tale of a headstrong young woman whose pride leads her into a loveless marriage with a tragic end. No literary surprises there although, to be fair, if Eliot had focussed entirely on her heroine, she might well have created a character of real depth and lasting impact. In her mind, she could still have got away with the original title, too.

Then there’s the story of a young man (ah finally, the eponymous Daniel!) who has a growing awareness that his parentage is a mystery he must solve. Various contrivances later, he has all the answers he needs and has confirmed a new identity. Again, no literary surprise except the fact that someone of Eliot’s standing would have done something so unoriginal.

Where the novel surprises is it’s portrayal of yet a third storyline, that of a Jewish family and the love of their identity. I suppose that it’s this favourable and sympathetic portrait of Judaism which earned her novel a place in the pantheon. Otherwise, Middlemarch, published four years earlier, would have eclipsed it entirely.

The novel was not a product of its time. Contemporary depictions of the Jews are not kind. In fact, they’re still not kind in many parts of the 21st century world. I’m thinking in particular of the kind of parts that I’m sitting in this morning as I write this (and no, I’m not in the British Labour Party Headquarters). But many have criticised Eliot for creating such an idealised image. Positive prejudice is no more balanced than negative, they argue.

So, why did Eliot decide to do this and go even further by making Daniel so obvious a proponent of Zionism? Her sympathies had been fueled by people she’d met and ideas she’d been exposed to. She’d also become a critic of the empire (British that is) and British involvement in Palestine (not the most glorious chapter in British history) may well have contributed.

Whatever her motivations, forefront in her mind could not have been the need to actually construct a novel that actually holds together. This is a novel for those interested in Eliot and her literary legacy, not for anyone who wants to read the best she can produce. ( )
2 vote arukiyomi | May 25, 2018 |
The character of Daniel Deronda rises to meet all the accolades, in and out of the book, and yet, as an adult, he strangely continues to lack
the simple courage to ask Sir Hugo who his parents really are or were. This lack of resolution goes on way too long and,
with the endless self-pitying introspection of self absorbed and entitled Gwendolyn, makes the book at least one quarter too long.
His hesitation with Gwendolyn is self serving and makes one wonder if the passion aroused around the gambling table ever went extinct.

Gambling was boring while archery stands out, making one long to join an Archery Ball and and Archery Picnic!

And, there are always George Eliot gems: "The best introduction to astronomy is to think
of the nightly heavens as a little lot of stars belonging to one's own homestead."
Plus, "morally fervid."

While many characters are finely drawn, I wish that Mirah had been less meek (giving up her purse to her father, c'mon),
making readers wonder if she will be a match for Daniel or continue to stay in awesome acquiescing mode. ( )
  m.belljackson | Mar 31, 2018 |
M100 General Works
  TLH7718 | Dec 15, 2017 |
Fantastic intertwining of two stories centred around Deronda, thoroughly enjoyed. ( )
  brakketh | Aug 22, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (33 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eliot, Georgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brockway, HarryIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cave, TerenceIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hardy, Barbara NathanEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Was she beautiful or not beautiful? and what was the secret of form or expression which gave the dynamic quality to her glance?
To judge wisely I suppose we must know how things appear to the unwise; that kind of appearance making the larger part of the world’s history.
A nonchalance about sales seems to belong universally to the second-hand book-business. In most other trades you find generous men who are anxious to sell you their wares for your own welfare; but even a Jew ... One is led to believe that a secondhand bookseller may belong to that unhappy class of men who have no belief in the good of what they get their living by.
Emotion was at the acute point, where it is not distinguishable fromsensation.
Day followed day with that want of perceived leisure which belongs to lives where there is no work to mark off intervals.
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This work has been published in many different editions of 2, 3, or 4 volumes. Please do not combine individual volumes with the complete work.

Special note on Everyman’s Library editions: Dent originally published the work in 2 volumes, numbers 539 and 540. Subsequently Dent published a new one-volume edition as number 539. Please do not combine the original number 539 with the complete work.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140434275, Paperback)

As "Daniel Deronda" opens, Gwendolen Harleth is poised at the roulette-table, prepared to throw away her family fortune. She is observed by Daniel Deronda, a young man groomed in the finest tradition of the English upper-classes. And while Gwendolen loses everything and becomes trapped in an oppressive marriage, Deronda's fortunes take a different turn. After a dramatic encounter with the young Jewish woman Mirah, he becomes involved in a search for her lost family and finds himself drawn into ever-deeper sympathies with Jewish aspirations and identity. 'I meant everything in the book to be related to everything else', wrote George Eliot of her last and most ambitious novel, and in weaving her plot strands together she created a bold and richly textured picture of British society and the Jewish experience within it.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:51 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

George Eliot's last and most unconventional novel is considered by many to be her greatest. First published in installments in 1874-76, "Daniel Deronda" is a richly imagined epic with a mysterious hero at its heart. Deronda, a high-minded young man searching for his path in life, finds himself drawn by a series of dramatic encounters into two contrasting worlds: the English country-house life of Gwendolen Harleth, a high-spirited beauty trapped in an oppressive marriage, and the very different lives of a poor Jewish girl, Mirah, and her family. As Deronda uncovers the long-hidden secret of his own parentage, Eliot's moving and suspenseful narrative opens up a world of Jewish experience previously unknown to the Victorian novel.… (more)

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Average: (3.89)
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2.5 7
3 94
3.5 28
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4.5 29
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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140434275, 0141199245

Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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