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Daniel Deronda

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George Eliot - Daniel Deronda - 1876

Synopsis:

George Eliot's final novel and her most ambitious work, Daniel Deronda contrasts the moral laxity of the British aristocracy with the dedicated fervor of Jewish nationalists. Crushed by a loveless marriage to the cruel and arrogant Grandcourt, Gwendolen Harleth seeks salvation in the deeply spiritual and altruistic Daniel Deronda. But Deronda, profoundly affected by the discovery of his Jewish ancestry, is ultimately too committed to his own cultural awakening to save Gwendolen from despair.

I like the style of the 19th century. I especially like George Eliot's style. She describes the characters extremely well, the problems between the different people are very interesting and everyone seems so alive. There are people there whom you will like and others whom you will dislike. The novel gives a lot of information about life at the time, a lot of history, the problem the Jews had all through the centuries. A very interesting book, a lot to read, about 750 pages.

In a letter from 1876, George Eliot wrote; "As to the Jewish element in 'Deronda', I expected from first to last in writing it, that it would create much stronger resistance and even repulsion than it has actually met with. But precisely because I felt that the usual attitude of Christians towards Jews is - I hardly know whether to say more impious or more stupid when viewed in the light of their professed principles, I therefore felt urged to treat Jews with such sympathy and understanding as my nature and knowledge could attain to. Moreover, not only towards the Jews, but towards all oriental peoples with whom we English come in contact, a spirit of arrogance and contemptuous dictatorialness is observable which has become a national disgrace to us."

Throughout the whole book I was amazed how much George Eliot knew about the Jews and the problems they were facing, she almost predicted WWII.

I loved this book.

I was amazed there is no thread about any of George Eliot's books and I will go and start another one on Middlemarch.

(first started this thread 02.04.06)

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Rescued Thread

#2

1st May 2006, 05:35 PM

PJOwens

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I just found this site today! Daniel Deronda is one of my most favorite books. I love the beauty of Eliot's writing. My favorite quote of all time is from this book. It begins "What should we all do without the calendar when we want to put off a disagreeable duty?" and is appropriately copied out into the front of my planner. The parallel plots of Gwendolen Harleth and Daniel are both extremely well done but I always found Gwendolen to be the more sympathetic character since her choices were always between the lesser of two bad options.

#3

1st May 2006, 05:55 PM

Momo

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Hi PJ,

welcome to bookgrouponline. Looking forward to many of your postings.

Looks like your link doesn't work, though. If you hit the little blue globe in the top line above your input, you can give it a title and then you will get a new line where you add the hyperlink. Something must have gone wrong. Can you try again, please. If it doesn't work, just type in the link. Thank you.

#4

1st May 2006, 07:07 PM

PJOwens

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Thanks for the welcome Momo! I've been searching for a place like this for a long time and am excited to be here.

 

Sorry for being dense, but which link didn't work? Was it the "How did you hear about this site?"

#5

1st May 2006, 09:58 PM

Momo

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Originally Posted by PJOwens

I just found this site today! Daniel Deronda is one of my most favorite books.

It's this one. When I click on Daniel Deronda, I don't get anything.

By the way, I hadn't exactly looked for an online book group because I am a member of a RL one, but, same as you, I am glad to be here.

#6

1st May 2006, 10:08 PM

Bill

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Originally Posted by Momo

It's this one. When I click on Daniel Deronda, I don't get anything.

I believe that's call underlining, Momo. (Welcome, PJO!)
#7

1st May 2006, 10:15 PM

David

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Originally Posted by Momo

When I click on Daniel Deronda, I don't get anything.

Underlining is another convention for distinguishing titles (as opposed to italics, or inverted commas in longhand). I've never liked it, to be honest, and quietly ignored the preferences expressed at university for this approach (Cor! Wot a rebel, eh?). Partly because in my generally anal approach to such things at the time I couldn't possibly have done that without a ruler.
#8

2nd May 2006, 03:46 AM

PJOwens

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Okay, I put my ruler in the drawer. I'll use italics from now on.

#9

Old 2nd May 2006, 02:07 PM

Momo

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Sorry, PJOwens, when I saw the underlined title after your "I found this site today", I though you had found a site on Daniel Deronda. Sorry for the confusion I caused, I probably wasn't quite there yesterday.

#10

4th May 2006, 03:03 AM

PJOwens

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No worries Momo. Back to our regularly scheduled topic:

 

Is it just me, or is Mirah almost too perfect to be true?

#11

4th May 2006, 12:58 PM

Momo

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Originally Posted by PJOwens

Is it just me, or is Mirah almost too perfect to be true?

Well, she can't be completely perfect given her entrance into the novel. But you are right, she seems a little too good to be true.

 

Yet, I see Daniel's attraction to her and everything Jewish. She is one of his kind, he feels it and it seems like they are destined for each other.

 

(I've spoilered the rest for those who haven't read the novel.)

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I started reading this book about a month ago but due to family circumstances I am still less than a third of the way through. Although I am reading it in bits and pieces I am still managing to enjoying the book. I have read a number of George Eliot books before so am well used to the style in which it is written, a style which I have loved in the past and am loving with this book. As usual I have not read any of the previous posts made on this thread but will do so when I have finished as I do not want my view of the book to be biased in any way while I am actually reading it.

 

The book seems to have two central characters, those of Gwendoline Harleth and Daniel Deronda. So far the stories have seemed to run side by side with very little of an overlap. I assume that at some stage the two stories will combine and the two characters will become part of the same story. Having said that I am finding that I am equally interested in both of the stories presented and am beginning to care about the outcome for each of the two characters.

 

Having read a number of George Eliot books before I was prepared to see a number of regular themes running through the book and as usual I have not been disappointed. The most obviously displayed theme so far is that of the affect of religion. As usual a different view of religion is shown from those shown in other books and it seems that the religious theme in this book is going to be presented by the introduction into Daniel's story of a young Jewess and her struggles. In every book I have read by George Eliot religion has played a part in some form or other.

 

So far other regular themes are proving a little less obvious but this could be because I am reading the book in such a disjointed fashion and not because they are not there.

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Over the last couple of days I have managed to get on a little better and am now best part of half way through the book. The moral theme which I have viewed in other Eliot books is now becoming a little clearer in the form of an argument that Gwendoline has with herself over her decision regarding the probable proposal of marriage by Grandcourt. It can be seen that she wants to keep her promise and do what she believes to be the right thing but the desire for an easier life and important position as well as the ability to help her mother cannot help but pull her in the opposite direction.

 

As in other Eliot books whatever decision Gwendoline makes I suspect that the decision will produce far reaching results and that she will live to question the way that she has behaved and the decision she makes in the future. Every Eliot book I have read so far has included a similar decision process. In many if not all cases the real story has been about the way in which the character deals with the aftermath of their decision and the new and usually better person they become because of it not just the story regarding the making of the decision itself. I wonder if that will be the same with Gwendoline!

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As the book progresses the reader can see Gwendoline changing due to the decision she made and her experiences after. Although she is no Dorethea, as the story unfolds she is growing much stronger as a character and is beginning to undrstand herself much better just as Dorethea did. I now have real hopes that she will become the better person I imagined earlier on in my reading of the book.

 

Daniel is also becoming more and more complex as a character as the book carries on and as I suspected earlier on in the book the stories of Daniel and Gwendoline have started to overlap a little. I am beginning to suspect however that the real part played by the two characters is to show the two faces of a situation. Daniel is the one who has been wronged or at least suspects that he has been wronged and is believed to have been by others while Gwendoline is in the position of causing a wrong. They are both aware of their positions and it would be thought that they would, if not dislike one another, would at least have no desire to play any part in the other's life. However this does not seem to be the case. It seems that being aware of the position of the other one actually helps them to understand their own position and therefore themselves a little more. All sounds a bit complicated I know but I have no desire to give away the actual story and so spoil it for other readers.

 

As the book continues I am loving it more an more as I have done with other George Eliot books. Once again I am amazed at her understanding of human nature and the ability she had to not only create such complex characters but to so beautifully portray human nature.

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I finished this book this morning and, as with other George Eliot books, was sorry to do so. As the book unfolded it seemed that the real plan behind the book began to present itself as I have found to be the case with other books by the same author. The changing relationship between Gwendoline and Deronda, although of great importance to the book and at times quite moving to read, was only part of the story.

 

In other books by George Eliot the religous theme although quite clear is not always the main theme of the book. I have often found that the theme of causality, one act or decision leading to a string of events, has been the main one and earlier on this book I felt that this was going to be the case. However as the book progressed the religous theme seemed to grow stronger and by the end of the book I almost felt that the main reason Eliot had for writing the book was to highlight the plight of Jewish people. As I read the book I found it amazing that the book had been written before the second world war!

 

One thing that I felt that the book did highlight was the lack of acceptance of The British aristocracy of the time of anyone different from themselves. Other Eliot books have shown clearly the strict class system present in Britain at the time of the writing of the books but I felt that this book went even further and in its' way dealt with the issue of racism. Again, considering the time that the book was written, and especially the fact that it was written by a women of that time, this book was a brilliant accomplishment.

 

Having finished this book my admiration for George Eliot has grown even greater if that is possible. So much so that if I had the chance to talk to any author from any time Eliot would probably be my choice. She must have been such a clever women. Not only was the language used within her books a real joy to read but her understaning of the world she lived in and human nature itself must have been far beyond all but a few women of her time. It seems that she really was a women ahead of her time.

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