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I started this book a few days ago having read that another BGOer, although I cannot remember who and on which thread, found this to be their favourite book by George Eliot. Having read three books by the same author all of which were set in the English countryside of the 19th century I was surprised to find that this book was set in 15th century Florence! I am finding the book a little more difficult to read and get into than my previous Eliot reads. This could be due to the constant reference to philosophers of the time and the language used. Having read many books by Thomas Hardy whose books I often compare with those of Eliot I was perfectly prepared for my previous three reads. With Romala I have little previous reading experince with which to compare the book.


After a slow start I am beginning to get on much better with this book and am beginning to find some of the usual Eliot themes. As is usual with her books part of the story hinges on a secret often following a poor choice made by one of the characters, in this case by Tito who seems to be the main character. The theme of causality, how our deeds and behaviour are governed by just one chance happening or choice thus changing the direction and nature of our lives completely, is beginning to show it's face as it has in all of my previous three Eliot reads. There is also a moral theme which, again, I have found in other of her books.


Having read best part of a quarter of this book I now feel myself to be on firmer ground and am beginning to enjoy it much more. Once again, as the story unfolds, I wish to shout advice to some of the characters warning them of their mistakes.

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I am still finding this book slightly slow going but that could be due to the fact that until now I have been reading it while on a busy week away in The Yorkshire Dales as much as the book itself. I am now home and hope that I will get a little more reading time. A religous theme has started to appear in this book now. Once again this seems to be a recurring theme in the books of George Eliot although often showing many different faces. In this book it appears through the brother of Romala who is a monk.

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I am now about half way through this book and although I am getting on a little better I am still finding it to be a less than easy read. I do like the main characters, Romala and Tito, but unlike other Eliot characters such as Dorethea in Middlemarch I am finding them to be quite distant characters. Romala, a bit like Dorothea, is proving to be a bit of a slow burner and at first her part seemed to be a fairly small one and her character less than strong. However, as the book unfolds she is gaining in strength and is beginning to emerge as a character with thoughts and feelings of her own rather than as a vehicle around which others perform. Up until now she has been led by the thoughts and wishes of others but now that the things that she feels strongly about could be in danger she is beginning to emerge as a strong, passionate women in her own right.


In many ways Romala is beginning to remind of Dorethea which at the beginning of the book I would not have thought possible. Thinking back to my reading of Middlemarch however, I seem to remember that I was not terribly taken with Doretha at the beginning of the book but by the end I felt her to be one of the strongest female literary characters ever. I am beginning to have greater hope for Romala now than I did when I started this book.


Tito on the other hand, who seemed at the beginning of the book to be the main character, is beginning to fade for me. He is proving to be a weak man worried more about his own position and comfort than by any greater good. Like Fred Vincy from Middlemarch and Arthur Donnithorne from Adam Bede, although clever and possessing a desire to do good he makes one wrong decision which changes the course of his life completely. All future actions are then governed by this one decision. Fred Vincy proved to be a strong character in the end and managed through grim determination and hard work, and yes a little help and support of others, to right the wrong and change his life around. Arthur Donnithorne, although unable to right the wrong, at least was truly repentant and became a bit of a reformed character. He admited the wrong he had done and was truly sorry. At the moment Tito seems to be getting deeper and deeper into the mire of his own making. Like Fred and Arthur will he emerge a stronger and chastened man or will he sink beyond redemption?

Edited by cherrypie

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I finished this book this morning and although I have enjoyed it I have found it rather hard going at times, unlike other books I have read by the same author. At times I would find my attention gripped and would not want to put the book down while at others I would find it difficult to follow and even found that some passages just needed to be got through to get to another more interesting bit! This has been a new experience for me where George Eliot is concerned as I have read three other books written by her and loved them all. Romala is a much darker book than any of the other books and is as much about the political situation existing in Florence at the time in which the book was set as much as about the characters involved in the story and I suspect that is why I found it to be a more difficult read than the other three.


Romala did emerge as a stronger and stronger character as the book continued and although I can not say that I admired her as much as Dorethea in Middlemarch I did finish the book with the feeling of a strong, kind leading lady. Much like Dorothea I suspect that Romala was a women ahead of her time. I cannot say that many of the other characters touched me deeply although I did feel pity for poor Tessa.

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