Meeting by chance at a gambling hall in Europe, the separate lives of Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Harleth are immediately intertwined. Daniel, an Englishman of uncertain parentage, becomes Gwendolyn's redeemer as she finds herself drawn to his spiritual and altruistic nature after a loveless marriage. But Daniel's path was already set when he rescued a young Jewess from suicide.
Daniel Deronda, George Eliot's final novel, is a remarkable work, encompassing themes of religion, imperialism and gender within its broad and fascinating scope.
Public Domain (P)2015 Naxos AudioBooks
After listening to Juliet Stevenson read Middlemarch, I was longing for something more from both Eliot and Stevenson. Happily, I found this novel. The story itself is not quite as tidy as Middlemarch, but that might make me like it all the more.
I hope miss Stevenson will find it in her heart to read "Mill on the Floss" next. For myself and countless others, she has provided a new window into the classics.
I love Middlemarch and this story has same wit and many of the same themes. Plus Juliet Stevenson is an amazing reader; I have listened to many books just because she reads them. I feel grateful that she does this work!
Daniel Deronda, the hero of the book is an interesting character with an interesting history. Through this character, Eliot explores the position of Jews in England and Europe at the time the story takes place, as well as the long history of persecution. She depicts the common bigotry and anti-Semitism in that period. She is to be applauded for this - most 19th century literature, when relating to Jews, relates to them as negative stereotypes. Eliot has plenty of that type of expression, but it comes across as a depiction of how people behaved towards Jews and thought about them, but not what she (or her hero) considers to be the truth. I was impressed with her fairly accurate (considering the genre, the time, the fact that Eliot is not Jewish) depiction of Jewish customs, the synagogue, and some quotations from literature, and was curious and learned that she did study religions other than her own, which is quite commendable. There are those people who thought that this story should be separated from the Gwendolyn Harleth story, and I can truly see their point. The Gwendolyn Harleth story is nothing unusual - the angst of snobby upper-class women, whether they still have their fortune or have lost it, is material for many novels, and becomes wearying. How much compassion can I have for a woman - even in that time of limited options for women - who would rather sell herself to the devil than to take a position as a school teacher or governess? She knew exactly what she was dealing with - why would a two-timer or adulterer treat you any better? Why is this story so different from other novels, like Austen's or Eliot's own, where you find women of this type and the whole focus of the story on whom they will marry and finding an appropriate match, when "appropriate" means class and money? The worries about an heir to some great fortune are also so common in English novels of the period, as we see here, too. The material is not original enough, and it is not interesting when one has already read so many other such stories. By some contrivances, Eliot connects the two stories, and maybe that is the only way it could get an audience at all. After all, some people wanted the reverse - get rid of the "Jewish stuff" and just tell the story of Gwendolyn Harleth, Grandcourt, and whatever else you can throw into the story to give it a bit more meat. Until Deronda came on the scene, I was not very impressed with the book. Deronda, though, does need to learn how to say "no" sometimes. It is good to be empathetic and wish to help people, but one needs to know when some people are too needy, would walk all over you if they could, and you could never solve all of their problems. I suppose if he had a real job, he could have had better excuses as to why he could not pay visits to Gwendolyn and be manipulated by her. He could have said he's busy at the office and has work to do. But, as someone commented a few months ago in the NY Times Book Review back page about a Jane Austen book - that thee seems not to be anything about how anyone earned money - the same is true here. No one works for a living except the Meyrick women and Mordecai who is a watch-repairer and jeweler and the Cohen family who own a pawnshop. Deronda has "chambers" and it seems every once in a while might do something with his law training (I think that is his supposed field of study), but these people need to get a life. So Daniel does seem to find something that he will devote himself to, even if it has nothing to do with earning a living. His character made the novel stand out from all the other novels about this type of people in England. His character and story make the book a good one and worth listening to, read quite well by Juliet Stevenson.
Usually it's very hard to find a good narrator and there are tons of good books but this is the first time is actually the opposite, this story is unbearable..
"The perfect long audiobook"
This classic novel takes a long time to unfold and requires great reading stamina but Juliet Stevenson creates an immersive experience with her perfectly nuanced reading and nearly 40 hours of imaginative delight have been delivered. It is impossible to praise the reading highly enough. The romantic entanglements and class consciousness are wittily observed. Nothing goes unnoticed by Eliot's sharp satirical eye. The haughty provincial dowagers and snobs are skewered hilariously. George Eliot explores areas of esoteric Hebrew scholarship which are exotic and strange to the modern reader but the subtlety and depth of her characters and her penetrating insights into human behaviour make it an extraordinary book. The prose and poetry of the writing is perfectly cadenced and arresting sentences keep occurring, sometimes needing to be heard twice. I don't think reading the book would have given the emotional rewards of listening to this extraordinary narration.
I was especially struck by the reunion of Deronda , in Genoa, with the mother who abandoned him as a child. She is an astonishingly vivid character who must have shocked Victorian readers. She counterbalances the Zionism of Ezra and Klessmer the musician represents the urbane non religious Jew whose status is defined more by art than race.
This book articulates the yearnings of european Jews as a stateless people and it is remarkable that it was written by a non Jewish British woman.
I preferred the romantic tale to the religious visionary aspects but the novel is a monumental achievement. Strangely, to me, Daniel Deronda is not the most vividly drawn character in the book.
"Juliet Stevenson is fabulous as usual"
philisophical, interesting, engaging
Not quite as good a story as Middlemarch but more philosophical.
Juliet Stevenson is just an unbeatable narrator. She will spoil you and you won't want to listen to anyone else.
Gwendolen's unlikable character was strangely enjoyable and amusing, her speech was fantastically portrayed by JS.
"Surprising and Challenging"
I would , but perhaps many years in the future. There is a lot to take in and ponder, so would be good to revisit it one day
When Daniel finds out the truth about his birth parents and travels to Genoa to meet his birth mother for the first time before she dies.
Hans was a great character and it must have been a challenge for Juliet to portray his many facets of personality. I can really empathise with him and it's probably true to say that,even today, most of us know or have known a 'Hans'. He is poignant in his attempts to try and cover up his pain and tender feelings with false levity. He is charming and erudite, a free thinker, a fish out of water, perplexing and unpredictable. A childlike sweetness,but very clever and deep nature. Misunderstood and much loved by his mother and sisters. I really liked him.
Oh yes, but too much to take in. It merits a slow listen.
What an amazing subject matter for George Elliot to decide to write about. The history of the Jewish people and the prejudice that they encountered at the time of her writing, was both fascinating and shocking. I now most definitely need to research why this was a subject she wished to tackle. I am certainly glad that she did!
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