Romola is the fourth novel from the great Victorian novelist George Eliot and her first historical novel. Published in 1862 - 63, it is set in Florence at the end of the fifteenth century and events during the Italian Renaissance, and includes in its plot several notable figures from Florentine history.
The story is of a girl's devotion to her blind father, her marriage to and betrayal by a young Greek and ultimate life of self-sacrifice.
English novelist George Eliot (1819-1880), real name Mary Ann (Marian) Evans was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era.
Please note: This is a vintage recording. The audio quality may not be up to modern day standards.
If you have never read George Elliot (Mary Ann Evans), I would recommend starting with "Silas Marner", "Adam Bede" or even "Middlemarch" rather than "Romola". Ms. Evans was a powerful writer who seems to have never used an unneeded word or image. If you are under 30, withhold judgment about her literary worth. It will save you the embarrassment of admitting you were wrong after reaching a riper age.
In Louisa May Alcott's "A Garland for Girls", one of the group of young women was reading "Romola". An interesting observation made by Mrs. Bhaer (Jo March) in a discussion about George Elliot's literary merit was something to the effect: "The brain is there but the heart is left out." She went on to praise Charlotte Bronte's worth by comparison.
"Romola" is a book of political intrigue and a series of betrayals: Tito betraying his father, his wife, his father in law, his friends, his country. Tito was not moral or immoral. There was no right or wrong; there was only Tito. He reminds me of Elizabeth von Arnim's Mr. Wemyss in "Vera" or St. John Rivers in Charlotte Bronte's "Jane Eyre". These men were devoid of human emotion and were incapable of love or any feeling. For each, there was only one human being: themselves. For a passionate woman like Romola, the discovery that her new husband lacked honor and was fully capable of any treachery or crime was a devastating revelation.
Gabriel Woolf is very good at letting the listener in on the author's sly humor and her little comic pokes which reveal the character of her actors. He did his homework and makes this very complex work intelligible to the listener; I think even more than the written work.
This is a very tedious work from the beginning. I tried to remind myself that I purchased it because it is a good price and a subject in which I am interested. It took me a long time to get into the story. It is slow throughout. It's a comment on the society no action really. Narrator is ok. If you are interested in the Italian Renaissance then you will enjoy it if you set you mind to the slow place. Language is a little difficult if you tune out for a moment at all, it loses you quickly.
This rating is only based on the narration. I will have to get a version with a more subtle voice. I really couldn't listen to more than an hour of this one. I love George Eliot and hope to enjoy a different version.
"Don't miss this"
A fascinating story excellently read. Woolf?s rich tone of voice and laconic delivery are ideal for this book and, with few exceptions, he pronounces the Italian words authentically. If you know Florence you will recognise many familiar place names and if you aren?t, the book may inspire you to visit this timeless city. I haven?t read 'Romola' since I was a teenager and as an adult I am impressed with Eliot?s grasp of, and ability to render interesting, the convoluted politics of the Medician period. It?s also a ?jolly good yarn?!
During listening I sometimes wondered if Woolf got bored, suspecting him of suppressing a yawn now and then. Not enjoyable this lulling-the-listener-into-a-doze way of narrating and not getting an understanding of Eliot's meaning in this way. Not recommended.
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