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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.
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.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Daniel Deronda?
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!
9 of 10 people found this review helpful
George Eliot is wonderful, and Juliet Stevenson is superb, but this novel really is the most preachy, self-righteous thing that ever taxed my perseverance. And I know she meant it to be positive to Jews (read up on the terrible conditions of Jews in England in the 18th and 19th centuries) but George was a product of her time and so some of her observations, naturally, reek of anti-Semitism in and of themselves.
The reader Juliet Stevenson, Grandcourt's first conversation with Gwendolyn, and my love for Middlemarch were the only reasons I kept listening.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
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.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful
Magnificent writing, compelling richly psychologically sophisticated and fascinating treatment of Jews and Zionism. Reader has beautiful intonation for different characters
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot surprised me at how much it moved me. Having just finished the audio book of Middlemarch which I liked very much, but which did not move me in the same way, I was slightly reluctant to begin Daniel Deronda. But the story is so utterly fascinating and so enriching and beautiful that it really did take me to places beyond those I experienced in Middlemarch. It's a very emotional journey of this man Daniel Deronda who finds himself and his heritage to be exactly what he would have wanted, in Judaism and Eliot tells it with such painful considerations to all those involved that you can't help but be utterly broken. And Gwendolyn the other side of this novel, so different from the good, decent, moral and caring Deronda and yet wanting to be. She is left to rebuild a broken life stunted by an evil husband who she seemingly lets die and is left with a meager inheritance to do some good with, as she says, in trying to be good in her new life.
Juliette Stevenson reads all the characters with richness and vigor and makes them as real as any I've heard on audiobooks. She elucidated the novel through her performance and I throughly enjoyed her.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Daniel Deronda is not one of my favourite George Eliot books. She gets very bogged down with long tedious passages.
4 of 7 people found this review helpful
From start to finish awful. Hated every character. The moralizing was so obvious. Not all books should continue to be reprinted.
3 of 9 people found this review helpful
story was a little bit weak at times but overall it was a good read I would recommend it
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
Just stay with this story...with out a doubt one of the best novels I've read
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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.
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
If you could sum up Daniel Deronda in three words, what would they be?
philisophical, interesting, engaging
What other book might you compare Daniel Deronda to, and why?
Not quite as good a story as Middlemarch but more philosophical.
What does Juliet Stevenson bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
Juliet Stevenson is just an unbeatable narrator. She will spoil you and you won't want to listen to anyone else.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
Gwendolen's unlikable character was strangely enjoyable and amusing, her speech was fantastically portrayed by JS.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to Daniel Deronda again? Why?
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
What was one of the most memorable moments of Daniel Deronda?
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.
Which character – as performed by Juliet Stevenson – was your favourite?
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.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Oh yes, but too much to take in. It merits a slow listen.
Any additional comments?
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!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
Elliott has always been a great but difficult novelist for this 'unlearned' listener & were it not for the immeasurable talent of the immortal Juliet, Daniel Deronda would have been relegated to deep storage.
How is it possible for a mere mortal to create & maintain such a varied range of ages, genders classes (accents)? Surely, here be Sorcery! And not of the mediocre kind. Voice training is all very well but the prodigious kinesthetic & cerebral memory required of the vocal musculature & it's neurological sophistication as exhibited here depicts great mastery.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I've just discovrred George Eliot and Juliette Stevenson is the best way to hear more.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
An unforgettable novel brilliantly read by Juliet Stevenson. These characters will stay with me forever . Although very long so many issues are covered one's interest is held throughout. The language is beautiful, enhanced by the way in which it is read. A moving and uplifting book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
loved the story though found it a bit laboured in parts...the narration was wonderful with fantastic characteriasation by Juliet Stevenson
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
I know that not everyone likes Daniel Deronda, and that some consider it George Eliot's weakest novel. It's certainly one of her most overtly political, and the long treatise near the middle about the condition of Victorian Jews is very hard going.
However, I loved this novel when I first read it, and Juliet Stevenson does an outstanding job with a complex cast of characters with wildly varying personalities.
Deronda is skilfully drawn as a young man who is out of step with his world but can't work out why. He is an outsider who loves and respects the environment he doesn't belong to, and he has a hard time finding space to explore his own vision of life. Gwendolen is a good person who's been brought up to be selfish and domineering. Her tragic life sets her on a path to change, which I think is both believable and extremely poignant -- she demonstrates that a certain sort of human nature is formed for the better through suffering. Mordecai is one of literature's most challenging characters -- a true prophet marginalised by his people. I am affected every time by his conviction and his belief that the world can be changed for the better.
This novel is a long road that starts slowly (like most Victorian novels...), but in my view it will change your life if you're the sort of reader who wants to see questions that matter dealt with by real people who aren't perfect.