Still controversial even in the modern age, George Eliot‘s victorian novel Daniel Deronda is a pleasurable read for that much awaited weekend.
First published in 1876, this was the last completed novel of English novelist, journalist, and translator Mary Anne Evans who was better known for her pen name George Eliot.
The novel begins in mid-story when Daniel Deronda meets and finds himself attracted to Gwendolyn Harleth, a beautiful, stubborn, and selfish lady who pawns her necklace to regain her fortune from gambling. As the two are tied in a loveless marriage, Gwendolyn seeks salvation from Deronda while the latter is too committed to his own cultural awakening of his newly-discovered Jewish ancestry.
With a contemporary Victorian setting, the work is a brilliant mixture of social satire and moral searching. Eliot tried to explore two important landmarks in English society- the antisemitism in the late 19th century and the emergence of the Zionist movement.
Style wise, Eliot’s most powerful ace is her characterization and insight to human nature. Gwendolen’s interesting and fascinating character is really appealing. While Daniel Deronda, though quite annoying and morally superior, contains a feminine quality that’s contrasting with Gwendolen’s strong desire for power.
Even if you’re passing hours over coffee or taking a quick break from a stressful day, Daniel Deronda is truly a wonderful book that’s worth reading.