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Apr 2010
Middlemarch - George Eliot - Oxford World's Classics, 1997
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I can't help wondering about George Eliot's motivations for writing Middlemarch given that humorous observations of small town life sit so uneasily with her intellectual and philosophical preoccupations. In part it must have been purely commercial - Mrs Gaskell's Cranford stories had been extremely popular, albeit some 15 years earlier, so a novel of provincial life was bound to sell well. It may have also have been a reaction to the Silly Novels by Lady Novelists that she lambasted in the Westminster Review - she wanted to show how a "woman's novel" could be done right. But I think the major motivation was to give outlet to Eliot's frustration at the limited options and slow pace of reform in Victorian life, particularly for women. And this impatience goes a long way to explaining both the novel's triumphs and its flaws.
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27 Jun 2004
Daniel Deronda - George Eliot - Wordsworth Classics 1996
* * * * *
It starts with the great cliche of romances - a handsome young man and a beautiful young woman catch sight of each other across a crowded room. But George Eliot had done romance in her earlier novels and the relationship that develops between them is very different from the one that you expect.

For a start, they don't like each other much. The room in which they meet is a casino. Gwendolen is gambling and gets put off by Deronda looking at and, she (rightly) thinks, judging her, which establishes with wonderful economy that she is a) a risk-taker and b) overly sensitive to what other people think. When she pawns her necklace to cover her losses, he buys it back and returns it to her with a superciliously worded note. Unsurprisingly, they don't see each other again until almost half way through the book.
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