Rating – 5*
This is the best book I’ve read so far this year. After I read Middlemarch last year, I was disappointed. It wasn’t what I was expecting, I was truly expecting to adore that book and instead it was just okay. But, I kept going with her work and every book I read by this woman just gets better and better. This one I could scarcely put down – I finished the 914 page beast in 5 days and that was me pacing myself!
Daniel Deronda tells a story in two parts, both the story of Daniel and of Gwendolen, and naturally they interweave beautifully. We start in what is almost the middle of the book, where we meet Gwendolen Harleth in a casino. Observing her winning streak at the roulette table is Daniel Deronda. And that is the last we see of him until Chapter 16 and Gwendolen’s story takes precedence. At first it seems like these two narratives are utterly unrelated. Yet each is enhanced by the other, and by the parallels it is possible to draw between them.
The plot itself is magnificent, it weaves in and out, back and forth, and is so incredibly perfect. I could go on and on about it, it was great. The thing which surprised me most was the thread of Judaism which I really wasn’t expecting, but it surprised me in the best possible way. Mirah is one of the most beautiful characters I have had the pleasure of reading, yes she was a little stereotypical but she was wonderful and I really, really adored her. Daniel, oh how I wish there were more of Daniel! Though he is the titular character, the main thread of this novel I felt was actually handed to Gwendolen – his story just wove in perfectly with hers. Him finding out his origins was a great plot point but the thing that was most interesting about him was his open-mindedness, his acceptance and kind heart; he too had faults but his good traits outweighed them. Gwendolen however did annoy me, she was selfish, rude, and downright abhorrent in fact; but I loved her. The growth of her through the novel was something special, her tenacity, her zest for life, and ultimately her journey in to an adulthood that noone deserves which she took for the better of her family is one filled with pain. She grows up quickly, learns quickly and as she becomes more downtrodden, her voice in the novel becomes quieter… it’s quite fantastic, actually.
Oh this novel was incredible. George Eliot is up there as one of my favourite authors, and because I loved this so much I really want to retry Middlemarch. Her writing is sheer magic, her command of imagery and characterisation is second to none, her ability to create the perfect atmosphere for village life astounds me. This woman is a deity.
Naturally this book got 5* from me and the title of best book in 2016 so far. The rest of the year has a LOT to live up to!