Daniel Deronda opens with one of the most memorable encounters in fiction: Gwendolen Harleth, alluring yet unsettling, is poised at the roulette-table in Leubronn, observed by Daniel Deronda, a young man groomed in the finest tradition of the English upper classes, and now searching for his path in life. While Gwendolen becomes trapped in an oppressive marriage, a series of dramatic encounters draws Deronda into ever deeper sympathy with Jewish aspirations to cultural and natural identity. Remote as Gwendolen's country-house world may seem from the world of Mirah, the lost daughter, and Mordecai, the visionary, George Eliot weaves these strands of her plot intimately together, daring the readers of Adam Bede and Middlemarch to open their eyes to areas of experience wholly new to the Victorian novel.
As Daniel Deronda opens, Gwendolen Harleth is poised at the roulette-table, prepared to throw away her family fortune. She is observed by Daniel Deronda, a young man groomed in the finest tradition of the English upper-classes. And while Gwendolen loses everything and becomes trapped in an oppressive marriage, Deronda's fortunes take a different turn. After a dramatic encounter with the young Jewish woman Mirah, he becomes involved in a search for her lost family and finds himself drawn into ever-deeper sympathies with Jewish aspirations and identity. 'I meant everything in the book to be related to everything else', wrote George Eliot of her last and most ambitious novel, and in weaving her plot strands together she created a bold and richly textured picture of British society and the Jewish experience within it.
George Eliot was born Mary Ann (Marian) Evans in 1819. After her mother died in 1836, Marian was her father's housekeeper, educating herself in her spare time. After moving to Coventry in 1841 she met progressive intellectuals and became managing editor of the Westminster Review in 1851. She lost her Christian faith and was alienated from her family, moving to London where she met the separated George Henry Lewes. They lived together until his death in 1878. During those years she wrote the fiction, journalism and philosophy she is remembered for under the pseudonym of George Eliot. Terence Cave is Professor of French Literature at the University of Oxford and Fellow of St John's College. He is also a Fellow of the British Academy. His publications include The Cornucopian Text: Problems of Writing in the French Renaissance.
"Daniel Deronda is a startling and unexpected novel . . . it is a cosmic myth, a world history, and a morality play." --A. S. Byatt
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