Thursday, October 27, 2016
First impressions of Daniel Deronda
I've read only a the first 50 or so pages - about one one-thousandth of the novel, or so it appears - of Eliot's Daniel Deronda and my first impression is that this does not seem like a George Eliot novel at all. Did I get the wrong ibook? It begins in a casino, w/ a young femme fatale (Gwendolyn?) recklessly playing roulette (a sucker's game, but kinda fun) and observed with great interest by the eponymous Deronda, a tall handsome sort. Have we somehow wandered into Le Carre or Ian Fleming territory? You knew that G. Eliot was such a player? I associate her work with squires and thanes and parish priests, but there you go. Then the novel takes a sudden jolt as the spendthrift Gwendolyn (if that's her name, I can't remember) gets word that her mother has lost the entire family fortune and she heads back to England - and at that point we pick up (I think) with she, mother, and sisters settling into a new, modest rental house in "Wessex" (I thought that county was exclusive to Hardy - another surprise). So now we're in a different kind of English literary sub-sub-genre: a group of attractive sisters fall on hard times and have to step down on the social scale (obviously an important theme and a great fear women rightly held a century+ ago, as they had no control of family finances and no ability to earn a living) - although to modern readers the circumstances don't seem all that straitened - as they continue to employ servants (like to see this told from the servant's POV): Sense and Sensibility, Howards End, maybe some others? It will take a while before this narrative takes shape, but Eliot is extremely smart and trenchant and sketches in her main characters deftly. Will keep reading, more to come.