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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Saturday, October 29, 2016

The many unanswered questions in Daniel Deronda

Looked back to first chapters to get better clarity on the time scheme of Daniel Deronda and, yes, it does appear that after the initial plot event - Gwendolen (Harleth?) learning that her mother (and uncle?) have lost all their money leaves her European jaunt and heads back to England - the novel takes a step back and we see Gwendolen about year or two previous when her family of 6 moved in w/ her uncle's family, the Gascgoignes, in a rectory in Wessex. We see in these chapters that Gwendolen is a spoiled brat and she comes in and takes the small town by storm - she draws everyone's attention at the provincial parties and dances, and she's quick-witted and even fresh, like Sh's Beatrice in some ways, completely free of maternal control and conventional manners. I'm still trying to puzzle out her family history: it seems her mother and aunt inherited a great fortune from their mysterious parent or grandparent who "amassed" the fortune through trade w/ India. It also seems her mother was married to a sailor who was seldom at home - Harleth, I think - not sure if he died or how that ended, but she remarried, so the 4 or 5 younger sibs are Gwendolen's half-siblings. It seems also that her stepfather was mean, maybe even abusive? She pointedly asks her mother why she chose to remarry, and her mother is brusque and cold in her response, closing off that topic forever (and leaving us a bit in the dark as well). That marriage ended, too - another death? - and that's when the family moved in w/ the uncle, obviously a tremendous strain on his finances. It's a very odd novel so far, or I'm a very inattentive reader (more likely), but there is so much hinted at w/ so little information in these early chapters: abuse, death, illicit earnings. I also know from what I've read and heard about this novel that it's in large part about Zionism, maybe about Judaism as well - I assume the eponymous Deronda, whom we met in the first chapter as he is infatuated with the reckless Gwendolen, is the Jewish figure, but Eliot has not touched on this, at least through the first 6 or so chapters.

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