Wednesday, 18 December 2013

2013 Top Ten Best Reads - Number 2

George Eliot
Counting down to Number 2 on my list of Top Ten Best Reads of 2013. I first heard this story when the missus was listening to a BBC Radio dramatisation of the story. She really enjoyed it very much, especially with Juliet Stevenson in the role of Gwendolen Harleth. That year for Xmas, I bought her a Penguin Edition of the book and also found on line, from Scarthin Books of Cromford, an 1877 Edition of the book published by William Blackwood and Sons, a lovely, well-maintained edition; one edition for reading, one for display (we do like, or I do like, rare books)

Getting back to my Number 2 selection, Daniel Deronda, George Eliot had the book published in 1876. This was her last novel; she's also written Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Romola, Felix Holt, the Radical and Middlemarch. I chose Daniel Deronda as one of my 12 + 2 challenges for 2013. It was definitely one of my most challenging reads of the year. It took awhile to gain familiarity with the writing style of the time and the English language of that era. I had a general idea of the story, from listening to some of the radio dramatisation and discussing with Jo. Not normally the type of story I would read, I found myself drawn into it. Daniel Deronda, as a character, is most interesting, a man raised by his mentor, but not knowing who his mother or father were; in fact, raised assuming that his mentor, Sir Hugo Mallinger, might be his father. He is a caring, thoughtful person, who cannot say no when it comes to helping a friend, a wonderful man, really. I will admit to being very frustrated and irritated with the character, of Gwendolen Harleth, a wilful, selfish girl, but even her character develops and grows, as crisis and heartache are thrust upon her (even if mostly of her own doing). It's a fascinating story, a portrayal of the time, bringing the issue of Judaism, poverty, even abuse to an extent. The story is rich, intelligent and fascinating.

Once again, I provide as well, my Goodreads' bookshelf review of the book,"Not my normal story at all; I do tend to more light reading, thriller, adventure, but at times I do try to explore more challenging stories. This was definitely one of those. It's a true classic, well-written and intelligent. The story focuses on two main characters, Gwendolen Harleth, a selfish, young lady who thinks the world revolves around her and Daniel Deronda, a gentlemen, searching for himself. This search has many aspects, the simple one being trying to ascertain who his parents are as he has grown up under the protection/ guidance of Sir Hugo Mallinger from childhood. This also involves more internal searching, who is he, why does he think as he does. He is a caring individual, selflessly helping friends and strangers; his flighty school friend Hugo Meyrick, the lovely Jewess Mira and even Gwendolen.. There is so much in this book, unspoken love, a brief study of what it is like to be Jewish in those times, death, romance, etc. I was very surprised how much I enjoyed the story and as I worked my way through the initial pages to get accustomed to the style of the time, it was published in 1876, I enjoyed it immensely. As much as Gwendolen irritated me to no end with her selfishness, at the same time, there was an inkling of sympathy for the plight she finds herself in (even if much of it is due to her own actions) and ultimately.. well, I won't go there. It's a heavy tome, but well worth reading. I'm very glad I did."

I'm so glad that I decided to take a chance on this story. It's a true classic. I will have to try others of Eliot's work; we also have Middlemarch and Romola on our bookshelves, plus I came to realise, another edition of Daniel Deronda. (You can't have too many) These are lovely 1894 editions published by Estes and Lauriat of Boston.

So there you have it, Best Read Number 2. My favourite read of 2013 follows tomorrow, unless I return home from our Section Xmas party a little under the 'weather'.

Have a great night and see you in a day or so.

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