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Daniel Deronda
By George Eliot
Read by Nadia May

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Daniel Deronda
By George Eliot
Read by Nadia May
Blackstone Audiobooks, (1997)
An Unabridged Recording in Two Parts
Part One - ISBN: 0-7861-1327-8 (11 Cassettes)
Part Two - ISBN: 0- 7861-1328-6 (11 Cassettes)
Genre: English Literature
Other available editions: Paperback | Hardcover

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - May 14, 2002

Daniel Deronda is a compelling story written by George Eliot, it was also the last novel that she wrote. It was originally published in 1876, and it is perhaps the most overlooked work by Eliot. This is a regrettable fact, as Daniel Deronda is a well-written and complex book. It is also one of Eliot's most intriguing books, in that it deals with a subject of Zionism, a subject was seldom touched upon in 19th century literature, written by non-Jewish writers. Most interestingly, when Eliot wrote this book, Zionism, as we now know it, had not yet been born. It would be another twenty years before Theodor Herzl penned his Zionism manifesto, Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), which was published in 1896.

George Eliot was the pen name for Mary Ann Evans, a prolific and influential writer. In this novel, she weaves a compelling tale around Daniel Deronda, the adopted son of an English aristocrat who discovers that he is of Jewish birth. This knowledge awakens in him a desire to learn about the religion and people denied to him by fate. In the end, he becomes a passionate Zionist, marries Mirah Lapidoth, a young Jewish girl who helped him to discover his roots, before heading off 'to the east' to establish a Jewish homeland. It is through Mirah that Deronda meets Mordecai, who helps awaken his desire to restore the Jewish homeland.

Interwoven around the story of Deronda is that of Gwendolen Harleth, a woman of high spirit who succumbs to the forces around her and marries to boost the standing of her family. And, to a degree, because she seeks to find happiness via the admiration of others, admiration that she mistakenly thinks that wealth will bring her. She is not in love with her husband, Henleigh Grandcourt, a man's who's only saving grace is his money. Deronda circles about Gwendolen throughout this story, and he has an influential impact on her life.

This novel is both a love story and a work of political / social commentary. It is masterful in both regards. In this book, Eliot looks favorably upon the Jews, who were viewed as a subclass of British society. At best, they were ignored, but more often ridiculed, especially in Victorian Literature. Besides delving into the relationship between the Jews of Britain and their Christian neighbors, and Victorian anti-Semitism, this book also decries the societal pressures that 'force' a woman to marry against her will, and the lack of opportunities that existed, at the time, for women to support themselves, if they so desired.

This audio edition is read by Nadia May, whose quiet, yet expressive voice, is well suited for narrating this heroic novel. May has an English accent, and it is easy to imagine that it is Eliot herself reading the book. In summary, this is a novel of epic proportions. It should be read not only for its strengths as a literary masterpiece, but also for its unique story line that will hold you mesmerized throughout the reading.

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