Daniel Deronda which was the choice book for the August edition of the Reading to Know Book Club. Am I so glad to have read it? Oh yes. Absolutely. It was an incredibly gripping and entertaining read which I enjoyed very much. I can only highly recommend the read to you! My one and only regret is a silly one and that is that it was so consuming (and so long) that I didn't get much else read (and my TBR stack is glaring at me, mercilessly).
Heather has already told us what the book is about so I'll refrain from repeating the storyline here. Instead I'll stick to sharing my impressions.
One person asked me how long it took to "get into" the story. Surprisingly (even to myself) it took just the first paragraph to get into the book. I've noticed recently that most modern novels sound the same in their opening paragraph. I can't explain it, except to say that I feel like every modern author is striving too hard to be clever. So much so that most of the time these authors aren't. There is a similar tone and style in modern books. When I initially sat down with Daniel Deronda I felt like I was in for a treat because it read off as being different than most of the books picked up off of bookstore shelves these days.
As I read along, I also noticed that the story does not allow the reader to skim. Eliot builds her story slowly, and she throws facts and information that you need to piece things together into random paragraphs. This also made me realize how predictable and easy it is to read the modern novel. Modern authors write in such a way as to allow the reader to skim for basic information; you can skim and miss nothing. I wasn't sure how I felt about having to exert so much energy over this story, but in the end I found myself an even more satisfied reader for having to work for my entertainment. I do not mean to say that Daniel Deronda is difficult to comprehend and follow along with. It's actually very easy to track with, you just have to pay attention. In other words, this isn't a "lazy read."
My favorite character in the book was Gwendolyn which is also something of a surprise to me (and probably, too, if you know me!). Despite the fact that Gwendolyn was a snobby brat, she had the most fire in her which always left me wondering what she would say or do next. To be sure, she is not a boring woman! (A stupid one? Yes. But not boring.) I liked her interactions with everyone, with the exception of Daniel Deronda himself. I actually didn't care for him very much at all. I found him to be too perfect and very predictable. The way that Gwendolyn came to rely on Deronda for advice and emotional support in the end was rather grotesque to me. I was totally turned off by Gwendolyn's weakness in throwing herself at Deronda in hopes that he would somehow rescue her from her troubles. She lost all sense of pride by the end of the book. On the whole, I much preferred the beginning of the story to the end.
I could see that one of the novelties of this particular piece of literature is in Eliot's focus on the Jewish race and the prejudices against them. I didn't research her reasons why she focused on this either before or after my reading this book. I have an inkling that there'll be another book blogger who read along and who will tackle the subject of race and prejudice, so I'll move along in listing my impressions, pausing only to say that I understand it to be a huge part of the book but not a huge point of interest for me, personally. (Note: that is not to say that I didn't find the treatment of the Jews a bit shocking. But real life history itself has already conditioned me to understand that the Jews have been heavily persecuted and so I didn't glean a whole lot from Eliot's writing on the subject.)
As I say, on the whole I really liked Daniel Deronda. I was never bored in the reading of it. I found it fulfilling and satisfying and I'm glad that Heather picked it! I've never read an Eliot but I will plan to read one again some day!