, by George Eliot
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George Eliot’s last, most ambitious novel, Daniel Deronda aroused scandal when it first appeared in 1876. What begins as a passionate love story takes a surprising turn into the hidden world of the early Zionist movement in Victorian England.
The story opens memorably at a roulette table, where we first meet the young and idealistic Daniel Deronda and the enchanting Gwendolen Harleth--whom many critics consider to be George Eliot’s finest creation. Although the two are immediately drawn to one another, Gwendolen--outwardly alluring and vivacious, inwardly complex and unsettled--is forced by circumstance into an oppressive marriage with the harsh aristocratic Henleigh Grandcourt.
Deeply unhappy, she turns for friendship to Daniel, only to discover his involvement with Mirah Lapidoth, a talented young Jewish woman. Torn between his devotion to Gwendolen and his passion for Mirah and the plight of her people, Daniel is forced to look at his own mysterious past and find out who he really is--and who he wants to become.
Earl L. Dachslager is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Houston and an adjunct professor in the University’s Distant Education Program. He received his Ph.D. in English from the University of Maryland. He reviews books regularly for the Houston Chronicle.