Today, I bring you my review of "Gwendolen". I read it for the Historical Novel Society back in November of 2014. I'm a big fan of Daniel Deronda so when I saw this novel on the review list, I eagerly snatched it up.
Gwendolen is a retelling of George Eliot’s classic Victorian novel Daniel Deronda and finally gives a clear voice to its ill-starred heroine. The novel is told in Gwendolen’s perspective, her story unfolds from the space of the many years since Deronda forsook her for another woman.
George Eliot’s portrayal of Gwendolen is of a juvenile egoist who ultimately redeems herself at the end of the novel. Gwendolen seeks to give a deeper understanding to the flighty, sharp, and wholly self-absorbed girl and does so with sympathy and clarity. Gwendolen’s redeeming quality is her own self-loathing; she knows she is a bad person who will be punished for her misdeeds. She resigned to this fate but eventually determined to become a better person for it. The only caveat in her portrayal is her rather quick assertion that she loves Daniel; it is clear that Gwendolen does not have a large capacity for love, and so the love-at-first-sight trope is difficult to digest. However, Gwendolen is a fascinating literary novel that attempts to breathe humanity into one of literature’s maligned heroines.
I definitely recommend this novel if you're a fan of 19th century literature or modern literary fiction.