Saturday 12 August 2023

Book Review: Felix Holt: The Radical by George Eliot (Classics)

Title: Felix Holt: The Radical
Author: George Eliot
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Publication Date: 1995 (1866)
Pages: 592
Format: Paperback
Genre: Classics
Source: Bought Copy

When the young nobleman Harold Transome returns to England from the colonies with a self-made fortune, he scandalizes the town of Treby Magna with his decision to stand for Parliament as a Radical. But after the idealistic Felix Holt also returns to the town, the difference between Harold's opportunistic values and Holt's profound beliefs becomes apparent. Forthright, brusque and driven by a firm desire to educate the working-class, Felix is at first viewed with suspicion by many, including the elegant but vain Esther Lyon, the daughter of the local clergyman. As she discovers, however, his blunt words conceal both passion and deep integrity. Soon the romantic and over-refined Esther finds herself overwhelmed by a heart-wrenching decision: whether to choose the wealthy Transome as a husband, or the impoverished but honest Felix Holt.


Felix Holt: The Radical was an interesting read. I certainly didn't dislike it, but being heavy on the law and politics, it wasn't quite as instantly accessible a read as some of Eliot's other works, which is probably why it is not so well known. The characters were engaging, though, and I enjoyed seeing their evolution over the course of the tale, even if I perhaps, as a modern reader, found some of their choices less than compelling. The writing style is standard Eliot, with the usual lengthy sentence structure of works from this period, but nothing overly difficult, and the Penguin edition has notes for any terms or references that won't necessarily be immediately understood by all readers. It's not one of my favourite of Eliot's works, but I still enjoyed it. Therefore I am giving it four stars.

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