Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Honeymoon: A Novel by Dinitia Smith

(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Based on the life of George Eliot, famed author of Middlemarch, this captivating account of Eliot’s passions and tribulations explores the nature of love in its many guises

Dinitia Smith’s spellbinding novel recounts George Eliot’s honeymoon in Venice in June 1880 following her marriage to a handsome young man twenty years her junior. When she agreed to marry John Walter Cross, Eliot was recovering from the death of George Henry Lewes, her beloved companion of twenty-six years. Eliot was bereft: left at the age of sixty to contemplate profound questions about her physical decline, her fading appeal, and the prospect of loneliness.

In her youth, Mary Ann Evans—who would later be known as George Eliot—was a country girl, considered too plain to marry, so she educated herself in order to secure a livelihood. In an era when female novelists were objects of wonder, she became the most famous writer of her day—with a male nom de plume. The Honeymoon explores different kinds of love, and of the possibilities of redemption and happiness even in an imperfect union. Smith integrates historical truth with her own rich rendition of Eliot’s inner voice, crafting a page-turner that is as intelligent as it is gripping.

my thoughts:

I've never read George Eliot's writing, and yet I was eager to read a story about her life.  Is that weird? Maybe not. I just find that I was more interested in learning about her, than I was in reading her writing - until now.  After having just finished The Honeymoon by Dinitia Smith, I am now obsessed with reading all of Eliot's works.  I can't help it. I've fallen in love with her through this wonderful fictionalized version of her life - the history, the relationship, the writer - all of it has captured my heart and imagination.  And now, I can't wait to dive into her books and Dinitia Smith's books.

The Honeymoon captures a specific period in Eliot's life - the last few months of her life, when she's honeymooning with her new husband, John Walter Cross.  She's sixty, he's twenty years younger than her, and she's grieving the loss of her beloved companion, George Henry Lewes.  What's a woman to do?  Especially at that age, when questions about aging, loneliness, and the future loom rather largely all of a sudden.  Smith explores Eliot's frame of mind through this fictionalized account of her honeymoon - inventing encounters with fellow authors, aggressive gondoliers, etc.  She also weaves a detailed account of the author's personal history throughout the story, which I found to be extremely fascinating.  Marian Evans (aka George Eliot) was quite the intellect, who penned several classics (Middlemarch, Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, and Daniel Deronda to name a few), and wound up being rather famous (she wore a lace mantilla to cover her face so that no one would recognize her!).  I loved getting to know her through Smith's perspective - she seemed to really capture the essence of Eliot.  And she's made me want to reach for one of her books ASAP.

All in all, The Honeymoon wound up being one of favorite reads this year.  The writing was superb, the history was richly detailed, and learning about Eliot was such a treat.  I think this book is a must-read for fans of George Eliot - you are going to LOVE this story!!  And if you are a fan of historical fiction with a memoir-ish bent, then you will definitely enjoy this book.  I would happily recommend it to anyone looking for their next great read.

And now, I'm off to find a copy of Middlemarch.  Happy reading and Happy Holidays!!


Lark said...

I'm such a fan of George Eliot and her novels. Especially Middlemarch. Which makes me want to read this novel even more. Thanks for another great review, Nadia! I'm adding this one to my Christmas list. :D

Nadia said...

Lark, that's good to know :) Now, I'm excited to read Middlemarch. Yes, read it! I think you'll enjoy it. Thanks, Lark! Happy Holidays!!

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What an exquisite book. I love how the author describes in detail how George Eliot researches, then writes each one of her books. I felt such empathy with Eliot and her need for love and her generous and caring nature. I never wanted it to end.