Contrasted with Felix Holt is the intelligent, economically secure Harold Transome, just returned from the East to assume responsibility for Transome Court, his inherited manor home, and to take a seat in Parliament.
Both men vie for the hand of Esther, a young woman of charm and virtue, who must choose between a life of idealism and a life of refinement.
The narrative is enhanced by plot twists involving illegitimacy and lines of inheritances, as well as by Eliot's vivid character studies, including the corrupt political agent Johnson; Harold Transome's mother, with her fears of a secret being revealed; and the loyal servant Denner.
"George Eliot's work places great importance on setting...much background is provided to make the 19th-century love triangle come alive. Narrator Nadia May fills the listener in with brisk, breathless cadences, breezing through the lengthy descriptions like a lovable neighborhood gossip. Her crisp accent, pauses between sentences, and mastery of tone help the listener understand the predicament of Esther Lyon....As she reads the text, May seems to be enjoying it herself, which enables the listener to do the same." (AudioFile)
Felix is not a five, but better than a four. I found Eliot's Middlemarsh, Daniel Deronda, and Adam Bede to be more satisfying reads all round. Like Adam Bede, Felix Holt starts with a great deal of exposition that might put off some listeners --but If you like 19th century British lit and/or social history - or even engaging characters and action in "historical fiction" this (once you are past the opening exposition), is very satisfying. I think it much stronger as a novel and more engaging than Bronte's Shirley, for ex.
If you are new to Eliot, then think Austen meets all the Bronte sisters with a touch of Dickens, and a good bit more implicit feminism.
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Although there’s an insanely complicated legal situation at the heart of this novel, I found it to be one of Eliot’s more agreeable and rewarding works. All characters (except the truly worst) are treated with a broad and humane sympathy, and there are touches of humor - something that her novels often lack. Despite the title, Felix Holt is not the most interesting character in the book. That would have to be Esther, daughter of the local curate, and someone who begins with a shallow love of appearances and ends with love and courage - and a delightful sense of flirtatiousness.
As always, Nadia May gives a sterling performance.
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I listened to this book after thoroughly enjoying Middlemarch and I am not so enthusiastic about this. There is still Eliot's enjoyable humour and her fantastic descriptions of nineteenth century life.
However, my main problem was that I did not like Felix Holt or Harold Transome. Part of me is glad about this but at other times I found it hard to engage with these characters. We were promised so much mystery surrounding Harold that was never delivered upon.
The story is set around the Reform Act of 1832 and the book is a great way of looking at social tensions around at that time however, some, like me, may find that there is a little too much detail on this front.
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