Review by Choice Review
Barrett adds, with penetrating intelligence and clear voice, to the recent scholarship that seeks to rediscover the "other" George Eliot. Starting with the disparity between the prevailing opinion of Eliot's conservatism (lauded by the right and deplored by the left) and her own reaction to the novels, Barrett attempts to rescue Eliot from the stereotype of Victorian sibyl and moral guide. Like Jennifer Uglow (George Eliot, CH, Feb '88), whose biography Barrett's book effectively complements, she looks beyond the conservative image projected by the successful Marian Evans late in her career, contrasting that public figure with the much more radical George Eliot of the novels. She locates that radicalism in the ambiguity of the narrative voice, in the monumentality of key female characters like Maggie Tulliver, Romola, Mrs. Transome, and Gwendolyn Harleth, and in the openness of the novels,"a pleasure sustained and heightened by the constant and ultimate deferral of a solution." One fine example of the way Barrett reads Eliot is her highly provocative, sympathetic view of Hetty vis-a-vis Dinah in Adam Bede. A fine closing essay raises some key issues concerning the state and future of feminist criticism. Highly recommended for advanced undergraduates and up. -S. F. Klepetar, St. Cloud State University
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