The world before her /

A stunning novel set in Venice about two women and two marriages--George Eliot at the end of her life, and a sculptor named Catherine Spingold a century later.

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Main Author: Weisgall, Deborah.
Format: Book
Published:Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2008.
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Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Two women in Venice, separated by a century, search for love and identity in the latest from novelist (Still Point) and memoirist (A Joyful Noise) Weisgall. It opens as Marian Evans--aka Mary Ann Evans, aka the novelist George Eliot (1819-1880)--is on her 1880 honeymoon in Venice with Johnnie Cross, who is 20 years her junior. Evans is trying, after a long and scandalous love affair with fellow author George Lewes, to have a normal marriage. One hundred years later, in the same city, Caroline Spingold travels with her husband, Malcolm, on his business trip aimed at revitalizing the Venetian economy. Caroline is a sculptor with a childhood history in Venice, financially supported by Malcolm, who is 20 years her senior. Malcolm does not share many of Caroline's perceptions, and she grows increasingly weary of her stale marriage. Weisgall shares the stories of Marian and Caroline in alternating chapters, sensitively developing their similarities in artistic and sexual ambition. Both face the deaths of men from their pasts, making love to their memories while their current partners struggle to beautify their lives and aid them in their work. Weisgall's well-researched historical fiction is dense, romantic and provocative. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

In her second novel (Still Point, 1990), Weisgall contrasts the marital predicaments of two women (one famous, one invented) living a century apart. The great English novelist Marian Evans Lewes wrote under the pseudonym George Eliot; the love of her life was a fellow author, her common-law husband George Lewes. After his death she married a family friend and businessman, John Cross. Weisgall begins with their disastrous honeymoon in Venice in 1880. Marian, now 60, 20 years older than her Johnnie, craves a physical relationship, which he abhors: "[S]he had mistaken Johnnie's passionate solicitousness for passion itself." The stress causes her new husband to jump into a canal in a possible suicide bid, but he is quickly rescued. It's the most dramatic moment of their lives together. Marian soon realizes she will have to settle for companionship. The two return to England, but by the end of the year she's dead. Weisgall embellishes Marian's story with frequent flashbacks, some of them well done, making Marian's short-lived marriage seem a paltry thing. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, Weisgall tells the story of Caroline Spingold, a woman living in 1980 who's on vacation in Venice. The 33-year-old Caroline has been married for ten years to Malcolm, who is 20 years her senior. The controlling, filthy rich investment whiz snatched up the young sculpture student, and Caroline for a time enjoyed the money and protectiveness he offered. But now, coming into her own as a sculptor, she's feeling restless, resenting Malcolm's domination. The story is cluttered with minor characters and the language is only a cut above something found in a run-of-the-mill romance. There are frequent echoes of the other story (Malcolm, too, will fall into the water) and one huge difference: Caroline, a liberated 20th-century woman, can decide whether and when to end her marriage. A misguided concept. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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