Review by Choice Review
This impressive biography focuses on paradoxes: in Eliot's work, ``the underlying drive to avenge wronged womanhood does battle against the overt acceptance that, for women, duty must come before desire''; the novels, which create such admirably realistic worlds, are ``woven through with mystery''; Eliot's public success and the radicalism of her ``marriage'' conflict with her private insecurities. Uglow reads Eliot in light of these contradictions. Writing on Eliot's early life, she links Eliot's friendships and readings to issues later developed in her fiction. Uglow also sheds light on Eliot's ambivalent relationship to the feminism of her day. Uglow's readings, as a whole, build a coherent view of the novels: she sees Eliot's fiction as rejecting ``maxims,'' or ``keys,'' in favor of analyses of ``the complex relationships of power between men and women.'' Uglow argues that Eliot's fiction moves toward, though never realizes, a vision in which traditional female characteristics, like sympathy, are ``brought to bear in the `masculine' spheres of action and judgement. Women need access to education and professional work; men need the freedom to nurture and care.'' Uglow's graceful style makes this lively critical biography a treat. She includes a detailed chronology and a good ``short'' bibliography. Highly recommended for advanced undergraduates and up.-S.F. Klepetar, St. Cloud State University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An elegant and illuminating feminist biography of George Eliot. Eliot has been labeled a conservative by some feminists because of her belief in separate natural spheres for men and woman. Others have rejected her as an elitist who thought only exceptional women like herself could raise themselves above the traditional role of mother and wife. Uglow considers such contemporary objections to Eliot's beliefs with respect, but is never herself dismissive of Eliot's thinking. Uglow argues that Eliot presents women as they are, in all their complexity, and not as they should be. As a biographer, she follows Eliot's lead and ""describes rather than prescribes."" Wisely refraining from a lengthy biographical narrative, she focuses on elements in Eliot's early life--especially her relationship with her father and her brother Isaac--that shaped her ideas about men and women. Uglow's un flashy, intellectually rigorous feminism leads her away from Eliot's ""passionate, emotional side"" and into her mind and works. The readings of key passages in the novels bring together biography, stylistic analysis, psychology, religion, and philosophy, always with grace and frequently with brilliance. Uglow never allows abstractions or ideals to displace the actual texts. The result is a rich exploration of the powerful tensions, in Eliot's own mind and in the minds of her heroines, between the intellect and the heart, imagination and reality, society and the individual, self-sacrifice and self-fulfillment. Intellectual integrity and a real love of the works make this first feminist biography of Eliot truly worthy of its subject. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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