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The World Before Herby Deborah Weisgall
Synopses & Reviews
A stunning novel about two women and two marriages — George Eliot at the end of her life, and another woman a century later.
The year is 1880 and the setting is Venice. Marian Evans — whose novels under the pen name George Eliot have placed her among the famed Englishwomen of her time — has come to this enchanted city on her honeymoon. Newly married to John Cross, twenty years her junior, she hopes to put her guilt to rest. Marian lived, unmarried, with George Henry Lewes for twenty-five years, until his death. She took a tremendous risk and paid a high price for that illicit union, but she also achieved happiness and created art. Now she wants to love again. In this new marriage, in this romantic place, can this writer give herself the happy ending that she provided for Middlemarchs Dorothea Brooke?
The parallel story of a sculptor named Caroline Spingold brings us to Venice one hundred years later, in 1980. Carolines powerful, wealthy older husband has brought her to the city against her will, to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. Having spent a perfect childhood summer in Venice with her parents, before her father left her mother, Caroline had vowed never to return.
In alternating chapters linked by the themes of art, love, and marriage, The World Before Her tells of these two women — and their surprising similarities. In a city where the canals reflect memory as much as light, they both confront desire, and each assesses what she has and who she is. At the heart of this sumptuously and evocatively written novel lies the eternal dilemma of how to find love and sustain it, without losing ones self.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Marian Evans—who writes under the pen name George Eliot—has come to Venice on her honeymoon. It is 1880 and she is newly married to John Cross, twenty years her junior. She has come to this city of canals and bridges to start again, to forget the death of her longtime partner, George Henry Lewes—with whom she shared twenty five years of happiness and art. In this new marriage, in this intensely romantic place, can she give herself the happy ending that she provided for Middlemarchs Dorothea Brooke?
A century later, sculptor Caroline Spingold takes us to Venice again. Scarred by her fathers abandonment just after she and her parents spent a summer in the city, Caroline vowed never to return. But now her powerful, wealthy older husband has brought her back against her will, to celebrate their tenth anniversary.
Told in alternating chapters subtly linked by themes of art, love, and the challenges of marriage, The World Before Her tells of two women, their surprising similarities, and the reckoning Venice will force them to make with their desire, their memories, and their very selves.
About the Author
Deborah Weisgall has written extensively about the arts - painting, music, performance - for the New York Times, the Atlantic, Esquire, Connoisseur, and The New Yorker. She is the author of the novel, Still Point, and the family memoir, A Joyful Noise. Weisgall lives with her husband and daughter in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
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