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Felix Holt, the Radical

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,576 Ratings  ·  74 Reviews
Two men vying for the hand of Esther, a young woman of charm and virtue, are Felix Holt, an idealistic young artisan, and Harold Transome, the intelligent heir to an estate. She is drawn to Holt yet has dreams of marrying into a life of refinement.
Paperback, The Penguin English Library, 677 pages
Published 1984 by Penguin Books (first published 1866)
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Scriptor Senex
Jul 25, 2008 Scriptor Senex rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I commented in relation to John Updike’s ‘Terrorist’ that a sentence of 157 words was the nail in its coffin. I noticed while reading ‘Felix Holt’ that there were four consecutive sentences of 78, 13, 100, and 64 words. The difference is that in 1866 George Eliot wrote perfect prose, properly punctuated and capable of being understood and enjoyed despite the sentence length. The whole book is a clever, frank portrayal of the 1832 election when England ( I use the specific advisedly) was in the m ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Ugh. Double Ugh. I struggled with this almost from the beginning and, frankly, wish I'd abandoned it before I got far enough that I felt I had too much invested in it to do so. Eliot kept going off on tangents. Sometimes my mind would wander and I'd read passages again, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything. And I hadn't. Not all of the tangents were of the religious nor even the political sort. The below was more understandable than many, but gives you a glimpse. Keep in mind that not one ...more
Ben Babcock
I make no secret of the fact that I think George Eliot is a literary badass, and Felix Holt: The Radical is just the latest example of these well-deserved credentials. This is essentially a political and legal thriller set in 1832 England on the cusp of the passage of the First Reform Act. (Among other things, the Reform Acts of the 1800s redefined the electoral districts for the English Parliament and expanded the franchise ever so slightly.) The sleepy English town of Treby finds itself the ce ...more
Jun 09, 2016 Issicratea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed, 1800-1900
Felix Holt (1866) is not the best-loved of George Eliot’s novels, and in some ways it’s easy to see why. The male protagonist, the earnest idealist Felix Holt, is too idealized himself to be a truly compelling character, and the tale of his moral “conversion” of the beautiful and worldly Esther Lyon may be a little too pious and pedagogical for most modern readers. The plot has its creaks as well, rather, sometimes lurching perilously close to the model of the Victorian sensation novel à la Wilk ...more
Jun 15, 2007 adam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Felix Holt: The Radical is one of Eliot's finer works and a great 19c. novel. In many ways, it's a shorter and much more readable version of Middlemarch , and, being the book which directly precedes it, can be read as its predecessor. In F.H., Eliot explores her constant concern: the tensions between the intricate and overpowering contingencies of historical circumstance which influence and determine human action and the innate spirit of sympathy and virtue that struggles to transcend those c ...more
Adelaide Mcginnity
My favorite George Eliot book is Silas Marner, a book a hold in such high regard that every Eliot I have read since then has always been a slight disappointment to me by failing to be like Silas. That does not mean I didn't like them - indeed, The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch are both excellent books that I recommend to everyone. But they are simply not at all like Silas Marner.

In Felix Holt, I think I finally found an Eliot that recapture some of that beauty and aesthetic that I so loved i
Lene Jaqua
Jul 25, 2015 Lene Jaqua rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Felix Holt kept my attention. It was an enjoyable book with an engaging plot, however, given that it is authored by Georg Eliot, I would say that it is not as engaging or unique as Silas Marner, nor as complex and thought out as the multiplot-lined Middlemarch.

Some common themes that show up in other Eliot books as well is the dissenting Protestants, the restless female who is not content to be flirtatious and pretty, as well as the giving up of wealth and rank in order to gain a more meaningful
Jan 08, 2011 Carmen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first book I have finished in 2011 is a classic written by the estimable George Eliot, whose novel Middlemarch I fell completely in love with. I found Felix Holt to be an inferior work, but still entertaining and quite gripping toward the end of the book. The Transome estate is in neglect when we first enter the scene, and the stately lady of the house is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her second-born son who has recently become the inheritor of everything. Lady Transome has many high hopes ...more
Joyce M. Tice
Purchased Jan 2006
April 9, This is dragging, but I am determined. At least 2/3 done and plugging on.
April 10 - I dragged myself to page 261 and resolved that I could not go further. I made one last attempt and, voila, finally all the long pages of stage setting started to produce something interesting. I may be able to finish this after all. Volumes One and Two set things up and it looks as though Volume Three finally will get to the point.
April 11 - Done - at last. I really like Eliot's plots
Stephen Brody
Aug 04, 2015 Stephen Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Now this was a pleasant surprise: a novel I’d somehow overlooked reading before even though it’s been on the shelf for decades and in which every word is a perfect delight and I could almost say an education. With George Elliot’s characteristic perspicacity, common good sense and scrupulous fair-mindedness it’s also what I’ve just seen someone (not without approval) describe as “bitchy”. That’s not quite the right word, unless one means wryly incisive and to-the-point and therefore often terribl ...more
Emma Flaherty
Apr 10, 2016 Emma Flaherty rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
Felix Holt: The Radical was assigned reading for my British History course and I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. My only other experience with Victorian novels prior to Eliot's came from select Jane Austen novels. Needless to say, Eliot has a very different writing style than Austen.

I loved how sympathetic Eliot's characters were. I felt for all of them -- even those like Harold that I loved to hate -- and in a book with as many minor characters as Felix Holt , that feels like quit
Mar 07, 2016 Neil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"The thorn-bushes there, and the thick-backed stems, have human histories hidden in them, the power of unuttered cries dwells in the passionless-seeming branches, and the red warm blood is darkly feeding the quivering nerves of a sleepless memory that watches through all dreams."
These dreams are a parable.
May 28, 2007 Maisie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who would think that 1830's English politics could be so riveting? Seriously, it may start off slow, but this is one of my favorites of Eliot's (after Middlemarch, of course).
Oct 05, 2013 Julia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think Esther made the wrong choice.
Mar 30, 2012 Bryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read Felix Holt about 15 years ago, and it didn't catch me as much as other, more popular novels by Eliot. Having just re-read it, I now understand why.

This is a novel that depends on an understanding of the political state of the UK in I think the 1830s. On first reading, I just didn't have the insight to make any sense of some of the motives and events. Going back armed with a few ideas about the history of political reform, I experienced the book in a very different way, getting far m
Jan 10, 2012 Virginia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel found George Eliot returning to her more accustomed themes and settings after her historical melodramatic romance Romola met with little public success. While Felix Holt again deals with a small rural community forced to deal with modern changes, with characters representative of different strands of tradition and innovation, the story lacks the passion and drive of Eliot's other novels such as Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda, and Adam Bede.

A resolutely sensible and sometimes plodding no
Apr 11, 2014 Pgchuis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This involved the run up to an election after the first Reform Act and the rioting on election day. Interestingly the rector's response to the unrest is literally to "read the Riot Act".

Some of the chapters about Mr Lyon, the dissenting minister were a bit tiresome although the storyline about his proposed debate with the curate who ran away was funny. Mrs Holt was good value. I understand Mrs Transome's character is generally thought to be interesting, but I found her a bit one-dimensional: al
Aug 22, 2007 Laura marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I can't wait to read this book, and I'm not ashamed to admit that my excitement has as much to do with the particular edition as with the plot! Emily just returned from Charleston, South Carolina where she found this gorgeous gold-guilt, red leather and red marble-paper bound edition from the late 1800s! The best part: my latest copy of the periodical Victorian Studies (49.1) arrived today as well, and the front cover bears one of the illustrations from this copy of Felix Holt! Thanks a bunch Em ...more
May 14, 2012 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Felix Holt is a surprising triumph for Eliot. For the first time, she engages fully with some of the deeper socio-political issues of her day and age. The plot is almost Dickensian in the amount of intrigue, scandal, and romance, which is a good thing for the sometimes achingly slow Eliot. Despite the (comparatively) racing plot, it is the emotional and psychological moments of the novel that are the strongest. Lady Transome is the best character I've read from Eliot yet. Felix Holt gets passed ...more
Paula Dembeck
This book marks another step on my journey to try to read as many of the classics as I can. I have to intersperse these selections with more recent novels as the older writing styles often seem long and ponderous. That may be due to the fact that authors were once paid by the number of pages they wrote, encouraging them to meander and elongate a story line. Today the opposite is true, when faster moving plots and succinct writing styles are the norm.

This novel takes place in the sleepy village
Jun 01, 2016 Piers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: eliot
No spoilers:
Set in the years following the political reforms of 1832 and 1867, Felix Holt reveals the tensions that radical politics - those that argued for the extension of the working class franchise - forced upon more traditional English aristocratic politics, but it is really much more than this. Although it's often referred to as Eliot's 'political novel', the focus of the story is the Esther, and the romantic choices she will make. As is the case in all of Eliot's novels I've read to date,
David Jacobson
After reading Middlemarch, which I considered to be one of the best books I have ever read, I was of course eager to read more by George Eliot. By the chance of finding this book at a discount book sale, I turned next to Felix Holt and not to a better-known work like Daniel Deronda.

That which I so loved in Middlemarch is here too in abundance: a cast of characters who think deeply about their lives. While there is more plot in Felix Holt than in that more famous work, this is still first and for
Jun 20, 2016 Richard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
If Middlemarch did not exist, Felix Holt might be the most powerful proof of George Eliot's status as one of the finest English writers. As that masterpiece does exist - and it is surely possible to make the case that the writer of such a novel deserves to be considered as the greatest British novelist of her age - this earlier book is probably destined to remain in the shadows. I certainly did not expect so much from it - but like its longer successor, Felix Holt is a superb demonstration of El ...more
Shannon Ture
Mar 19, 2015 Shannon Ture rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Soul food

George Eliot is good for my soul. The plot was slow-going at first, but it's worth trudging through for a very fulfilling story and wonderful character development. She is able to capture and even elucidate insights into the human heart, my own heart, in a way that feels satisfying - like eating my favorite comfort dish on a cold, rainy day.
Aug 29, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's Eliot, so of course I loved it. It's not nearly as powerful as Middlemarch or Daniel Deronda, though. It's much more like Adam Bede than any of her other works, though both Adam Bede and Felix Holt at much better than most novels. Definitely worth the read, but if it's your first George Eliot, be sure not to judge her merits by this book alone.
Jun 07, 2014 Katymol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised how easy I found this to read since I remember Middlemarch being a slog. I love her characters. It's only not five stars because I can't quite see why Esther and Felix couldn't do more good if they had kept more money and because the nineteenth century mind is sometimes an uncomfortable place for a twenty first century one to be.
George Eliot is wonderful and I stand in awe of her intellect. I was glued to this book: a moral, social and legal thriller. Many of Eliot's themes are echoed in Hardy eg 'Adam Bede' and 'Tess'. Hers is a portrayal of the working class which is real and honest and loving, not always romanticised. Dec 1998.
Annette Hart
Sep 27, 2009 Annette Hart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
I read this while studying for my 'A'levels. I never thought I would enjoy a politically based novel but I did this - I don't know if that was because I was studying Victorian social history at the time!
Sep 23, 2013 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a very dense book for me, and especially at first I could not get into it. But after the first 20 pages I was hooked! I could relate it to my own life oddly enough! a great read once you get into it!
Jul 13, 2010 Eva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. George Eliot really is a master of her art. I didn't find it at all slow-paced or impenetrable. And I found the main characters admirable, even enlightening.
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In 1819, novelist George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), was born at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favorite of her father's, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. Her first published work was a religious poe ...more
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“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man or woman forever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer—committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear.” 15 likes
“To the receptive soul the river of life pauseth not, nor is diminished.” 2 likes
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