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Sybil, or The Two Nations

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3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  379 ratings  ·  26 reviews
The social and financial problems of class-ridden Victorian England are depicted vividly and, against this background, the romance of the aristocratic Egremont and Sybil, the daughter of a poor Chartist leader, develops.
Paperback, 537 pages
Published May 29th 1980 by Penguin Classics (first published 1845)
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Community Reviews

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Bob
Disraeli is very much the bête noire of Gladstone's biography, but I thought reading one of his novels would provide more fun and interesting insight than adding yet another unfinished biography to my list.
One of Disraeli's oft-commented upon "qualifications" for office was his ability to flatter Queen Victoria - the rapturous description in here of the Virgin Queen's ascent to the throne amidst tweeting birds is pretty amusing. As literature, Disraeli's novels have been challenged by the test o
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Lobstergirl

Rather well done historical fiction, blending actual events like Chartist riots and Parliamentary intrigues with social commentary about the aristocracy versus the working class, with nicely-done satirical sketches of fictional asshole aristocrats. Where I would fault Disraeli (although no more than a lot of other writers of his era) is on the romance. The heroine, Sybil, is perfect in every way; the heart of an angel, a seraphic singer, beautiful, plus like many a Victorian heroine though she i
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B
Disraeli definitely had an agenda with this book. Yes, he was very political in his life so why wouldn’t we expect his novels to reflect that? The difficulty with him is the following:

a) He is trying to explain an entire movement in the Victorian period: the struggle for the rights of the working class. To encapsulate this in around 400 pages is extremely difficult to do. Thus, Disraeli introduces A LOT of characters that randomly show up one in every 20 chapters. Confusing? Fuck yes.
b) He has t
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Fred
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susannah Sanford mcdaniel
The story part of the novel was reasonably predictable: the girl is perfect in every way, the male lead falls in love, male makes mistake, takes time for the girl to forgive, boy makes grand gesture, girl is not convinced, boy makes bigger gesture and waits, everyone ends up with plenty of money and married and happy...despite a tragedy or two.

Ah, victorian novels. Everyone ends up with married with money and the heroine always faints at least once in a difficult situation. If you're luck, a st
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Liz
I was expecting a political book, and I got one. The writing style might not be the greatest, and there were tendencies to melodrama. But this is a Victorian novel after all. Certainly, events were condensed and time-lines/scenes jumped around a bit, taking me a little time to acclimatise between chapters at first. However, once I understood Disraeli's style of writing, I settled in to the story, events and characters and read with ease.
This is a subject which I really find interesting, but I s
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Devon Flaherty
The first thing I need to say about this book is about the particular edition that I read (published by International Alliance Pro-Publishing, not pictured), not about the book itself. But very quickly (I’m on the fourth book of my 1000-plus) I have learned another lesson. And here it is: Do NOT fall for the POD (print-on-demand) versions of public domain books. Now, we all know I love POD as much as the next guy, although largely for self-publishing authors trying to break into the field or cla ...more
Simon
Taken for what it isn't; for example it isn't a sympathetic account of Chartism; Sybil is not a great book. It tries to champion the idea that if the working classes could only acknowledge their inferiority to the aristocracy then the aristocracy might then reward this act of deference by looking after the great unwashed a little better. This alliance presumably would be "one nation politics". Good luck Ed Milliband!

Taken as a fascinating insight into a developing political mind, or a critique o
...more
Tanya
I really tried to read this book and I hope one day to finish it but I found it quite difficult. The story was constantly being interrupted by long passages if historical political inferences that were hard to follow and understand. There were so many names and changes in alliances. I gave up but will attempt again one day
Chris Irvine
Very much 'of its time' but a good read for all that. The interjections of political or social commentary are interesting if you enjoy politics or political or social history. the desciption of Wodgate seems to be a mix of Wednesfield (now part of Wolverhampton) and Willenhall (now part of Walsall). Any ideas for Mowbray?
It is a sadly accurate account of these places and people at that time and may be drawing on the Parliamentary Commissioners report into the Employment of Children published a
...more
Catherine Siemann
I have really mixed feelings about this book: on the one hand, how fascinating to read a political novel by an actual politician, who's writing not in his retirement, but as a way of putting across his political platform. On the other hand, his platform, which involves the natural alliance between the working classes and the aristocracy, is idiosyncratic, to say the least. Moreover, Disraeli seems never to have actually met a member of the working classes. There's satire, which is biting and rat ...more
Darcy
Overt political propaganda and really good fiction rarely mix well. If you are really curious about working class issues and politics during the Victorian period than this book would prove an invaluable resource. Be prepared to look things up though -- political figures, bills, etc. It was written towards a particular audience and for a particular time. If you are looking for a great Victorian novel (you know, the kind you want to be a part of), be advised that Sybil is neither a good piece of f ...more
russell barnes
Novelist and Prime Minister? Wowzers, but Sybil only hints at the breadth of Disraeli's talent.

Heavily laced with an almost imepentrable political diatribe (particularly in Book One), this tale of a romance bridging social boundaries gets lost in a staccato delivery where time shifts and skips between chapters and books, and characters reappear seemingly at random.

I liked it, but the bones of the story are too often overwhelmed by political detail, and confused by the shifting points of focus.
Isobel
Read for reference. Predictable but plot resolution in the 10 final pages!
Deanne
Can understand where Disraeli was coming from with this book, there's lots of politics and a love story thrown in. A chance to introduce the middle and upper classes to the plight of the poor working classes.
It's something I've read before set in another country and by another author, and done better by the likes of Balzac or Zola. However Disraeli was prime minister in Victoria's time, and an interesting historical figure.
Haythem Bastawy
Sybil is important for two reasons: as an early publication of the politician who made Britain an empire and as a representation of the sharp divide between 'the two nations' of rich and poor Victorian Britain. It is a tedious work however, one to endure rather than enjoy.
Diane
This novel tells the love story between a working class young woman (whose father is a militant Chartist) and a young noble man. Although it is long, and a little slow reading, the book is very well written, and the characters are interesting and engaging. It is particularly interesting to note that the author is a former British prime minister.
Spencer
Sybil is historical fiction. It covers the growing disparity of the 1860s English two-class society. It's essentially a story about the "haves" and the "have nots". It's also part of a trilogy and I will not read the other two. Benjamin Disraeli was a great statesman, but only a mediocre novelist.
Ashley
If you want something to put you to sleep, the by all means enjoy! I felt my eyes drifting off the page, reading word by word, rather than sentence by sentence. It was so boring! I couldn't focus on it at all. DESPISED this book! My eyes are still burning from trying to keep them open to finish...
Joseph
The first "goth" (not gothic) novel, about a girl who mourns for an idyllic, imaginary past, and the people she inspires.
K.
This would have been a nice story if one could get past all the politics. Yikes. Slow reading. I had such high hopes.
Mattie
Apr 26, 2008 Mattie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Betsy, Nina
I am very impressed that a politician could write and a Victorian man could develop such a strong female protagonist.
Chris
disraeli doesn't do anything dickens can't do better.
David
Her majesty's PM Benjamin Disraeli show's what lead up to a situation much like the one we find ourselves in
Jennifer
Interesting to read something that was written almost 200 years ago and caused such controversy back then.
Mathew
Mathew marked it as to-read
Dec 27, 2014
J.
J. marked it as to-read
Dec 26, 2014
Joyce Huff
Joyce Huff marked it as to-read
Dec 26, 2014
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One of the great British politicians of the nineteenth century, Disraeli served twice as Tory Prime Minister (1868 and 1874 - 1880) and was also a prominent figure in opposition. He is most famous today for the bitter hatred between himself and his political rival William Gladstone. He enjoyed the favour of Queen Victoria, who shared his dislike of Gladstone. His most significant political achieve ...more
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“The poor are very well off, at least the agricultural poor, very well off indeed. Their incomes are certain, that is a great point, and they have no cares, no anxieties; they always have a resource, they always have the House. People without cares do not require as much food as those whose life entails anxieties. See how long they live!” 1 likes
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