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Sybil, or The Two Nations

3.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  586 Ratings  ·  39 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

(showing 1-30 of 2,361)
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Feb 27, 2009 Bob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, fiction

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
Sep 24, 2015 Peter rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Benjamin Disraeli was a politician. He had Queen Victoria's approval, or perhaps, more accurately, Victoria really disliked Gladstone. In any case, one can either enjoy or disapprove of his politics, but it is difficult to warm up to his abilities as a novelist.

Sybil is first and foremost a political novel; it does offer character, and the fundamentals of a plot, but when you sift out the thin literary bits, you are left with large chunks of politics. It is interesting to see how Disraeli portra
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
Nov 01, 2012 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Nov 02, 2013 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie Lumsden
Feb 18, 2016 Katie Lumsden rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More like 3.75 stars. A really interesting read and another great Victorian novel. Some of the social commentary is a little heavy-handed and it's not a patch on Gaskell as industrial novels go, but an interesting plot and an enjoyable read :)
Paul Taylor
A unusual "mongrel" of a book with echoes of Dickens, Austen and Hansard. Is it a love story, is it a social commentary or is it a description of the evolution of Parliamentary democracy? It tries to be all three.
Peter Ellwood
It’s a funny little novel. Imagine a serving prime minister sitting down to write a novel, and you’d probably conjure up with something pretty much like this offering.

Great novelist Disraeli most certainly ain’t. His prose occasionally borders on the insane. It’s not all as clunky and awful as the extract which follows, to be sure. But imagine a piece of writing which includes:
“the well-shaped mouth, firm and yet benignant, betokened the celestial soul that habited that gracious frame”.
G.D. Master
Jun 06, 2015 G.D. Master rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Academics, fans of British politics, industrial novels, and Victorian literature
“Sybil, or The Two Nations,” a novel by Benjamin Disraeli, is a work of Victorian fiction set at the transition of the British economy from the feudal era to the industrial revolution. Benjamin Disraeli was a complex figure in British society, having religious and political aspirations along with being an incredibly intelligent man; he wrote some the most sophisticated literature ever attempted. He sets up Sybil in his beginning chapters with a fictional account of Charles Egremont’s lineage fro ...more
Ryan Quade
Mar 02, 2015 Ryan Quade rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Epic Book. The symbolism and allegories are awesome. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to learn more about the origin of the English Political System, or the Chartist revolution. Disraeli masterfully portrayed the sufferings of the English poor in early Victorian England while juxtaposing it with the frivolities of the privileged class. Again, definitely a good read.
Nov 23, 2014 Fred rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Devon Flaherty
Jun 06, 2013 Devon Flaherty rated it it was ok
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
Richard Epstein
There are writers whom it is more fun to read about than it is to read. Disraeli ranks high among them, perhaps because he was a statesman* by nature, an author by accident and financial necessity. There are some good things in Sybil, but if you read a good book about Disraeli, you'll encounter most of them, without having to force your way through the rest.

*i.e., politician
Jun 17, 2015 Colin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting book, full of idiosyncrasies. An attack on the establishment, a promotion of Catholicism, a revelation of the downtrodden nature of the working man (and not too much about women), a view of the ruling classes and parliamentarians. All piled in with a plot that jumps about in place and time, and some difficult language to follow, but very readable and quite difficult to put down. Deserving of its reputation, but I'm not entirely sure why.
Sep 09, 2014 Tanya rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: didn-t-finish
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
Nov 16, 2010 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Chloe Coulson
This is not great literature, but it does give an insight into a turbulent period in British history, and into the mind of one of our best known politicians. Disraeli's views of the monarchy and of the church challenged my preconceptions; whilst his obvious sympathy for the poor and downtrodden reminded me that compassionate Conservatism was once a real phenomenon and not just a catchy slogan.
Catherine Siemann
Jun 18, 2010 Catherine Siemann rated it liked it
Shelves: victorians
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
Jan 26, 2016 Patrizia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Non si può dire che Disraeli si sia molto preoccupato di dare plausibilità al suo plot. Ma la storia è avvincente, l'ambientazione suggestiva e i personaggi affascinanti...
Mar 04, 2010 Darcy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 25, 2016 SASKIA rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
russell barnes
Sep 04, 2008 russell barnes rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
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.
Mar 27, 2014 Isobel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Read for reference. Predictable but plot resolution in the 10 final pages!
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.
Aug 14, 2008 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Richard Thomas
Jun 02, 2015 Richard Thomas rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I read this at school as part of the history course on early Victorian politics and especially the Chartists. I managed to finish it and I suppose the marvel was that a politician could find time to write such a tome. It is very much a curate's egg of a book and a great deal can be skimmed without losing the plot.
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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!” 3 likes
“Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other's habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws . . . . THE RICH AND THE POOR.” 0 likes
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