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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,028 ratings  ·  93 reviews
George Eliot’s Romola, writes Robert Kiely in his Introduction, embodies the author’s “wrestling with her own best theories of history and human nature as a creative experiment of the highest order.” Set in Florence in 1492, a time of great political and religious turmoil, Eliot’s novel blends vivid fictional characters with historical figures such as Savonarola, Machiavel...more
Paperback, 656 pages
Published June 10th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1863)
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George Eliot is arguably England’s best 19th Century novelist, and Romola, one of her less read and vastly underrated works, supports the argument. Set in Florence at the very end of the 15th Century, capturing the mood and ambiance of that time and location brilliantly, the novel traces the lives of a host of fascinating characters, the best known being Girolamo Savonarola, that charismatic historical figure, a monk who attempted to transform Florence into a theocracy and whose life ended in fl...more
Some day I'll start a list of History's Most Underrated Great Books, or History's Greatest Underrated Books, and start it off with this. Reading for book club and just finished it last night. After a brutal slog of a first 50 pages (GE wrote literature's worst overtures, except for "Daniel Deronda," which contains one of the best), it suddenly kicks in and becomes a page-turner. Edgar Allan Poe meets Verdi opera plot.

Lots of welcome parallels here for all 19c fans. The most engaging character,...more
Anabelle Bernard Fournier
Feb 15, 2011 Anabelle Bernard Fournier rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Victorian literature ethusiasts, historical fiction readers, George Eliot fans
Shelves: victorian-lit
I wrote my Master's thesis on this book, so I am aware of the long history of bad reviews for this quite revolutionary novel for George Eliot. The language is definitely difficult (contemporary reviewers complained of not being able to read it without a dictionary), but the rewards are definitely worth it. George Eliot believed that this was her best work, not because it was the best written or had the best story, but because it displayed her philosophy and her knowledge better than any other no...more
Oct 08, 2007 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: serious G.E. Fans/italiophiles
Shelves: brit-lit
This is the only book from my beloved George that I had left to read, and it was definitely the most challenging. She accurately portrays Florence in the age of the Medici's, to the point that even people in her day had no idea what the hell she was talking about half the time, hence her copious, fastidious footnote section. This is part novel, part history lesson. It took me ForEVER to get through, but I enjoyed it. Don't think of it as a book--think of it as a hobby.
Let me first say that there is much to love here. Truly! The first fifty or so pages felt interminable, but once past that point the book becomes a veritable page turner.

Eliot crafts a fascinating, first-rate historical fiction plot based in Florence, Italy, from the death of Lorenzo de’ Medici (in 1492), through the time of Savonarola’s influence, and culminating in an epilogue placed in 1509. In the midst of this tumultuous social situation is placed our heroine, Romola. The daughter of a scho...more
Georgiana 1792
La vera protagonista di questo romanzo è, in realtà, la città di Firenze durante il Rinascimento: la sua storia, tutti i suoi più illustri personaggi che vissero dalla fine del XV secolo all’inizio del XVI. Il romanzo si apre, infatti, il giorno della morte di Lorenzo de’ Medici — il 9 aprile 1492 — e si chiude con l’esecuzione di Fra’ Girolamo Savonarola, il 23 maggio 1498, sebbene nell’epilogo vediamo la sorte dei personaggi esattamente dieci anni dopo.

Anche il Savonarola si contende con i due...more
It's true, as other reviewers have noted, that at times Romola is a slog. (Is there a nineteenth-century novel that isn't?) Nonetheless, what really astounded me about this novel is Eliot's ambition for it. Not for her the advice Jane Austen gave her would-be novelist niece Cassandra: "3 or 4 families in a country village is the very thing to work on." No, Eliot set her work in late fifteenth-century Florence and depicted the struggle of the Florentine Republic to survive not only entrenched ari...more
If you’re looking to read your first George Eliot, don’t start with Romola. In 1866, Henry James called it Eliot’s greatest novel to date (and that means greater than The Mill on the Floss, which opinion is goofy). “It is decidedly the most important,” he wrote of the novel, “--not the most entertaining nor the most readable, but the one in which the largest things are attempted and grasped.” James persevered in this opinion, calling it a “rare masterpiece” in 1873 and in 1876 ranking it above D...more
I've heard that George Eliot considered this book to be her best. I can see where she gets that. I know that Romola is not considered to be a good book, but I think that Romola shows growth, particularly in explicit theme.

This book is filled with transformations, but most are so sudden, that they are likely to be problematic for the modern reader. I think that most people's experience with transformations might be from religious quarters and likely to be sudden and complete. In our society, I t...more
This was an amazingly well written book. She did such a good job creating complex characters that were true to life. I realized after I read the book that many of her characters were actually real people so it proved to be quite the history lesson as well. The main characters were fictional by necessity, though. I was really impressed with a theme that she brought forth very thoroughly: that "the devil will not support his children at the last day, but doth speedily drag them down to hell". Beca...more
Jane Greensmith
Much as I would love to give this book 5 stars, the beginning is just too hard to read and Romola is just too saintly.

Plus, the coincidences! This type of thing is what gives Victorian lit such a bad rap. Really, George Eliot, really? You couldn't make the characters work a little bit before stumbling on each other?

It was an ambitious book, historical fiction about a complex time, and worth reading, especially if you want to know what made Maryann Evans tick!
George Eliot's historical novel of Florence in the late 1400's is well researched, rich in detail, and filled with quite believable historical and fictional characters. I enjoyed it and see in it the seeds of Middlemarch.
My second date with my new best friend George Eliot. I didn't love it like I loved The Mill on the Floss , which is fine. I'm not sure that I want to love all things that way.

I'm rounding up the rating here because though it was a much more difficult read, I have near as much awe for what she is capable of. The thing that I find in George Eliot, and in almost nothing else, is a telling of the truth that sounds like a magic, definitive lesson. Her statements are just and perfect. And in both boo...more
Romola marks a significant shift in George Eliot's career. At first glance, this shift appears radical. Whereas her first four works (Scenes of Clerical Life followed by the three early novels, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, and Silas Marner) all document life in rural England in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Romola takes place in late 15c. Italy. That is to say, while her early works can all be read in line with the project of realism she outlines in her early essay, "T...more
I some times wonder why I read books no one I know has heard of let alone wants to talk about. Those who really know me know that I like nothing better than talking about books. Since I lost my beloved father in law I don't think anyone even notices the books I read. That being said, George Eliot can be inaccesable, she did love her knowlege and vocabulary. It took me a long while to engage with this work. I usually read about 19th Century England and Europe. This is set in 15th century Florence...more
There were large swathes of pages that seemed to make little sense but then, just when my eyes were crossing, I would be swept into the Florence of the 1490s with a huge sense of historical detail that rang true and believable.
Romola was just too good as a character - her subservience and service to all was overdone and made her difficult to love. Mixed feelings, really, about how I felt having dragged myself through the length and breadth of this book: delight that I had made it perhaps being...more
I have no idea why Eliot considered Romola her greatest work. Certainly, she always does her homework. In this case--at least for a modern reader--the evidence of that seemed heavy handed. I'm sure this is illustrative of the tradition of historical novels, but forcing a narrative onto such a specific set of circumstances constrained the plot and made most of the storyline untenable. Of all her novels, this is the one I would recommend last.
It's always interesting to read an historical novel written in another era. To a modern reader (or at least this one) it results in an additional layer of complexity to sift through; for me it's less straightforward than reading an historical novel written by an author who is my contemporary. I found that extra layer difficult to penetrate in Romola, and was often not engaged enough in the characters and the story, but found my attention wandering while trying to decipher what was historically a...more
This book tells the story about the struggle for the restoration of popular government in Florence after almost 60 years of domination by the Medici's.

The book starts in the year of Lorenzo's death (1494), describes the invasion by Charles VIII of France and shows the beginning and ending of Savoranola in 1498.

Niccolò Machiavelli plays an important role into this story.

The main characters, Romola and her unfaithful husband Tito Melma have their story told into the above historical background.

Romola is the contemporised Antigone of 15th Century Renaissance Florence, revamped by the astoundingly keen mind of George Eliot in 19th Century England. A long time ago on a college campus not too far away, I was supposed to have read Eliot's Mill on the Floss, but, along with many other mistakes made during my undergrad years, I refused, and consequently barely passed the required course. Older and, I hope, wiser, I decided to check my literary prowess with this Victorian heavyweight. Like an...more
Dillwynia Peter
Like other reviewers this took me forever to get into. In fact, it took me forever to read. The intro & introduction of lots of historical & fictional characters is slow & at times a little annoying. But I recommend you persevere. Like other Eliot novels, the characters are strong and real. The social themes are important and well thought out & once that gear clicks in, the novel flows & flows like a mighty river.

As Romola strides higher & higher as an enlightened and dec...more
Peter Ellwood
I went up and down a bit, but it remains a wonderful piece of work. The opening 100 pages or so are quite stodgy - you can see why Trollope voiced worry that she might leave her readers behind. In the process of setting the historical scene she tests your attention span in no uncertain terms, not least by peppering the novel with untranslated quotes in Italian. A quick Internet study of the history of Florence at that period helps make sense of it.

But then the majesty of George Eliot kicks in, a...more
In addition to Eliot's place in my mind as a keen observer of human foibles and motives, she adds in Romola a proficiency for historical fiction. Weaving together the fictional narrative at the heart of the novel with the political and religious happenings of late fifteenth century Florence, Eliot weaves together a colorful and vibrant tapestry of romance, intrigue, and suffering.

Romola stands as an admirable heroine, a rationalist forced by suffering to open her mind beyond the small world of i...more
Feb 02, 2010 Leif rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not Many
Nope: didn't like it one bit, but sat and read through almost 600 pages of historical setting while Eliot spun a flimsy, barely coherent plot over top of her beloved research. Stock characters became parodies - see Baldassarre or Romola - and decently fleshed out characters disappeared into the haze of Eliot's sympathy project - see Tito. Add to this the horrifically patronizing, and sublimely insulting portrayal of the beautiful woman Tessa, another one of Eliot's ongoing projects of demonifica...more
This was a complete and utter joy to read. Renaissance Florence is rendered so vividly it seems to breathe and the characters, both the fictional and the historical ones, are wonderfully complex. I am puzzled as to why this novel receives much less attention than George Eliot's other works.
why do I love george eliot so much? just finished reading scene where florentine grandees are served a peacock which is the show-off dish of the day but is in fact very tough, and the various ways they each conceal they are not actually eating it. followed by discussion of revolutionary affairs, account of seduction of power for central character, then melodramatic entrance of the man he has betrayed. i think my mother told me that romola was the one i didn't have to read, and to be sure the plo...more
Perry Whitford
George Elliot's only historical novel, written about a fascinating time and place, Renaissance Florence, dominated by the shadow of the Medici's and harangued by the apocalyptic ravings and visions of Savaronola.
Romola, the gentle Florentine daughter of a blind, aging scholar and librarian, is wooed by a smooth, ambitious Greek scribe, Tito, who has an ignoble past and realpolitik ambition that he hides from her.
As with all tragedies, his past catches up with him in the form of his foster-fath...more
'Romola' was a great discovery for me. Eliot pioneered the psychological novel, but this was one of her few historical novels, and her treatment of belief, politics, and sacrifice in 15th c. Florence has a deliciously postmodern turn for a decidedly Victorian novelist.
i think this work in particular had a big influence for H. James when he wrote 'The portrait of a lady'. but the main thing is: don't give up on it! Her second best after Deronda for me
Rhonda Hankins
who knew george eliot had a work of historical fiction?

apparently it was de riguer for victorian novelists to produce a work of historical fiction & this is her contribution.

i wasn't really in a big novel-reading mood but i am a big george eliot fan so i slogged through it. yeah, you know, it was not my favorite george eliot because you lose the village dialogue of her british novels & the erudition seems labored to me & ultimately it seems to be all about showing off the author's g...more
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Eliot's Best? 5 16 Apr 14, 2013 09:38AM  
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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
More about George Eliot...
Middlemarch Silas Marner The Mill on the Floss Adam Bede Daniel Deronda

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