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Esther Waters

3.68  ·  Rating Details ·  398 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Esther Waters (1894) was one of the first English novels to defeat Victorian moral censorship. George Moore's story of a mother's fight for the life of her illegitimate son won Mr Gladstone's approval and was admitted, unaltered, into those bastions of Victorian conformity, the circulating libraries.

Esther Waters is forced to leave home and become a servant in a well-to-do
Paperback, 432 pages
Published July 12th 2001 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1894)
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Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëEmma by Jane AustenSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
Novels of Domestic Life
80th out of 357 books — 89 voters
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldHamlet by William ShakespeareJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëPride And Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Oxford World's Classics
120th out of 198 books — 47 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-29 of 1,014)
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Aug 23, 2011 Howard rated it really liked it
Ester Waters is the story of a poor young servant girl in a naturalist style influenced by Emile Zola. Like most such novels the story could be unfairly summarised in but a few sentences and could be labelled `boring', especially if you can tick the usual boxes of `someone dying of consumption' (usually at the most poignant moment), `a disgraced pregnancy' or `has ruthless boss/guardian/husband' - all three are here with Ester.

The story is an unmarried servant girl gets pregnant, loses her job
Lucinda Elliot
Mar 27, 2011 Lucinda Elliot rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone, particularly women interested in Victoria novels
Recommended to Lucinda by: found it in library
I'm amazed to be happy to give such a high rating to a story of an unlucky girl who has a baby outside marriage written by a Victorian man, but while I read this a few years ago, I did think that George Moore's handling of the subject was warm and sensitive. Given Victorian delicacies regarding sexuality, the vagueness as to whether Esther has been taken advantage of by her lover or was compliant because of the extra ale she had is perhaps to be expected, and rather similar to Thomas Hary's equi ...more
Jul 10, 2016 Simon rated it it was amazing
There is something special in discovering a novel (and a novelist) of the first order that had completely slipped under the radar. It was in my bookcase but I'd neither put it there nor heard of it. (My wife can take the credit.) Perhaps I ought to be a little ashamed. Not a bit of it. Any knowledge I have ever possessed has been an awareness of my lack of knowledge: the half handful of grains I've acquired against the endless sandy beaches of what there is to know. If I'd been the worthy and di ...more
Jul 17, 2016 Kim rated it really liked it
Esther Waters is a novel by George Moore first published in 1894. The novel stands out among Moore's publications as the book whose immediate success brought him financial security. Continuously revised by Moore (1899, 1917, 1920, 1931), it is often understood to be his best novel. This last sentence makes me wonder which revision I got to read but I can't remember if I ever knew, and more likely I never knew so I'll have to go and look if I remember to which is doubtful. The point is that the f ...more
Mar 25, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it
‘Esther Waters’ was one of those classic novels that I circled for a long time, wondering if I should pick it up or pass it by. The story of a servant who fell pregnant and then struggled to raise her illegitimate son could be profound but it could be grim. When I read Emma’s wonderful review I knew that I had to pick the book up, and now that I’ve read it I have to say that I’m very glad that I did.

It focuses on many of the problems of Victorian society – poverty, gambling, intoxication, inequi
Mar 19, 2013 Laura rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Kim, Jeannette
Recommended to Laura by: Wanda, Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - CLassical Serial
By George Moore. Stirring tale of how a servant girl makes her way in Victorian England. Dramatised by Sharon Oakes.

Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Feb 14, 2014 Lilian rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people interested in the fin de siecle, history of the novel, strong heroines
This is a fabulous and neglected book written in the 1890's. A strong heroine, fascinating portrayal of working class life in London and the culture of betting on horses. Esther Waters is a young single mom, making her way despite the odds. Wonderfully evocative. Much better than other well known fin de siecle books that have soppy heroines.
Louisa Reid
Mar 17, 2015 Louisa Reid rated it really liked it
I loved Esther's story...not so much the horse racing, and it was strange how the son disappeared for quite a portion of the novel when he was her main focus for so long...Nevertheless, moving and a great insight into 19th C morality.
Christopher Roden
Jul 15, 2012 Christopher Roden rated it liked it
It's hard to believe that this novel caused such a sensation when it was first published in 1894, so much so that it even had Sir Arthur Conan Doyle writing letters to the press to defend it against the charges of obscenity that were being levied. By modern standards, the sensationalism is timid, but Moore has woven warnings against drinking and gambling into the story of the life of a young serving girl who becomes pregnant by a young man who has promised her marriage. Needless to say he desert ...more
Feb 24, 2014 Courtney marked it as to-read
From BBC Radio 4 - CLassical Serial
By George Moore. Stirring tale of how a servant girl makes her way in Victorian England. Dramatised by Sharon Oakes.
Free download available at Project Gutenberg. -- I'll have to check it our here.
Jennifer Dallman
Jun 20, 2014 Jennifer Dallman rated it liked it
Librivox reading on this.

I was a bit frustrated by the story in it's gaping holes in the story. From one chapter to the next, a year or more would pass, or you would be looking in on someone else and it didn't flow very well for me. The concept of raising our children really has changed over the years, Esther wouldn't see her son for months sometimes as he was raised by a caretaker while she was in service. The betting and teetotalling messages were probably relevant for the times, but it got t
Oct 08, 2010 Trisha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book ever!
Claire Tomelty
Apr 15, 2013 Claire Tomelty rated it really liked it
Book Review- Esther Waters by George Moore

This is a novel I studied at university as part of a course on Naturalist Fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed it then and when I re-read it recently after listening to a BBC Radio 4 play of it; I enjoyed it just as much.

Naturalists, such as Thomas Hardy and Stephen Crane were the forerunners of modernism. In their writing they placed emphasis on the lives of the lower classes: the themes in Esther Waters are predicable; the bleakness and difficulties of that
Susan Bernstein
Jan 23, 2016 Susan Bernstein rated it it was amazing
I loved all the London sections, especially so much in Chelsea, King's Road, Sydney Street, Onslow Gardens, Brompton Royal Hospital--all in neighborhood where I lived earlier this year. All that aside, I don't think I've read another Victorian novel that describes pregnancy, labor, and birth with such vividness, and then later dying and death. If "realism" is about such common events getting full play in fiction, this is a fine example. I loved the circular narrative structure too and the ending ...more
Jan 13, 2013 Kmkoppy rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
After reading so many books and seeing so many TV series on how the wealthy lived during the late 1800's, it was refreshing to read a book about how the rest of the English society fared during this time. Quite a contrast! And to be a woman in those times was the worst, especially young unmarried mothers. They were not only looked down upon by the men, but by the women of their own class as well as upper class women. I never realized what a big part gambling on horse racing played during this ti ...more
Dec 26, 2014 Salmeister rated it really liked it
This is an empowering book about a strong-willed and resilient heroine, set within challenging times for women, who is able to conquer the day-to-day challenges destitute women faced within her time.
James Brown
Oct 25, 2014 James Brown rated it liked it
Socially significant, I'm sure, but pretty tough going. I much preferred The Untilled Field.
Mar 10, 2013 Derek rated it really liked it
Virginia Woolf declared that Esther Waters had "sincerity, shapeliness, style...surpassing seriousness and integrity," but that it was "completely lacking in dramatic power." That final judgment is harsh--here's more of it: "..but because Mr. Moore has not the strength to project Esther from himself [the novel's] virtues collapse and fall about it lack a tent with a broken pole." It's impossible not to compare EW to Tess, and for all its bombast, the latter is the greater novel. Be that as it ma ...more
Susan Bybee
Feb 20, 2014 Susan Bybee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really mean a four and a half.
Christine Parker
Mar 17, 2016 Christine Parker rated it really liked it
Shelves: challenge, read-2016
Usual 'Classic' content but very readable.
Oct 01, 2015 Emmalina rated it liked it
Shelves: personal-library
This classic is a worthwhile read. It does a good job giving a glimpse into the hard life faced by a working class women faced with out of wedlock pregnancy and the subsequent journey of raising her son. Many moral dilemmas are faced and she perseveres through unideal situations with courage.
Doreen Petersen
Aug 28, 2015 Doreen Petersen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
A delightful read. Started off slow but got much better as the story went along. A really good classic!

Spotted on Wanda's profile. Free from Gutenberg :

Classic Serial R4

Famous last words: The horse is a dead cert!

#66 TBR Busting 2013
Jun 20, 2011 Mary rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2011
I thought this would be a lot grimmer and grittier than it was. There was certainly an element of grim - a single mother's lot in the 1890s was never going to be a bed of roses, but ultimately it was all quite unaffecting. Perhaps there was just too much about betting for my taste.
Dec 02, 2010 Emily rated it liked it
Pretty good. Not my favorite, but pretty good. Interesting look into the harms of betting/gambling.
A bit of Tess of the d'Urbervilles thrown in....Wasn't quite expecting some of things that happened--in fact I was pleasantly surprised a few times.
Jul 25, 2011 Justin rated it liked it
A great novel by naturalist author, George Moore. If you like sad stories like Jude the Obscure, you'll like this. Fast paced and very accessible, and it's a touching story.
Tara rated it it was ok
Sep 27, 2016
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George Augustus Moore (24 February 1852 – 21 January 1933) was an Irish novelist, short-story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist and dramatist. Moore came from a Roman Catholic landed family who lived at Moore Hall in Carra, County Mayo. He originally wanted to be a painter, and studied art in Paris during the 1870s. There, he befriended many of the leading French artists and writers of the day.

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