Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Esther Waters” as Want to Read:
Esther Waters
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Esther Waters

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  222 ratings  ·  20 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Esther Waters, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Esther Waters

Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottSense and Sensibility by Jane AustenEmma by Jane Austen
Novels of Domestic Life
72nd out of 325 books — 70 voters
The Horse's Mouth by Joyce CaryA Division of the Spoils by Paul ScottThe Day of the Scorpion by Paul ScottThe Best of Philip K. Dick by Philip K. DickThe Towers of Silence by Paul Scott
REALLY Underrated Books (Fewer than 1,000 Ratings)
311th out of 3,012 books — 1,146 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 524)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
‘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 3 of 5 stars
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 5 of 5 stars
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.
Lucinda Elliot
Mar 27, 2011 Lucinda Elliot rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Christopher Roden
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
Jennifer Dallman
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
My favorite book ever!
Catherine Woodman
This is really a Young Adult book, even though it was not shelved that

way at my local library. The theme is sibling rivalry and the quest

for love and support within your family. The Elbus' are very keen on

each other, and it leads to the kind of trouble you might imagine.

The year is 1986, and June Elbus is a shy 14-year-old living in the

New York suburbs with her accountant parents and increasingly

disruptive older sister, Greta. June's best friend is her beloved

Uncle Finn, a Manhattan painter in t
Claire Tomelty
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
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
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.
James Brown
Socially significant, I'm sure, but pretty tough going. I much preferred The Untilled Field.
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
I really mean a four and a half.

Spotted on Wanda's profile. Free from Gutenberg :

Classic Serial R4

Famous last words: The horse is a dead cert!

#66 TBR Busting 2013
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.
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.
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.
Joanie marked it as to-read
Dec 17, 2014
Ellana Thornton-Wheybrew
Ellana Thornton-Wheybrew marked it as to-read
Dec 13, 2014
Cbj marked it as to-read
Dec 11, 2014
Olya Lernor
Olya Lernor marked it as to-read
Dec 10, 2014
Michelle marked it as to-read
Dec 09, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 17 18 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Doctor's Wife
  • Dr. Wortle's School
  • East Lynne
  • The Nether World
  • The Fruit of the Tree
  • The Egoist
  • Hester
  • The Morgesons
  • A Proper Education for Girls
  • The Real Charlotte
  • The Heart of Midlothian
  • Travels in West Africa
  • The Newcomes
  • A London Child of the 1870s
  • Summer Will Show
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.
More about George Moore...
Albert Nobbs A Drama in Muslin Confessions of a Young Man The Untilled Field A Mummer's Wife

Share This Book