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Esther Waters

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  502 Ratings  ·  41 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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Renee M
Apr 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Esther never gives up; Never backs down. I like that in a heroine.
Aug 23, 2011 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 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

Spotted on Wanda's profile. Free from Gutenberg :

Classic Serial R4

Famous last words: The horse is a dead cert!

#66 TBR Busting 2013
Jan 30, 2016 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 15, 2014 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
Nov 28, 2008 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.
Nov 12, 2012 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
Mar 12, 2012 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.
Louisa Reid
Mar 14, 2015 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.
Jul 25, 2011 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.
Oct 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite book ever!
Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What a great read! The dialogue reads well despite the years, and the details of life in London as a servant, single mother and wife are wonderfully depicted.
Inese Okonova
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Ļoti nevienmērīga grāmata. Par pirmo pusi biju stāvā sajūsmā. Autors no sievietes, turklāt ļoti vienkāršas izcelsmes sievietes, pozīcijām izstāsta par Esteres došanos prom no mājām, lai sāktu pelnīt iztiku, kalpojot palielā muižā, par diezgan nejaušajām attiecībām ar Viljamu, kuru rezultātā ir jādzimst bērnam, un par cīniņu, lai bērns piedzimtu vesels (vesela nodaļa, ko sarakstījis augstāko aprindu vīrietis 19.! gs. - lai gan pašās gadsimta beigās, bet tomēr 19.! gs., veltīta ļoti reālistiskam d ...more
Jul 10, 2016 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
Christopher Roden
Jul 08, 2012 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
Susan Bernstein
Jun 22, 2015 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
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I was minded to give this only four stars because I didn't like William's deathbed conversion, and there was just too much detail about the betting, but then I thought, if this book is gripping enough that I can stay awake late into the night reading it, then it's got to be among the best. It was not at all clear what the plot was going to be, there was no false sentiment and no black and white morality. Esther is a wonderfully drawn character, sullen temper and all - I don't think I like her th ...more
Mar 05, 2013 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
Feb 24, 2014 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.
Dec 26, 2014 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.
Aug 26, 2015 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 woman experiencing an 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 10, 2015 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!
Cindy Newton
I think of this as the Victorian anti-romance. There is a little romance present, but overlaying everything, the driving force, is the struggle to survive--and it truly is an epic battle, at least for our protagonist, Esther. She literally spends a great deal of her life not knowing if she's going to have a roof over her head or food for the next day. In today's world of multiple government-assistance programs, it's an eye-opening glimpse into a different existence. But she's a fighter, our Esth ...more
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This was a completely new author for me who I chanced upon only when I joined the Victorians book group here. We first meet Esther Waters when she is just 20 and heading off to take up a situation as a kitchen/scullery maid at a house in the country. She is strong-minded (some call her obstinate) with opinions of her own which she doesn’t give up so easily which leads her into some trouble adjusting when she gets there but she soon settles in. The household (except the lady of the house Mrs Barf ...more
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature, librivox
The misery in this novel is very depressing to me but seems realistic, because it's not a uniformly darkly painted--there are occasionally a few kind characters. The hero himself is a wicked man in the early years but later shows bits of honesty, logic, and appreciation. Some psychological passages of the heroine are quite interesting.

It is said by some that the author had a naturalist style. In this novel, however, the great vividness and details seem to be put mostly in one thing, horse betti
Jan 30, 2017 added it
What a great book on the life and times of a woman of England from 1894, if you think life has changed a great deal since then, reading this will really help you understand how small the changes in a single mother's life really is. Once your child is born it changes everything, even your purpose for making as little money as this girl did. If married women and men read this book, I think they would receive a real education in what they call the "Welfare Class" of women even today.
Oct 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
biographical novel, setting around 1800 in London and surroundings
keywords: girl in service / single woman with child /horse racing
interesting: historical picture / make a living in lower class London / keeping up fate by betting
less interesting: the parts about horse racing I found quit boring
Wendell Hennan
Mar 15, 2017 rated it did not like it
A very sad dark story of life in England in the 19th century and the battle between the Christians and those who spent their lives in pubs and betting houses. Interesting from an historic perspective, but the characters, Esther Waters, her employers her husband are seldom warm and lovable. I struggled through out of stubbornness with very little enjoyment.
Bruno Kos
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant read, very interesting plot and clear writing style I really liked.
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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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“A man's life is brief; a book's life may be prolonged century after century.” 1 likes
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