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3.75  ·  Rating details ·  3,963 ratings  ·  223 reviews
One of George Eliot's most ambitious and imaginative novels, Romola is set in Renaissance Florence during the turbulent years following the expulsion of the powerful Medici family during which the zealous religious reformer Savonarola rose to control the city. At its heart is Romola, the devoted daughter of a blind scholar, married to the clever but ultimately treacherous ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 831 pages
Published 2005 by Penguin Books (first published 1863)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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While I was reading this book, I spent a lot of time looking at a satellite map of Florence in an effort to follow in the footsteps of George Eliot as she led her characters through the labyrinthine streets of the city, and in and out of its famous buildings.
While poring over the map, I noticed that the satellite image must have been taken early on a very sunny morning because the shadow cast by the Palazzo Vecchio, situated on the eastern corner of the piazza della Signoria, stretches

In a deep curve of the mountains lay a breadth of green land, curtained by gentle tree-shadowed slopes leaning towards the rocky heights. Up these slopes might be seen here and there, gleaming between the tree-tops, a pathway leading to a little irregular mass of building that seemed to have clambered in a hasty way up the mountain-side, and take a difficult stand there for the sake of showing the tall belfry as a sight of beauty to the scattered and
Violet wells
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not sure what moved Henry James to pronounce this George Eliot's best work. It isn't. It's like saying The Beautiful and the Damned was Scott Fitzgerald's best work or Between the Acts was Virginia Woolf's. Sometimes literary criticism can acquire the forensic objectivity of science.

There's no question Eliot had a lot of fun writing this. I was reminded at times of Woolf's Orlando. Except Virginia makes such a warm breezy current of her feeling for and knowledge of Elizabethan England
Feb 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Romola is a (very) lengthy, mind-squeezing, heart-moving, complex and even contradictory novel. But it is under George Eliots handwriting and that is a solid proof, well more than enough for me, to be felt as a most rewarding book. I have started it couple of months before I reached to its closing line, and I have felt at some point I could leave it on-hold. Well, it was that much for me, in a sense it felt as a burden. So I have skipped it for a while and moved to other new names of writers- ...more
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Deea by: Kalliope
Shelves: best-2015, favorites
Renaissance, Florence. Ending of the 15th Century - beginning of the 16th. A space where people like Girolamo Savonarola, Niccolo Machiavelli and the Medicis are the everyday pawns of an ongoing and complicated reality. Politics handled with ability and shrewdness, religion used for political ends and social movements are displayed with great talent in the background, while in the first plan we witness together with the omniscient author the path of an individual to fame brought by corruption ...more
Before I critique this book, I have to critique this cover. Eliot could not make it clearer that Romola is a blonde. Her golden hair is referenced over and over again. Who is the dufus who chose this cover photo? Sorry, but all Italians must be raven-haired? Im not thinking Eliot would have been impressed.

I have decided to DNF Romola after 238 pages of forced reading. I cannot believe I am ditching a George Eliot novel, but this is

nothing like any of her other novels,
set in Italy and it would
It is the 9th April, 1492. Today Lorenzo de'Medici has died, and a stranger has come to town. The town is Florence, and there is great upheaval in the market at the news of Lorenzo's death, and people talk of strange portents.

But who is this very handsome young man newly arrived? Why, his name is Tito and he has been shipwrecked. An amiable and erudite young man, fluent in Greek, he will soon make his mark on Florence.

Slowly Tito's character is unfurled as the novel progresses and his true
Anabelle Bernard Fournier
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  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 ...more
Jul 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
If youre looking to read your first George Eliot, dont start with Romola. In 1866, Henry James called it Eliots 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 Daniel ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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,
Aug 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 Victorian people's experience with transformations might be from religious quarters and are likely to be sudden and complete. In our
Roman Clodia
Jun 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tito had an unconquerable aversion to anything unpleasant, even when an object very much loved and desired was on the other side of it.
Eliot's research into Renaissance Florence is marvellous and anchors this book within a verifiable historical authenticity. Not just the politics of the city-state where a young Machiavelli is coming to prominence and where the Medicis are exiled while a Borgia sits on the papal seat in Rome; not just the religious backdrop of the rise and fall of Savonarola
Mar 31, 2013 rated it did not like it
AHH!!! I feel so guilty! I started reading Romola by George Eliot a few days ago and I hate it. I really, really hate it. And I don't think anyone else on earth hates it but me. From the little introduction I found in the book I read:

"Romola (186263) is a historical novel by George Eliot set in the fifteenth century, and is "a deep study of life in the city of Florence from an intellectual, artistic, religious, and social point of view". It first appeared in fourteen parts published in Cornhill
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Oct 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
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 Savonarolas 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
Jane Greensmith
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
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!
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A new favorite! Took me a way to another time and place and just took my breath away at the end. So good.
Jan 14, 2016 rated it liked it
"Romola" is probably not the most advisable introduction to the work of Marian Evans (to use her real name), but I confess that the historical novel is my literary weakness. Although I know that the historical novel is most frequently the mirror of the writer's world in period dress, like those old photographs in which the subjects stood behind cutouts that attempted to evoke a different time and place. And so Evans' Victorians descend upon the Florence of Fra Savonarola on his way from setting ...more
Feb 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This is my least favorite Eliot so far and I think there are only a few I haven't read. It didn't seem to go anywhere and the characters's action were frustrating. I've never grown bored with Eliot's philosophizing but it was heavy handed in Romola.
...Tito could not arrange life at all to his mind without a considerable sum of money. And that problem of arranging life to his mind had been the source of all his misdoing.
This is my least favorite of the works of Mary Ann Evans that I've encountered thus far, but as it's Evans we're speaking of, 'Romola' is still miles better than most of what was written then and what is being written now. My greatest criticism is how much she indulged in Shakespearean-level tropes once outside the realm
Sep 06, 2016 rated it liked it
First of all, I love George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), but not this book. I guess even Eliot had her limitations. Like Dickens Tale of Two Cities, they both would have been better off staying in their own hoods.

If you are a scholar of late 15th century Florence, Italy, you will love Romola. Of course, if you are a scholar of late 15th century Italy, you have probably already read it. I would say that it is possible for erudition to go too far, especially in fiction, and unfortunately, Eliot went
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
May 20, 2007 rated it liked it
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, ...more
Jan 14, 2010 rated it did not like it
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 ...more
Katie Browning
May 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I can't believe I have never head of Romola, after all of my British Lit studies, but I knew that if George Eliot wrote it, I would be all in. What a powerful book! I want to write a 20 page paper dissecting all of the different elements, but a short review will have to suffice with the time I have.

I thought the setting of the Italian Renaissance was fascinating. Eliot did her work and weaved in the elements of Savonarola and the connecting religious themes, social classes, and humanism along
Oct 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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". ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
First Eliot I have ever read. Astonishing.
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
A remarkable achievement. An incredibly authentic realisation of renaissance Florence. The work of a huge intellect. But not that great a story. Glad I read it though.
Steve R
Jan 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
As the final Eliot novel read, I found this one the hardest to get into initially, but once this was accomplished, it was one of the most satisfying of all her works. Set in the 1490s almost exclusively in the city state of Florence, it deals with the changing fortunes of the title character, a daughter of a blind scholar whose only wish is that his precious library and artifacts be held over in his name so that something will remain of his years of patient scholarship. Romola takes this wish to ...more
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Never too Late to...: 2020 Jan-March Romola by George Eliot 92 37 Feb 02, 2020 07:24AM  
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Mary Ann Evans, known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, poet, journalist, translator and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She was born in 1819 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 ...more

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