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Felix Holt: The Radical

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,580 ratings  ·  119 reviews
When the young nobleman Harold Transome returns to England from the colonies with a self-made fortune, he scandalizes the town of Treby Magna with his decision to stand for Parliament as a Radical. But after the idealistic Felix Holt also returns to the town, the difference between Harold's opportunistic values and Holt's profound beliefs becomes apparent. Forthright, ...more
Paperback, 545 pages
Published December 1st 1995 by Penguin Classics (first published 1866)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
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 ·  3,580 ratings  ·  119 reviews

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Towards the end of this long but intensely interesting narrative, the reader is told exactly how much time has passed since the first of the many events of the story. The narrator sounded surprised at how brief a period it had been, and I was surprised too because I'd been reading this book for quite a while and I'd come to associate it with the passing of a considerable period of time. That was partly due to the many events that occurred in my own life while I'd been reading about Felix Holt's ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: eliot
4.5 stars
One of the least read of Eliot’s novels; sitting in the middle of her output. I found it had a surprising resonance for today. It was published in 1866 but was set in the time of the Great Reform Act in 1832, when the vote was extended (not by much, the electorate increasing from about 500,000 to just over 800,000). As Eliot was writing the Second Reform Act was being promulgated. The landed classes and aristocracy were bringing on board some of the wealthier middle classes.
The plot
Very enjoyable story was further enhanced by Nadia May’s superb rendition of it for Blackstone Audio/AudioBookStand. This was my husband’s introduction to George Eliot and I’m glad it was a mostly cheerful—even humorous—novel as her works can be dark. Mrs. Holt, Felix’s mother, is a hoot and May has captured her perfectly. Highly recommended especially in the audio format.
Scriptor Senex
Jul 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I commented in relation to John Updike’s ‘Terrorist’ that a sentence of 157 words was the nail in its coffin. I noticed while reading ‘Felix Holt’ that there were four consecutive sentences of 78, 13, 100, and 64 words. The difference is that in 1866 George Eliot wrote perfect prose, properly punctuated and capable of being understood and enjoyed despite the sentence length. The whole book is a clever, frank portrayal of the 1832 election when England ( I use the specific advisedly) was in the ...more
Steven Walle
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
review later
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Ugh. Double Ugh. I struggled with this almost from the beginning and, frankly, wish I'd abandoned it before I got far enough that I felt I had too much invested in it to do so. Eliot kept going off on tangents. Sometimes my mind would wander and I'd read passages again, just to make sure I hadn't missed anything. And I hadn't. Not all of the tangents were of the religious nor even the political sort. The below was more understandable than many, but gives you a glimpse. Keep in mind that not one ...more
Ben Babcock
I make no secret of the fact that I think George Eliot is a literary badass, and Felix Holt: The Radical is just the latest example of these well-deserved credentials. This is essentially a political and legal thriller set in 1832 England on the cusp of the passage of the First Reform Act. (Among other things, the Reform Acts of the 1800s redefined the electoral districts for the English Parliament and expanded the franchise ever so slightly.) The sleepy English town of Treby finds itself the ...more
Nick Imrie
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I once read an essay about the objections to women's suffrage. One argument that anti-suffrage activists made was that voting was a proxy for fighting: men will wage war over political power, but they can save blood and energy by taking a vote, allowing the larger army to win without the smaller one having to die. Very civilised, no?
Women should not be allowed the vote because women don't fight - imagine if there was a vote in which women all voted one way and men all voted the other. What,
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 1800-1900
Felix Holt (1866) is not the best-loved of George Eliot’s novels, and in some ways it’s easy to see why. The male protagonist, the earnest idealist Felix Holt, is too idealized himself to be a truly compelling character, and the tale of his moral “conversion” of the beautiful and worldly Esther Lyon may be a little too pious and pedagogical for most modern readers. The plot has its creaks as well, rather, sometimes lurching perilously close to the model of the Victorian sensation novel à la ...more
Lee Foust
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK, so this is my first ever Eliot so bare with me. It's New Year's Day and I find myself in an Air BnB (Of course I'm ashamed of myself, but willing to admit my faults--or the faults of poverty) in Budapest and my wife wants to go to lunch so I'll quickly sketch out a few thoughts. I went back 'n' forth a bit pleasure-wise with this novel. I love Victorian novels, intricate plotting, and the dialogic clashing of characters, so those aspects pleased me very much. Eliot is obviously a star in the ...more
May 20, 2007 rated it really liked it
Felix Holt: The Radical is one of Eliot's finer works and a great 19c. novel. In many ways, it's a shorter and much more readable version of Middlemarch , and, being the book which directly precedes it, can be read as its predecessor. In F.H., Eliot explores her constant concern: the tensions between the intricate and overpowering contingencies of historical circumstance which influence and determine human action and the innate spirit of sympathy and virtue that struggles to transcend those ...more
Adelaide Mcginnity
My favorite George Eliot book is Silas Marner, a book a hold in such high regard that every Eliot I have read since then has always been a slight disappointment to me by failing to be like Silas. That does not mean I didn't like them - indeed, The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch are both excellent books that I recommend to everyone. But they are simply not at all like Silas Marner.

In Felix Holt, I think I finally found an Eliot that recapture some of that beauty and aesthetic that I so loved
Sep 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Typical of George Eliot, her focus is much more on ideas than on the story. Much of Felix Holt the Radical is about the political machinations of an election. The politics are dirty, no different in most respects than they are today. Reading the classics is always a reminder of how little humans change fundamentally.

As in Adam Bede, the title character is not really the main character, nor the most interesting. I, in accord with others who have written reviews of this book, think that Mrs.
Stephen Brody
Aug 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Now this was a pleasant surprise: a novel I’d somehow overlooked reading before even though it’s been on the shelf for decades and in which every word is a perfect delight and I could almost say an education. With George Elliot’s characteristic perspicacity, common good sense and scrupulous fair-mindedness it’s also what I’ve just seen someone (not without approval) describe as “bitchy”. That’s not quite the right word, unless one means wryly incisive and to-the-point and therefore often ...more
Lene Jaqua
Nov 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Felix Holt kept my attention. It was an enjoyable book with an engaging plot, however, given that it is authored by Georg Eliot, I would say that it is not as engaging or unique as Silas Marner, nor as complex and thought out as the multiplot-lined Middlemarch.

Some common themes that show up in other Eliot books as well is the dissenting Protestants, the restless female who is not content to be flirtatious and pretty, as well as the giving up of wealth and rank in order to gain a more meaningful
Dec 14, 2010 rated it liked it
The first book I have finished in 2011 is a classic written by the estimable George Eliot, whose novel Middlemarch I fell completely in love with. I found Felix Holt to be an inferior work, but still entertaining and quite gripping toward the end of the book. The Transome estate is in neglect when we first enter the scene, and the stately lady of the house is eagerly awaiting the arrival of her second-born son who has recently become the inheritor of everything. Lady Transome has many high hopes ...more
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I first read Felix Holt about 15 years ago, and it didn't catch me as much as other, more popular novels by Eliot. Having just re-read it, I now understand why.

This is a novel that depends on an understanding of the political state of the UK in I think the 1830s. On first reading, I just didn't have the insight to make any sense of some of the motives and events. Going back armed with a few ideas about the history of political reform, I experienced the book in a very different way, getting far
Joyce M. Tice
Mar 28, 2010 rated it liked it
Purchased Jan 2006
April 9, This is dragging, but I am determined. At least 2/3 done and plugging on.
April 10 - I dragged myself to page 261 and resolved that I could not go further. I made one last attempt and, voila, finally all the long pages of stage setting started to produce something interesting. I may be able to finish this after all. Volumes One and Two set things up and it looks as though Volume Three finally will get to the point.
April 11 - Done - at last. I really like Eliot's
Jan 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Felix Holt is a surprising triumph for Eliot. For the first time, she engages fully with some of the deeper socio-political issues of her day and age. The plot is almost Dickensian in the amount of intrigue, scandal, and romance, which is a good thing for the sometimes achingly slow Eliot. Despite the (comparatively) racing plot, it is the emotional and psychological moments of the novel that are the strongest. Lady Transome is the best character I've read from Eliot yet. Felix Holt gets passed ...more
Mar 03, 2016 rated it liked it
"The thorn-bushes there, and the thick-backed stems, have human histories hidden in them, the power of unuttered cries dwells in the passionless-seeming branches, and the red warm blood is darkly feeding the quivering nerves of a sleepless memory that watches through all dreams."
These dreams are a parable.
Aug 27, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: british, eliot
First, Eliot is simply a master. I love her way of writing. This is my fifth book by Eliot. Unfortunately, it's my least favorite. It is a story about an election, about love, about a surprise heir, about how poverty and wealth can each make us selfish. These stories were all ok but none of them was great. And the ending came so abruptly. All that being said, the writing is wonderful.
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Who would think that 1830's English politics could be so riveting? Seriously, it may start off slow, but this is one of my favorites of Eliot's (after Middlemarch, of course).
Julia Florek Turcan
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
I think Esther made the wrong choice.
Oct 15, 2017 rated it liked it
tfw everyone in ur english class hates this book so much we very nearly defied our tutor and did not make a presentation on it LMAO
Sep 04, 2016 rated it really liked it

One well-known definition of the novel is that it is a long story that has something wrong with it.

In the case of George Eliot’s Felix Holt, what’s wrong is the title character, Felix Holt himself. He’s a cantankerous, righteous sort whom Eliot apparently wanted to impose not only on her story but English society, suggesting that ethical reform of a quasi-religious nature would serve England better than political reform, which is less trustworthy and too abrupt.

The pity is that Eliot (Mary Ann
V.M. Watson
Dec 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This novel found George Eliot returning to her more accustomed themes and settings after her historical melodramatic romance Romola met with little public success. While Felix Holt again deals with a small rural community forced to deal with modern changes, with characters representative of different strands of tradition and innovation, the story lacks the passion and drive of Eliot's other novels such as Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda, and Adam Bede.

A resolutely sensible and sometimes plodding
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
Felix Holt: The Radical was assigned reading for my British History course and I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. My only other experience with Victorian novels prior to Eliot's came from select Jane Austen novels. Needless to say, Eliot has a very different writing style than Austen.

I loved how sympathetic Eliot's characters were. I felt for all of them -- even those like Harold that I loved to hate -- and in a book with as many minor characters as Felix Holt , that feels like
Apr 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
This involved the run up to an election after the first Reform Act and the rioting on election day. Interestingly the rector's response to the unrest is literally to "read the Riot Act".

Some of the chapters about Mr Lyon, the dissenting minister were a bit tiresome although the storyline about his proposed debate with the curate who ran away was funny. Mrs Holt was good value. I understand Mrs Transome's character is generally thought to be interesting, but I found her a bit one-dimensional:
Aug 22, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I can't wait to read this book, and I'm not ashamed to admit that my excitement has as much to do with the particular edition as with the plot! Emily just returned from Charleston, South Carolina where she found this gorgeous gold-guilt, red leather and red marble-paper bound edition from the late 1800s! The best part: my latest copy of the periodical Victorian Studies (49.1) arrived today as well, and the front cover bears one of the illustrations from this copy of Felix Holt! Thanks a bunch ...more
Jun 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was surprised how easy I found this to read since I remember Middlemarch being a slog. I love her characters. It's only not five stars because I can't quite see why Esther and Felix couldn't do more good if they had kept more money and because the nineteenth century mind is sometimes an uncomfortable place for a twenty first century one to be.
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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
“There is much pain that is quite noiseless; and vibrations that make human agonies are often a mere whisper in the roar of hurrying existence. There are glances of hatred that stab and raise no cry of murder; robberies that leave man or woman forever beggared of peace and joy, yet kept secret by the sufferer—committed to no sound except that of low moans in the night, seen in no writing except that made on the face by the slow months of suppressed anguish and early morning tears. Many an inherited sorrow that has marred a life has been breathed into no human ear.” 18 likes
“To the receptive soul the river of life pauseth not, nor is diminished.” 5 likes
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