The Honeymoon

The Honeymoon

Book - 2016
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Dinitia Smith's spellbinding novel recounts George Eliot's honeymoon in Venice during June of 1880 following her marriage to a handsome young man twenty years her junior. When she agreed to marry John Walter Cross, Eliot was recovering from the death of George Henry Lewes, her beloved companion of twenty-six years who she considered her "husband" even though they were never legally married. All of her life she was driven by a need to love, and be loved, and she had found both those things with Lewes. When Lewes died, Eliot, bereft, was left at the age of sixty, contemplating the meaning of her existence without him, and was plagued by profound questions about the decline of her body, her sexuality, and of course, her own mortality.

Mary Ann Evans was an extremely plain young woman, a country girl, considered unmarriageable, who was forced to educate herself in order to secure her livelihood, and who became the most famous writer of her time. Overthrowing conventional religion and finding her own code of ethics, she was very much a woman both of and ahead of her time. In THE HONEYMOON, Smith beautifully integrates what is known about Eliot's life and explores, through Eliot's story, the notion of different kinds of love, sexual and platonic, of the possibilities of redemption and of happiness even in the midst of an imperfect union.
Publisher: New York : Other Press, 2016.
ISBN: 9781590517789
Branch Call Number: Fic
Characteristics: 415 pages ; 22 cm


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Feb 11, 2018

This is a biography cleverly written as a novel. The title refers to George Eliot's marriage to John Cross and the time they spent in Venice for their honeymoon. However, most of the chapters tell us the writer's life, how Mary Ann Evans became George Eliot and how her life and friendships shaped her books, how she abandoned her original faith and how she lived for about 25 years with George Lewis, the love of her life that she could not marry. The relationship with her father and her brother - two men full of themselves and narrow-minded, although in different measure - is also analyzed. I have recently re-discovered Eliot's work and have been lucky enough to be able to visit her house and other places connected to her in Nuneaton, England. Unfortunately, most of these places are in terrible conditions and the George Eliot Fellowship is doing their best to involve authorities in order to save them. This book was a suggestion from John Burton, the society's chairman who kindly gave us a tour. Even if you are not a George Eliot fan, I still encourage you to read this book. It talks about an extraordinary woman, full of contradictions (ahead of her time but somehow adverse to women's emancipation) but generous and kind, who has a lot to teach us today, especially to young women. On a different note, I was stunned to read about the number of men with whom Mary Ann slept who were married before meeting Lewis: men who actively sought her out and took it for granted that she should accept them. I am not judging, of course, but these men did not deserve her attention at all, they were unworthy of her and had several children out of wedlock that never bothered to support.

Jun 02, 2017

I agree with two recent comments posted here. I would contrast this book with the highly subjective 'My Life in Middlemarch' by Rebecca Mead (2014), which gave me a better sense of writing that splendid novel than did 'Honeymoon.'

Jul 12, 2016

While the premise had some promise, the writing was just poor. It read like a dime store romance, having no character development or insight into any character's inner life. It was as awkward and obvious as a freshman English paper. The author does a great disservice to George Eliot, portraying her like an insecure, slutty youth, sleeping with married men to boost her own ego. Better to reread one of Eliot's novels instead and give this piece of dreck a miss. An embarrassment.

Jun 29, 2016

If one were looking for an expose of the alleged sexual indiscretions of Marian Evans, this book would fit the bill. As it is, this is a highly speculative, impressionist picture of a very private woman. The passages in which her approach to her work are presented are very valuable, but you have to wade through a lot of dross to find them.


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Sep 27, 2016

"This novel imagines the course of George Eliot's troubled honeymoon, in Venice, with John Cross, 20 years her junior. After the death of George Henry Lewes, her true love and intellectual partner, she marries Cross with the understanding that the relationship, based on 'admiration and kindness,' will not be physical. Though Smith gets bogged down trying to fit in a full account of Eliot's life and work, she does well with invented incidents, such as a gondolier's aggressive sexual interest in Cross, and encounters with Dickens, Darwin, and the pioneering women's rights activist Barbara Bodichon, with who Eliot had a loyal friendship." - from "Briefly Noted", The New Yorker magazine, September 26, 2016, p. 75.


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