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The World Before Her Hardcover – May 13, 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618746579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618746576
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,348,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two women in Venice, separated by a century, search for love and identity in the latest from novelist (Still Point) and memoirist (A Joyful Noise) Weisgall. It opens as Marian Evans—aka Mary Ann Evans, aka the novelist George Eliot (1819–1880)—is on her 1880 honeymoon in Venice with Johnnie Cross, who is 20 years her junior. Evans is trying, after a long and scandalous love affair with fellow author George Lewes, to have a normal marriage. One hundred years later, in the same city, Caroline Spingold travels with her husband, Malcolm, on his business trip aimed at revitalizing the Venetian economy. Caroline is a sculptor with a childhood history in Venice, financially supported by Malcolm, who is 20 years her senior. Malcolm does not share many of Caroline's perceptions, and she grows increasingly weary of her stale marriage. Weisgall shares the stories of Marian and Caroline in alternating chapters, sensitively developing their similarities in artistic and sexual ambition. Both face the deaths of men from their pasts, making love to their memories while their current partners struggle to beautify their lives and aid them in their work. Weisgall's well-researched historical fiction is dense, romantic and provocative. (May)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Weisgall’s first novel, Still Point (1990), took the reader into the world of a New York City ballet company, and this second one explores the parallel worlds of two marriages a century apart yet forever interwoven through the beauty of Venice. We first encounter Marian Evans Cross honeymooning in Venice. Marian led an unconventional life for the late Victorian era through her lengthy extramarital relationship with George Henry Lewes and publication of Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, and Middlemarch under the pseudonym George Eliot. Now in 1880 she has gained respectability by marrying a younger man, John Cross, but has lost the spark of vitality and creativity that once was the hallmark of her life. A century later, sculptor Caroline Edgar Spingold returns reluctantly to Venice on a surprise tenth-anniversary trip planned by her husband, Malcolm. Caroline spent a golden summer in Venice with her parents 22 years before and then her life was torn apart by their divorce. Marian’s life will end unexpectedly without having attained great happiness or contentment in this relationship with Cross, while Caroline will emerge from the fog of complacency to achieve the happiness she sought as an artist and as a woman. A compelling novel of introspection, the story is enhanced by vivid attention to the artistic and literary detail in both the historical and contemporary settings. --Laurie Sundborg

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Very well written and easy to read.
William Butterfield
More than a story of two women, it is the story of marriage and all its joys, sorrows and complications.
D. Salvagin La Deetda Reads
It is beautifully written and gorgeously observed.
Margaret Watson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Watson on June 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I started reading this book because of Venice and George Eliot. It seemed like a perfect escape, and it was. Venice, separated by a hundred years...and it was much more than that too. It is beautifully written and gorgeously observed. The novel is two linked stories, told in alternating chapters. The first one is about Marian Evans, who wrote novels under the pen name of George Eliot. She is on her honeymoon with her handsome young husband. The second story takes place a hundred years later when Caroline Spingold, a young sculptor, arrives in Venice with her older husband to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary...so like Casaubon in Middlemarch (Eliot's book). Both women are trying hard to convince themselves that they are happy and love the men that they have married...alas...the novel explores how Marian and Caroline come to terms with the truth of their feelings. It explores the nature of marriage, the rewards and the price of happiness, the problems of love and work for ambitious women. The book is layered with descriptions of Venetian paintings and with melodies that literally rise from the pages. Weaving the magic of Eliot's stories in a gossamar way, Weisgall ignites two lives for the voracious reader, seductive for the romantic. I hope she writes another one soon....
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rockwell Kent on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I adored Deborah Weisgall's dazzling novel, The World Before Her, which has garnered richly-deserved critical praise. This provocative, elegant book tells the intricate and equally compelling stories of two wives a century apart; each woman is an artist - one is George Eliot, the other a modern trophy wife who is herself a sculptor - and their life choices are explored with a breathtaking depth of understanding. Featuring Whistler, Liszt, and the mysteries of Venice, this triumphant book is must-read for anyone interested in literature, music, the fine arts, as well as for anyone who is or has ever been in love and wrestled with its complexities.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Beech Climber on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was captivated by "The World Before Her," and stayed up into the wee hours to finish it. Two women in different eras struggle to balance the urge for personal fulfillment with the security and familiarity of a marriage. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into how George Eliot might have tried to cope with the loss of true (if illicit) love by finally achieving social (if stifled) respectability. The modern-day parallel story explores the effects of having chosen the path of safety earlier in life, with ultimately equally ambivalent results. The descriptions are rich and evocative, and the emotions ring true. And don't miss the raffish Whistler flashing his devil-may-care enthusiasm for life. Highly recommended!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Pamela J. Murphy on February 14, 2010
Format: Paperback
This interwoven story alternating between 1880/1980 visitors (centering around George Eliot and a woman artist and both their financial investor husbands)start off interesting and well written. The novel does provide a fascinating prospective of George Eliot's personal life. However, as the story progresses, the characters in the 1980 story become increasing 2 dimensional. A disappointing ending to a very promising start.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By BC on April 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book was lovely when it focused on George Eliot, her new husband John, and their time in Venice and beyond. I wanted to savor every image, every word. Then Caroline Springold and her husband Malcolm rudely intruded and diminished that wonderful illusion. I now believe that I could have easily skipped every single chapter that took place in the 1980's and not missed a thing. I do wish that the author had written more about George Lewes and also James McNeil Whistler and his paramour--they were very appealing characters that deserve more time, more attention from this potentially amazing author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Deborah K. Manegold on June 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Deborah Weisgall has written a riveting tale of two women a century apart. They are connected by place and sense of disconnection in their current marriages. She creates a mood and landscape that draws you in. This is a book you want to read cover to cover in one sitting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Anne St Goar on June 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a stunningly written book full of evocative images and intriguing characters w/ 2 compelling love stories. Weisgall transports us to the Venice of 1880 w/ the still wounded Eliot, her Johnnie on her arm but her George in her heart. We watch her cope w/ falling out of love. Caroline in the Venice of 1980 is trying to extricate herself from a controlling older husband and we watch her fall in love. Middlemarch is in good hands under Weisgall's deft touch. George Elliot comes to life with a wonderful combination of historic facts and creative fiction. This is a fascinating and absorbing read-transformative!
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By Bonsie Jonesie on September 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I read this book for my book club. I'm not fond at all of books with dual plot lines, and this one is
no exception. I had a lengthy discussion with the woman that selected this for our read, and with interest, she said that a woman that she visits at the book store she owns couldn't say anything nice about it either. Made me feel better as I just didn't enjoy it much at all. Others liked it quite well, I'm just not one of them.
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