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Top Customer Reviews
But this is only the backdrop for the meaty aspects of the book. The glory of the novel is Gissing's examination of relationships. By scrutinzing a particularly vivid woman-- a narcissist whose self-deceptions clamor to distort every attachment she forms-- the author brings an expert hand to describing marriages, friendships, parent-child bonds. Gissing shows a psychologist's keen insight into the ways that generations pass on strengths and weaknesses, the way a parent's behaviors will mold the desires of his children's adulthoods. He is perceptive about how vastly different people may attract one another in the subconscious hopes that they will counter-balance each other's excesses. He is able to show how friendships can round out-- or contaminate-- the weaknesses in a person's character.Read more ›
What I love about Gissing is his unflinching honesty, his allegiance to the truth no matter how painful---in regard to his characters and to his own life. His characters (in The Whirlpool) are so very real; the dialogue snaps in the air about your ears. It's all so real, so inevitable, so poignant. Gissing can break your heart--not out of sentimentality, like Dickens, but because his own heart is breaking.
It makes me wonder who he wrote for? He knew his novels were not going to be best sellers. I've even read that he expressed some disdain for successful writers. The Whirlpool was one of his last novels; he had no illusions about it being embraced by the literary world, much less the man in the street. Yet he wrote so painstakingly well.
The Whirlpool and The Odd Women moved me in ways that Dickens never could. I would put Gissing right up there with George Eliot. He towers over Henry James, and he's better than Galsworthy.
The title "The Whirlpool" is the key metaphor of the book. Gissing and his main character, Harvey Rolfe describe the world of late Nineteenth Century London as "a ghastly whirlpool which roars over a bottomless pit" (p. 47)for its ceaseless and senseless activity devoted to the pursuit of money which draws everyone into its maw.Read more ›
A main concern of the author and his main hero is the impossibility of a satisfactory and fulfilling married life. The weakness of the novel in relation to that theme is that GG does not let us come to this conclusion ourselves, but he needs to tell us from the start. When the future couple meets, we know right away that this is never going to work. GG was not devious enough. We are not deceived about the woman in the same way as her future husband is. He picks up with our knowledge fast enough when it is too late, but is a good sport and tries to make the best of it. Not that he is a nugget of a man himself.
And, lest I forget to mention it, having children is entirely inconvenient. That is accepted as a matter of course, hardly a debate about it.
The story starts in the year 1886. Central character is an independent gentleman who came into his moderate fortune only after living more modestly as a business employee. Harvey Rolfe, 37, is not a man who is meant to be liked much.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Stock market crash, failed banks, violin recitals, accidental homicide, sensationalist jury trial... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Mark Levitt
Fine study of a marriage in Victorian London in the 1890s. Gissing deserves to be better known and it is good to see Penguin adding a new novel to their list of Gissing titles. Read morePublished 16 months ago by August Kramer
Seminally important and beautiful writer, a transition from 19th to 20th century realism. Gritty and haunting. Grub Street considered his most influential work.Published on March 11, 2014 by Bill Moor
This is a truly fine novel. Gissing's exploration of the human condition is not at all dated. Despite the Victorian situations this story could take place today.Published on December 25, 2013 by Peter R. Ramsey
I really enjoyed "The Whirlpool" more than I expected to. I've heard it described as being about marriage, but I'd say it is more about the Victorian concept of "society. Read morePublished on June 9, 2010 by E. Walker
This is a book that demands to be read - as do all of Gissings' books but "The Whirlpool" has been unjustly
forgotten. Read more
Gissing has few equals in writing about relationships, especially relationships between men and women. Read morePublished on June 18, 2007 by MalPitts