Category Archives: Book Reviews

Review: Daniel Deronda

This is my third reading of this amazing novel. I first read it several years ago, and wrote a review of it on a few book sites, years back. My review remains the same, after my third reading. The only exception would be the fact that I admire the strength, fortitude, and courage Daniel illuminated within the story line. His journey towards becoming an authentic human, a man of morals and religious devotion, is compelling on so many levels.

I finished my third reading two hours ago. Most of my day was spent in prayer, reading The Book of Lamentations, due to Tisha B’Av, meditating, having prayerful moments, and reading.

The societal dynamics, social disparities and comparisons, assimilation and acceptance, bonding within the Jewish community, and the separation of social communities due to religion, are relevant concepts and factors within the structure of English ‘standards’ of the time period. ‘The Jewish Factor’ of a Jew being considered equal to English elitism reigns supreme within the pages.

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Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot is a novel that takes place during the Victorian time period. 

The era is important due to the social mores and standards of the time period. I kept that in mind while reading the novel. The two main characters blend within their lifestyles, ever aware of their standings within the societal realm. Daniel Deronda, has been a ward, since early childhood, of the wealthy Sir Hugo Mallinger. Daniel, along with others in Mallinger’s social network, believes that he is Mallinger’s illegitimate son. Daniel is a sensitive man, and often ponders on his birth, and whether his true heritage lends him to actually being a true English gentleman. During his travels and his wanderings he finds himself in the company of Jews. Within his involvement with the Jewish community, he feels a strong bond, feels comfortable within their realm, and feels a sense of commonality. 

Gwendolen Harleth is the other main character, and she is a self-absorbed individual. She thrives on manipulating others to suit her gain. She is proud of being able to control men with her feminine charms. A blink of her eyes causes men to be enamored of her. This is how she has maintained her standing within her social life. All that comes to an end all too soon, for her, as she is faced with the fact that her family is going bankrupt. 

This causes her to take a stance in order to support herself and family. She eventually gives in and marries a man named Henleigh Grandcourt. She feels that she managed to control him to her beckoning, but little does she know that the reverse situation is, in actuality, the truth. He has manipulated her. She becomes aware of this, and in the end, finds herself feeling extreme guilt over circumstances surrounding her husband. She befriends Daniel, with full display of gaining his attention, in her manipulative manner. He thinks of her constantly, yet, his heart is with Mirah. He tries to ease out of contact with Gwendolen in a sensitive manner.

Daniel Deronda is a brilliant novel, and the characters are all depicted vividly, with all of their flaws and attributes. Even the more minor characters are not so minor, truth be told. For instance, Mirah Lapidoth, a young woman on the brink of suicide is saved by Daniel just as she is about to jump into the Thames River. From there begins a relationship based on mutual respect and admiration. Mirah is Jewish, and therein lies Daniel’s initiation and into the Jewish community, its strong traditions, and also its secular offshoots. 

Mirah has run away from her father, and has ended up in London searching for her long lost mother and brother. Daniel’s sympathies has him striving to help her find them, and help her begin a new life. Throughout all of this, he finds himself falling for her, romantically.

Daniel is consumed by Judaism and its ideals, and feels completely comfortable in Jewish surroundings. He can not stay away from the Jewish section, and has cemented himself within the Jewish Quarter with his contacts. His comfort level is fostered by a man named Mordechai, a man of great vision. He practices Kabbalah, and his dreams take him to places others have not traveled. He instills in Daniel the fact that Jews need to have their own homeland, their “Promised Land”. He tries to encourage Daniel to take over his (Mordechai’s) efforts once he has died. He is a sickly man, a man with little time left in life. Daniel is influenced by him.

I enjoyed watching Daniel’s journey and growth, spiritually and emotionally. What he desires most in the beginning of his journey (his proper gentlemanly status) is proven to be what matters less, as his journey takes on new dimensions. He comes into his own, and his identity is cemented with a strong foundation.

The Jewish factors are quite prevalent within the pages of Daniel’s story. His curiosity regarding Judaism is never lost on the reader, and is enhanced through Eliot’s masterful writing and rendering of Judaism. His (Daniel’s) ever need for knowledge regarding Jewish life and traditions is evident, and written with conciseness and accuracy. 

Eliot certainly did her research, and considering the fact that Daniel Deronda was published in 1876, her research entailed a lot of physical work in gaining access to documents and records from libraries to public records, to consultations and so much more. The internet was not even a gleam in the eye of the writer of that era. Considering those factors, Daniel Deronda is a masterful historical novel, a novel that speaks of Judaism in every sense of it, from religious affiliations, to life styles, to food and culture, and so much more. The biblical symbolism is apparent, in my opinion. For instance, I could see an analogy between Daniel and Moses, as far as familial bonds within a family that is not blood-related. 

The majority of the novel seems to be mainly about Gwendolen, and about the upper crust of England. The reader is privy to her mind. Some readers could be put off by the title, but that should not deter them from reading the book. Gwendolen’s arrogance and self-absorption sets the stage for a more serious tone to come. The Jewish society is a separate one, although a social setting of its own, within the scheme of the whole of society and location. It is a totally different concept than the upper class of England. The two social aspects reinforce to the reader the disparity and separation of life style, and the superficial versus the genuine is illuminated. That, to me, was the beauty of the novel.

Once Daniel’s character takes root, it is clear that the story line of Gwendolen, has been written to lead up to the main point of the novel, the Jewish question, the Jewish factor, and the concept of Zionism. Yes, that is correct, Zionism

Imagine, Eliot, a woman of her time period, considering the varied Jewish theories, including the concept of Zionism, and not only that, writing it into the novel, Daniel Deronda. Imagine her debating, through her writing the Jewish question of identity and citizenship. She was a woman whose ideas and theories were spoken of within the pages of Daniel Deronda with precision and accuracy. She was a woman whose standards and ideals regarding the Jewish community were ahead of her time, so to speak, and it reflects in her writing. 

I was extremely absorbed within the almost 800 pages of Daniel Deronda. The length of the book had nothing to do with my desire to continue to read it through to the end. I found it fascinating, enthralling and compelling on so many levels. Eliot’s brilliance and perseverance in penning a novel filled with history, social opposites, ideals and mores, and with a few characters that matter to the reader, is astounding. Her respect for Judaism and its ideals and traditions is made quite clear. Her passion for truth and understanding is evident within the pages, especially within the last third of the novel. 

I applaud George Eliot for her strength and ability to portray individuals, not only at their worst, but at their best, and portray them with religious sensitivity.  Daniel Deronda, is an extremely ambitious novel, a brave one considering the era it was written, filled with historical brilliance through excellent writing. It is a moral story, filled with symbolism. It was controversial during its time period, and has been since then. There are several coincidences, and for me they were relevant, but some might see it differently. If the reader considers the era in which the novel was written, they can better begin to understand the societal context in relation to the time period.

I highly recommend George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda

Copyright Lorri M. No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission. 


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Still Lingering

Autumn colors are still lingering on the trees and foliage by the river.

The vibrancy on the trees and shrubs is illuminated within the dry (other than the river) landscape. That is what I love about walking along the river during the autumn season. There are so many variables of nature’s colors, textures, and beauty.

Between here and there, within a few steps of walking, the orangey tones became more muted, and disappeared on some of the natural elements. There was a beautiful blandness that I absolutely loved.

Nature has its way of fulfilling my heart, no matter where I am, or what season it is. I am in constant awe.

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I finished reading The Book of Two Ways, by Jodi Picoult.

I enjoyed the novel for the author’s dedication to historical information/factors. 

I have visited museum exhibits regarding Tutankhamen, and also exhibits regarding Egyptian artifacts. I found them fascinating. This book illuminated archaeological finds, and the process it takes in uncovering history.

I began reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Stories regarding parallel lives intrigue me. I hope the this story line evolves into illuminating perceptions and thoughts on the universe, and life.

Copyright Lorri M.

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Book Review: Psalm 44

Psalm 44, a novel by Danilo Kis, is an example of analogies of life within the realms of pending doom and death.

The story line is extremely intense and filled with tenseness that breaks the heart of the reader, and also cements the horrific events that occurred during the Holocaust. Psalm 44 is extremely detailed with word-imagery that astounded me.

Marija, the main character is faced with the unbearable within the concentration camp, and she veers from the forces of of disbelief and denial to the realities of the situation she finds herself in, along with her baby boy, Jan. She is confronted with the issues of trying to plan and complete an escape, with her baby and with Zana, her prison mate, to the issue of reuniting with Jakob, the baby’s father. Jakob is a Jew, and a doctor in the concentration camp. He is Marija’s lifeline.

Marija is in a constant state of flashbacks, flashbacks that constantly ramble on, intermingling with the present. I think that Kis was brilliant in portraying the situations of the past leading up to the imprisonment. His use of rambling self-dialogue is consistent with the circumstances Marija finds herself in.

There is a lot that is never told within the pages, and the reader has to sort those circumstances out, through underlying and subtle prose. For one thing, “Max” is the secret name given to the leader of the resistance within the camp. At times we think we might know who the person is, and at other times, we are at a loss to understand who is the actual person. It is not necessary to know, yet, the underlying hints did have me wondering.

Danilo Kis is masterful at details, leaving no minute detail unturned. His portrayal of Marija and Zana is vivid, and the reader’s senses are filled with the horrors and atrocities of their situation. Marija’s innermost feelings are prevalent and it is as if we are reading her mindset or inside her head.

Psalm 44, is a well-detailed and book and psychological study on the effects and affects of Holocaust imprisonment. The names of some individuals have been changed for the story line, although the individuals did exist, in reality. The story is filled with metaphors for life and death, survival through strength of purpose and willpower, and filled with remarkable and brutal scenarios that take the reader’s breath away. The truths are told concisely and with precision, as the author strives, quite successfully, to write with moral and ethical input.

As an aside: Danilo Kis’ father, a Jew, was killed during the Holocaust, in a prison camp, along with other family members. Kis’ writings reflect his Jewishness and social issues regarding Jewish identity.

© Copyright Lorri M. – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my express written consent/permission.

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Review: We Were Europeans

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We Were Europeans: A Personal History of a Turbulent Century, by Werner M. Loval, is book that portrays an incredible, personal, family/ancestral journey, both before World War II, and post war.

Loval came from a respected, well off, German-Jewish family, and before the war they were treated with dignity within their community. That all ended beginning on January 30,1933, when Hitler was sworn in as Chancellor of Germany. From that point forward, Loval’s story takes on dimensions that are precarious and horrendous, as he and his family fight to survive.

He and his sister eventually became part of the Kindertransport to England, while his parents eventually were able to escape to Ecuador, via Siberia and Japan, where the entire family was reunited. The family emigrated to America after the war. Loval eventually emigrated to Israel and played an intricate and highly professional role within the Diplomatic Service for the State of Israel. His religious foundations were strong, and he was involved in the Reform Jewish movement, and played a high profile role within it.

To say I am impressed with the format would be an understatement. I am in awe of We Were Europeans and the way Loval presents it to us. He infuses the pages with incredible documentation, amazing photographs, documents and maps, that enhance the pages of this compelling memoir, adding more drama to the presented depictions of the turbulence. From personal reflections and stories, the pages hold eye witness accounts to history as it happens, through Loval’s writing and presentation of supported evidence and documents.

Loval’s endeavors and arduous research has brought the reader into the depths of the Nazi turbulence, adversity and shocking horrors that overtook Europe during Hitler’s reign. First-hand accounts abound, and Loval leaves nothing to the imagination through his stark imagery. From correspondence to diaries during the haunting war years and afterwards, to diaries and letters during the Six Day War and so much more, the reader is painted vivid pictures of family inspiration during time of crisis. The post war events are just as compelling and intensely stated, as Loval involves himself in trying to get restitution for property owned by his family.

Loval and his family lived their lives to the fullest with a positive attitude, no matter the extreme harshness of their circumstances, no matter how far spread, at varied points in time, the family separation was across the global perspective. The illuminating photographs, documents and word-paintings are incredible testimonies to eras gone by, to familial bonds, to the determination and strength to persevere and survive, both during and after World War II.

We Were Europeans is a book of extreme importance and historical value for historians, for researchers, genealogists, for those who are interested in the Holocaust and World War II, and for those individuals, in general, who want to learn more about the turbulent times depicted within the pages. The intensity of the memoir is beyond imagination and comprehension. It is a powerful statement and testimony, not only to the decades, events and circumstances depicted, but to the Loval family unit. Their story is extremely inspiring, and I highly recommend We Were Europeans, by Werner M. Loval to everyone.

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Review, Copyright Lorri M.

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Review: Remedies

The novel, Remedies, by Kate Ledger, is a very in-depth and intense read on the subject of chronic pain.

Chronic pain in all of its forms is explored within the pages and within the lives of Simon Bear, a much loved and respected physician; Emily Bear, Simon’s wife; and their daughter, Jamie. The Bears are suffering from deep scars over the loss of their infant son, Caleb, fifteen years earlier. That tragic loss has caused them to block out their emotional pain, chronic pain that lingers deep within the recesses of their hearts.

That Simon, a doctor, was unable to diagnose and save his infant son, only enhances his grief, sense of loss and void from it, and enhances the continuing emotional pain. Emily’s pain, is also chronic, and she emotionally withdraws. Thus begins the story of a marriage conflicted with pain and lack of communication.

Kate Ledger is masterful in depicting characters trapped in the past, caught in time, characters unable to emotionally move forward due to the death of their infant son. She infuses the pages with their reactions and their actions to emotions they are unable to contend with. That those emotions caused dysfunction within their family is strongly emphasized.

Remedies is a novel that deals with not only issues of chronic pain, but how it affects individuals within a family unit. Those who feel the pain are not the only ones affected. Family members are also affected, as with any illness. That message is a strong point within the story line.

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Along the Way

I find contentment wandering through gardens, and looking at various scenes. They don’t have to be dramatic. I prefer the more simplistic views.

I enjoy nature’s textures, lines, colors, and contrasts.

I like the bark on trees, and how they remind me of humans. Yes, humans. As we age our skin becomes filled with spots, some areas of toughness, wrinkles, and pigment discoloration.

We aren’t so far off from the exteriors of trees, as we might think.

Benches, give me a bench! I like benches! They offer me solace in a world of chaos, noise, and discontent. I can sit and meditate within the confines of nature. I can listen to the birds singing, squawking, and can watch them flit about.

There is something to be said for benches, and I find them appealing, even if they are old, scratched in spots, made of metal/steel, wood, or even made of concrete.

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Now to move on to books, one of my favorite subjects.

I read The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irene Nemirovsky, by her Daughter. I found it heartfelt, bittersweet, and heartbreaking. I have read all of Nemirovsky’s books that have been translated into English.

I have not been disappointed in any of them. I do find it remarkable, when I think about her work, how she portrays Jews in her novels. She was Jewish. To say that it isn’t pretty would be putting it mildly. She often writes about Jewish characters with a tone of hatred. There is no sugar coating the Jews within her works.

But, I have strayed from the story, the idea that her daughter, who knew her physically, for such a short period of time, dreams of what it would have been like to have Nemirovsky in her life. The melancholy within the pages, speaks rivers of emotional flow.

I finished reading The Lions of Fifth Avenue. It was okay, in my opinion. The historical factors regarding the New York City Public Library were excellent, and well researched. If I were to rate it, I would give it three stars out of five stars.

I am in the process of reading The Madonna of the Mountains. It is a novel based in Italy, during the Second World War.

That is it for now. Thank you for stopping by.

-Lorri M.

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