A TLS BOOK OF THE YEAR.
Who was the real George Eliot? In Love with George Eliot is a glorious debut novel which tells the compelling story of England’s greatest woman novelist as you’ve never read it before.
Marian Evans is a scandalous figure, living in sin with a married man, George Henry Lewes. She has shocked polite society, and women rarely deign to visit her. In secret, though, she has begun writing fiction under the pseudonym George Eliot. As Adam Bede’s fame grows, curiosity rises as to the identity of its mysterious writer. Gradually it becomes apparent that the moral genius Eliot is none other than the disgraced woman living with Lewes.
Now Evans’ tremendous celebrity begins. The world falls in love with her. She is the wise and great writer, sent to guide people through the increasingly secular, rudderless century, and an icon to her progressive feminist peers — with whom she is often at odds. Public opinion shifts. Her scandalous cohabitation seems forgiven. But this idyll is not secure and cannot last. When Lewes dies, Evans finds herself in danger of shocking the world all over again.
Meanwhile, in another rudderless century, two women compete to arrive at an interpretation of Eliot as writer and as woman …
Everyone who has thrilled at being shown the world anew by George Eliot will thrill again at her presence, complex and compelling, here.
‘A sensitive, impeccably researched and deeply pleasurable debut novel ... As the best historical novels do, it absorbs the reader to such an extent that, even if they know the outline of the story, each page is a revelation.’
View all reviews
‘I devoured this, and it made me happy and excited. It reminded me of Toibin's The Master: its representations of the psychology of the characters, their shifting ground, variegated moods, seemed to work in something like the same way, and with the same fineness. It's really beautifully tender, subtle, imaginative, saturated authentically (to my mind anyway) in another time and thought-world.’
Tessa Hadley, author of Late in the Day
‘O’Shaughnessy’s subtle, compelling, intensely feminine portrait explores the inner life of her sensitive heroine with the fine emotional intelligence that makes George Eliot’s own novels so remarkable.’
Clare Carlisle, TLS
‘Compelling … a tender and haunting study.’
Lucy Lethbridge, The Financial Times
‘Richly and sensitively described ... O’Shaughnessy does us the favour of reminding us what an underrated erotic writer Eliot is.’
The Sunday Telegraph
‘An accomplished tribute to one of our greatest authors.’
Simon Humphreys, The Mail on Sunday
‘A revealing debut novel … a fascinating read.’
Mariella Frostrup, BBC Radio 4 Open Book
‘This sensitive fictionalisation … is thoroughly absorbing.’
‘O’Shaughnessy’s writing is full of delicious words … and brilliant descriptions. She is full of keen insights into Evans’s character … This is an astute, skilful book.’
Violet Hudson, Literary Review
‘In Love with George Eliot is a clever, unconventional approach to the great novelist's life; it is easy to imagine that Marian Evans herself would have approved of the playful thoughtfulness with which Kathy O’Shaughnessy brings the private person behind George Eliot’s public success alive.’
Dr Ruth Scurr, author of John Aubrey: My Own Life
‘Henry James was but one of many beguiled by Marian Evans (aka George Eliot) … In lucid, unshowy prose, O’Shaughnessy brings them all to life.’
Rose Shepherd, Saga
‘A layered, tender portrait.’
Dani Garavelli, The Herald
‘In Love with George Eliot is a feverishly intense and beautifully rendered first novel, especially in its detail and sensitivity, that brings to life the woman and the legend.’
Marie Matteson, Readings
‘Classy, beautifully written and richly imagined — a novel that opens a door onto the past.’
Nicci Gerrard, author of The Twilight Hour
‘In Love with George Eliot is a real pleasure to read, even if you haven’t read any of her novels.’
Lisa Hill, ANZ LitLovers
‘She gives a new life to these long dead, overdressed people, writing of them with an attentive and loving eye, forgiving them and understanding. Her take on the central mystery of Eliot’s later life – marriage to Johnny Cross, a family friend to both her and Lewes and 20 years her junior, and on Cross’ suicide attempt on their Italian honeymoon – is painfully believable.’
Helen Elliot, The Age
‘In this beautifully imagined novel, the rich intellectual world in which Marian lived is brought alive.’ FOUR STARS
Melinda Woledge, Good Reading