Gwendolen Harleth gambles her happiness when she marries a sadistic aristocrat for his money. Beautiful, neurotic, and self-centred, Gwendolen is trapped in an increasingly destructive relationship, and only her chance encounter with the idealistic Deronda seems to offer the hope of a brighter future. Deronda is searching for a vocation, and in embracing the Jewish cause he finds one that is both visionary and life-changing. Damaged by their pasts, and alienated from the society around them, they must both discover the values that will give their lives meaning. George Eliot's powerful novel is set in a Britain whose ruling class is decadent and materialistic, its power likely to be threatened by a politically emergent Germany. The novel's exploration of sexuality, guilt, and the will to power anticipates later developments in fiction, and its linking of the personal and the political in a context of social and economic crisis gives it special relevance to the dominant issues of the twenty-first century.
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