Felix Holt:The Radical by George Elliot (aka Mary Ann Evans). Written and published between 1863 and 1871. Published as three separate books; the first book was published whilst the second book was still on the press and the third book was yet to be written, this had come about due to illness and general delays and the third book reads as if it was written at speed, but this is of nor detriment to it.
Mary Ann Evans said that she wrote under the pseudonym of George Elliot because she wanted to be taken seriously in her writing, although women authors were publishing, they often wrote romances which is something Mary Ann Evans did not want to be known for. Having read Mill on the Floss many years ago and not thinking much of it, Felix Holt would not have been a book I would have chosen myself, however this was a library book group choice and I really enjoyed it and so did all those in the group who persevered with the 500+ pages, also many of those who hadn’t read it took it home again to do so.
The story is based around the political reforms of the 1830 in England. You had to be of a certain class of gentleman to even be able to vote. Felix Holt the only son of father who was both a watch maker and a Apotharcarist in a small town in north Yorkshire leaves behind his training to become a Doctor and comes home too fight for the rights of the common man. By giving up his position as a possible doctor he also gave up his right to vote. Yet, he returns home a member of the Radical party as opposed to a Wick or indeed a Tory. He takes up his position in the town as a watchmaker, like his father, and sets about rallying the working man to peaceable speak out for the workers. However there were members of the other parties that had other ideas, namely to get the men drunk and to cause a riot. That is indeed what happens and Felix, trying to divert the men from their tirade ends up caught up in the middle of it all to his detriment.
However, all is not lost as in the middle of all the political going on, his mind is gradually changed when he meets the strong minded Esther Lyon, who is the daughter of one of the ministers of the churches. Esther has her own story in the book, along side Felix’s and the two stories come together perfectly, maybe a little too perfectly in the third book.
If you enjoy the old style authors; Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, or Jane Austin then I am sure you will enjoy this book with its colourful characters and well described places. It is tempting to read more by the same author, maybe one day.
4 out of 5