“A generous classic.”

This is a sprawling, plentiful book. The style differs a little from the contemporary “show don’t tell” maxim; as was customary in earlier literary fiction, the voice of the author can occasionally be heard, and in Eliot’s case this is not a bad thing as her insights are interesting and erudite. Romola is a strong, multifaceted character, despite the difficult position of women in Renaissance Italy., although her husband Tito appropriates much of the action. Eliot has also done her historical homework. There is a lovely evocation of place and the dialogue, especially of the myriad charismatic characters, is convincing and entertaining. It was also fascinating to experience yet another take on the personality of Savonarola, somewhat more sympathetic than the scurrilously vengeful spit I bestow upon the ill-fated fellow’s plaque whenever I am in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

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