THE WORLD BEFORE HER by Deborah Weisgall

This book on the Politics and Prose summer reading recommendation list caught my eye: The World Before Her, by Deborah Weisgall. Here’s the blurb:

Weisgall George Eliot lived with George Lewes for twenty years; the two never married, and after Lewes died, Eliot married Johnny Cross, a much younger man, who was bent on rescuing her. They honeymooned in Venice. A hundred years later, in Deborah Weisgall’s The World Before Her, Malcolm takes his bride Caroline Spingold, a sculptor, to Venice. Both men want to possess their women, and to act on their behalf. The two women are in no way related except through their own need for self- expression and agency. Weisgall, in her first novel, does a graceful job of presenting each woman in her time.

Popmatters blog also reviewed this book quite favorably, saying:

With The World Before Her, Weisgall joins writers like Tracy Chevalier, Harriett Chessman, and Susan Vreeland in resuscitating long-dead artists and their artworks, invariably viewed through the eyes of female protagonists.  Surely there is a name for this genre.  Beach reading for the intellectual set?  Smarter than chick lit, lacking the stigma of romance novels, these poor artistic women are raised from the dead only to become fictionalized figures.  In Weisgall’s case, these figures are set in Venice, an utterly reliable backdrop: gorgeous, decaying, art-filled, and romantically lit.

Here is a short piece on The World Before Her from NPR (which links to an interview with Weisgall). My favorite quote: “[Venice] is a place in a way that magnifies emotion. If you’re happy in Venice you’re happier than you ever have been. If you’re unhappy in Venice, with this strange watery light that just seems to reflect parts of yourself that you weren’t aware of, you’re very unhappy.”

Anyone out there read this yet?