A Novel

Quercus · 304 pp · September 2014

Gwendolen was published by Quercus in the UK in September 2014 and by Henry Holt in the US as a trade paperback in March 2015. The UK paperback will be published in May 2015.



I was winning when I met your gaze. Its persistence made me raise my head then doubt myself. It broke my luck. Daniel Deronda. I still love your name Here in violet ink is my admission of love and pain, hope and struggle. You will never read it though all is written with you in mind. I know now that I kept a place in your heart and that in a way you loved me, though not as I hoped to be loved, or as I loved you. I hoped I was the woman from whom you might have felt unable ever to be apart, the girl, the woman whom you might have chosen, not to take with you to the other side of the world, but to love and be with until parted by death….I loved you from the moment I first saw you, I love you now. You are in my heart. I would always be thrilled, shocked and delighted to go into a room and see you there. It would always be as if I had found what I had lost and was looking for.

Years after she was caught in Daniel Deronda’s eyes at the roulette tables of the Kursaal in Homburg, Gwendolen Harleth writes her confessional to the man whose gaze stays with her. The egotism, naiveté and sensitivity of her youth is evoked with bittersweet wisdom; a passionate remembrance of the events leading up to the marriage she made that broke her spirit, the loss of the man who broke her heart, and her courage to rebuild her shattered life. Moving, original and elegant, this is a bravura re-imagining of the life of one of English literature’s most compelling and contradictory heroines.


In Gwendolen, Diana Souhami performs a bold feat of imagination: what would happen if George Eliot’s final novel were retold from the perspective of its beautiful, complicated, circumscribed heroine? The result is intriguing and moving: a fictional recovery of the woman’s interior experience that lies untold behind the man’s journey to fulfilment, and a powerful meditation upon the nature of creativity. Both an arresting interpretation of George Eliot’s work and a compelling fiction in its own right, Gwendolen will be whispering in my ear next time I go back to Daniel Deronda, reminding me to look for the story behind the story.

It is a completely beguiling novel.

Rebecca Mead, author of The Road to Middlemarch.