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Making Daniel Deronda work

The television adaptation of Daniel Deronda shows that some of the best costume drama is based on flawed works that few people have heard of

By Kathryn Hughes   December 2002

Daniel Deronda, George Eliot’s final novel, published in 1876, has always been thought unfilmable. Its predecessors, Middlemarch, The Mill on the Floss and Adam Bede, have made it-several times, in some cases-onto the small screen, but Deronda resisted. Periodically someone had another go at writing a script, but it never came to much. Daniel Deronda remained too complex, too sprawling and, above all, too boring to be tucked into a snappy narrative that would keep Sunday evening audiences tuning in.

Half of the book, the part that concerns the passage of beautiful, wilful Gwendolen Harleth-perhaps the finest character that Eliot…

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