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Born in Exile   By: (1857-1903)

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Born in Exile by George Gissing is a powerful and thought-provoking novel that delves deep into the complexities of social and personal identity. Set in late 19th-century London, the story follows the life of a young man named Godwin Peak who struggles to find his place in a society that constantly reminds him of his "exiled" status.

From the moment we are introduced to Godwin, it becomes clear that he is an intellectual and a dreamer, harboring ambitions that far surpass his modest upbringing. As an aspiring writer, he seeks to escape the limitations of his class and social standing, dreaming of success and recognition. However, his journey is fraught with obstacles, particularly the expectations placed on him by his family and society.

Gissing expertly captures the struggles faced by those who do not conform to societal norms, making the reader empathize deeply with Godwin's plight. As he navigates the treacherous waters of love, marriage, and professional ambitions, Godwin grapples with his own conflicting desires and the weight of society's judgments. The author skillfully weaves together themes of social class, identity, and the pursuit of one's dreams, creating a narrative that remains relevant even in contemporary times.

One of the most striking aspects of Born in Exile is Gissing's ability to portray the complexities of human relationships. The characters in this novel are multi-layered, flawed, and deeply human, making their interactions feel authentic and emotionally charged. The romantic relationships, in particular, are depicted in a refreshingly honest manner, defying conventional tropes and exploring the often painful realities of love and desire.

In addition to its exploration of personal struggles, the novel also provides a fascinating insight into the social and political landscape of Victorian England. Gissing masterfully captures the stark divisions between the privileged upper class and the struggling working class, highlighting the injustice and inequality that permeated society at the time. The author's keen observations and vivid descriptions add depth and richness to the story, transporting the reader to the gritty streets and salons of Victorian London.

Despite its profound exploration of societal issues, Born in Exile is not a heavy or inaccessible read. Gissing's writing is elegant, capturing the essence of his characters' emotional states with precise and evocative language. The pacing is well-balanced, keeping the reader engaged and eager to discover how Godwin's journey will unfold.

In conclusion, Born in Exile is a compelling and intellectually stimulating novel that stands the test of time. Through its exploration of social class, personal identity, and the pursuit of dreams, George Gissing crafts a tale that is both thought-provoking and emotionally resonant. This is a must-read for those who enjoy historical fiction and appreciate the power of literature to shed light on the human condition.

First Page:

Born in Exile


George Gissing

JTABLE 4 7 1

Part I


The summer day in 1874 which closed the annual session of Whitelaw College was marked by a special ceremony, preceding the wonted distribution of academic rewards. At eleven in the morning (just as a heavy shower fell from the smoke canopy above the roaring streets) the municipal authorities, educational dignitaries, and prominent burgesses of Kingsmill assembled on an open space before the College to unveil a statue of Sir Job Whitelaw. The honoured baronet had been six months dead. Living, he opposed the desire of his fellow citizens to exhibit even on canvas his gnarled features and bald crown; but when his modesty ceased to have a voice in the matter, no time was lost in raising a memorial of the great manufacturer, the self made millionaire, the borough member in three Parliaments, the enlightened and benevolent founder of an institute which had conferred humane distinction on the money making Midland town. Beneath such a sky, orations were necessarily curtailed; but Sir Job had always been impatient of much talk. An interval of two or three hours dispersed the rain clouds and bestowed such grace of sunshine as Kingsmill might at this season temperately desire; then, whilst the marble figure was getting dried, with soot stains which already foretold its negritude of a year hence, again streamed towards the College a varied multitude, official, parental, pupillary... Continue reading book >>

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