(From Guardian Unlimited)
George Eliot's final novel, Daniel Deronda, was also her most controversial. Few had a problem, upon its publication in 1876, with its portrayal of yearning and repression in the English upper class. But as Eliot's lover, George Henry Lewes, had predicted: "The Jewish element seems to me likely to satisfy nobody."
Deronda was the first of Eliot's novels to be set in her own period, the late 19th century, and in it she took on what was a highly unusual contemporary theme: the position of Jews in British and European society and their likely prospects. The eponymous hero is an idealistic young aristocrat who comes to the rescue of a young Jewish woman and in his attempts to help her find her family is drawn steadily deeper into the Jewish community and the ferment of early Zionist politics.