In Book I, we spent a lot of time on Gwendolen Harleth. In Book II, we get to know the title character Daniel Deronda, nephew of Hugo Mallinger.
"He had not lived with other boys, and his mind showed the same blending of child’s ignorance with surprising knowledge which is oftener seen in bright girls." [I love this quote because it tells us so much about the circumstances in which George Eliot, presumably one of those "bright girls" lived and was educated.]
Daniel believes that he may be the illegimate son of Mallinger, although he is unable to inherit. We see some of his childhood, and some of the time that he is at Cambridge. His Cambridge career ends when he sacrifices himself to assist his close friend, Hans Meyrick, in his studies because Meyrick has become ill and partially lost his sight.
“Deronda would have been first-rate if he had had more ambition,” was a frequent remark about him."
Book II ends with the introduction of Mirah Lapidoth, the Jewess whom Deronda saves from committing suicide:
"Deronda, awaiting the barge, now turning his head to the river-side, and saw at a few yards’ distant from him a figure which might have been an impersonation of the misery he was unconsciously giving voice to: a girl hardly more than eighteen, of low slim figure, with most delicate little face, her dark curls pushed behind her ears under a large black hat, a long woolen cloak over her shoulders. Her hands were hanging down clasped before her, and her eyes were fixed on the river with a look of immovable, statue-like despair."
He takes her to the Meyrick household since she has no where to go.
A lot of readers struggle mightily with George Eliot, but I very much enjoyed Middlemarch, which is the only book of hers I have read. I am very much enjoying Daniel Deronda so far.