Marian Evans is a scandalous figure, living in sin with a married man, George Henry Lewes. She has shocked polite society, and women rarely deign to visit her. In secret, though, she has begun writing fiction under the pseudonym George Eliot. As Adam Bede’s fame grows, curiosity rises as to the identity of its mysterious writer. Gradually it becomes apparent that the moral genius Eliot is none other than the disgraced woman living with Lewes.
Now Evans’ tremendous celebrity begins. The world falls in love with her. She is the wise and great writer, sent to guide people through the increasingly secular, rudderless century, and an icon to her progressive feminist peers ― with whom she is often at odds. Public opinion shifts. Her scandalous cohabitation seems forgiven. But this idyll is not secure and cannot last. When Lewes dies, Evans finds herself in danger of shocking the world all over again.
Meanwhile, in another rudderless century, two women compete to arrive at an interpretation of Eliot as writer and as woman …