Saturday, December 11, 2010

Lady Anna

Lady Anna. Anthony Trollope. 1874/2009. Oxford World's Classics. 560 pages.

Women have often been hardly used by men, but perhaps no harder usage, no fiercer cruelty was ever experienced by a woman than that which fell to the lot of Josephine Murray from the hands of Earl Lovel, to whom she was married in the parish church of Applethwaite,--a parish without a village, lying among the mountains of Cumberland, on the 1rst of June 181-. That her marriage was valid according to all the forms of the Church, if Lord Lovel were then capable of marrying, no one ever doubted; nor did the Earl ever allege that it was not so.

While I didn't love the cover, I did love the novel. (Doesn't it look like Lady Anna has a terrible pain in her side? Well, in a way, she does. The pain being her mother.) I almost don't know where to begin.

Did I like it? I loved it! I just LOVED it. Trollope did not disappoint.

Countess Lovel ("Josephine Murray") has spent decades in court trying to "prove" to the world that her marriage was valid. (That Earl Lovel did not have a living wife when the two were married in that small parish church). Also that her daughter, Anna, is legitimate. That being rightly the widow and daughter of the late Earl, they should not only receive their inheritance, but their titles as well. That Countess Lovel should legally be recognized as Countess. That Lady Anna be recognized as Lady. 

But fighting this legal battle is not cheap. And the Countess has not had the money to pay for it herself. When it comes down to it, if it hadn't been for the generosity of the Thwaite family--father and son--the two would not have lasted as long as they have. They have spent most of their lives depending on his money to survive. Daniel, the son, has grown up with Anna. And the two are extremely close. The best of friends. So it's only natural for these two to fall in love with one another, right? Why wouldn't Anna love her best friend, her defender, her provider?

As the legal case progresses, problems arise. That is in finding a compromise, a solution, the difficulty for our heroine arises. Everyone thinks it's a brilliant idea if Anna marries the Earl of Lovel--the young man who has inherited the title. She'll bring the money from the late Earl's estate if her inheritance is proven. He'll bring the title. It would be a perfect match--a flawless one at least on paper. But Anna's heart isn't in that match.

Her heart belongs to Daniel Thwaite, a common working man, a tailor, a Radical too. She has promised to be his wife. And for Anna there can be no breaking of that promise. First, she loves him truly. Second, she's a woman who keeps her word. And the truth is, Daniel wooed her when she had nothing. Daniel's actions match his words. He's proven his worth time and time again. He says what he means, and he means what he says. And this young Earl, well, he is handsome, it's true, and he says the right words--words that might prove tempting to just about any woman. But she knows that these words are at least in part prompted by her (forthcoming) wealth. He seems nice enough. But then again, he is on his best behavior. He's trying to impress her after all. The most Anna will admit is that if they'd met before she'd fallen in love with Daniel--then things might have gone differently.

This match outrages almost everyone. Lady Anna marry a tailor?! Well, that's unthinkable?! How could she--a fine Lady--marry anyone outside her class, her rank? There are many--including her mother--who will try to argue with Anna throughout the novel, will try to threaten her even, to get her to marry the "right" man. Will Anna give into the pressure? Or will she stay true to her lover?

Anthony Trollope was a great storyteller. His characters were always well-developed. All may not have been likable or good. But all the better if they're not. Who can forget Countess Lovel? Or Louis Trevelyan? Or Mr. Slope? (I bet Countess Lovel could have quite a conversation with Louis Trevelyan!)

I read this one as part of the Anthony Trollope Classics Circuit Tour.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Friday, December 3, 2010

He Knew He Was Right

He Knew He Was Right. Anthony Trollope. 1869/2009. Oxford University Press. 992 pages.

When Louis Trevelyan was twenty-four years old, he had all the world before him where to choose; and, among other things, he chose to go to the Mandarin Islands, and there fell in love with Emily Rowley, the daughter of Sir Marmaduke, the governor.

I love Anthony Trollope. You probably know that by now. Almost all of his novels have ended up on my "favorite and best" list. While He Knew He Was Right won't be topping that list, I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it in spite of Mr. and Mrs. Trevelyan.

One of the strengths of the novel is how it is peopled. So many characters. So many stories unfolding. Like a soap opera. You may not love all the plots and subplots. You may not love all the characters--love them equally I mean. But chances are you will find many you do like--perhaps even a few you'll love.

Louis Trevelyan loves his new wife, Emily, and is happier still when their son is born. But the happiness is not lasting for he becomes jealous of one of Emily's friends.

Emily Trevelyan can't understand why her husband has gotten this notion that she is "sinning" against him by having a few private conversations with her father's old friend, Colonel Osborne. Yes, he's her husband, but is it really necessary that he read every letter she receives and every letter she sends out?

Colonel Osborne is flattered to be the cause of a "little" argument between these newlyweds. He can't decide from one day to the next whether or not he's a "real" threat to their marriage or not. At times thinking that, yes, Emily would be the sort of woman he'd love to love. But, at other times, remembering quite clearly that she is much too young for him.

Nora Rowley, Emily's younger sister, can't understand--at least not at first--why this "little" argument has practically overnight become EVERYTHING. Emily's talking to her friends; Louis is talking to his friends. And everyone is taking sides. The good news? Most seem to think her husband's jealousy is unfounded. The bad news? He insists on a separation. It doesn't matter if he is the only one who thinks he has a just cause. He knows he is right.

Lady Milborough is one of the first friends Mr. Trevelyan consults. He values her opinion--at least at first. She is always ever pushing reconciling. Why should the couple fight over something so small? After all, Emily only needs to be shown the way. Unfortunately, her idea of "showing the way" to Emily doesn't work as planned. Still, she can't help wanting the best for this foolish couple.

Hugh Stanbury is another of Louis' friends. At first, he seems to be the unofficial messenger between this estranged husband and wife. It doesn't hurt that he's quite taken with Nora Rowley. But because of his lack of "profession", he hesitates declaring his feelings for her. (He's a journalist for London's Daily Record). He doesn't know it yet, but there's another suitor for Nora's attention. His romantic troubles only deepen when Nora's parents come to visit.

Mr. Glascock is a rich man soon to inherit a title. (Not that he doesn't wish his father well, mind you). He needs a good wife, is Nora the one? Or will she send him to Europe still in quest for 'the one'?

Mrs. Stanbury and Priscilla Stanbury--for better or worse--become involved in this mess of a separation. The three set up house together in the country--and peace lasts for a time. At least as far as they can see. Unfortunately, Louis, isn't done "investigating" his wife yet.  These two feel uncomfortable in their new position. It just doesn't feel right that Louis and Emily can't work out their problems.

Miss Jemima Stanbury (Aunt Stanbury) and Dorothy Stanbury. Oh what a character Miss Stanbury is! She's wealthy. She's eccentric. She's got an OPINION on just about everything. Including who should get married. And who shouldn't. Unfortunately, she's decided that Dorothy would make a great wife for Mr. Gibson. Dorothy does NOT agree. Especially after meeting Mr. Burgess.

Brooke Burgess has been told many things about Miss Stanbury, and he isn't quite sure what to believe. He certainly didn't expect to meet someone like Dorothy during his visit...
If you can spare Mr. Gibson some pity, he may just deserve it. There were times he seemed almost as mad as Louis Trevelyan. For whatever reason, he's decided to marry. Now if he could just make up his mind between the two French sisters--Arabella and Camilla. (Which sister is the 'better' sister?)

And those are just the highlights--as I see them. This one is complex--but in a good way. It's a richer novel for having so many characters, so many stories. I think it would suffer if it was just the story of Louis and Emily's horrible marriage. With each chapter, Louis becomes more and more intolerable. He's just an infuriating character--he really is. Have you read this one? Do you agree with me?

I do like this one. I think Trollope was great at developing characters. I found his style to be as enjoyable as ever. My favorite stories--in this one--were the romances between Nora and Hugh and Dorothy and Brooke. Of course, Mr. Gibson--as a clergyman--was quite a comical figure. Though perhaps not quite as memorable as Mr. Collins or Mr. Slope. Still, I think that love triangle adds something to the novel.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Monday, May 31, 2010

Doctor Thorne

Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)

Before the reader is introduced to the modest country medical practitioner who is to be the chief personage of the following tale, it will be well that he should be made acquainted with some particulars as to the locality in which, and the neighbors among whom, our doctor followed his profession.

Doctor Thorne is the third in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. The first two are The Warden and Barchester Towers. Though it is part of a series, it can truly stand on its own.

There is Doctor Thorne and his niece, Mary. The Gresham family--the squire, his oh-so-proud wife, Lady Arabella, his firstborn son, Frank, who must marry money. (They hope that by saying it every hour of every day that maybe just maybe Frank will realize his responsibility to the family.) And the Gresham daughters--the two who enter into the story are Augusta, who has cause for some of the bitterness, and Beatrice, who is sometimes cranky and other times sweet as can be. (Lady Arabella is proud of her de Courcy blood. These de Courcy relations enter into the story as well.) Then there are the Scatcherds--Sir Roger and his son, Louis. (Of course there is a Lady Scatcherd as well.) They may not have the best blood, but they do have money. Money that the Greshams desperately need (and therefore borrow never minding the consequences) And then there are the competing doctors in the neighborhood. But I won't go there. (Though they do lend some humor now and then.)

What is this one about? Frank loves Mary. Mary loves Frank. But. Mary is not an heiress. Mary is also not of good birth, but that isn't as big of a stumbling block for most. It seems these two find themselves in an impossible position. They cannot marry for they have nothing to live on. But they cannot stop loving one another either. Though Mary says that she'll not hold Frank to any of his promises, he cannot even begin to picture himself married to someone else. Not once he's sure of her love.

Because Lady Arabella is not getting her way--how dare her son have his own ideas about how to live his life--she decides to make everyone miserable--her husband (who she has been making miserable for almost the whole duration of their marriage), her son (who couldn't possibly take joy in his mother nagging him day and night), and her daughter, Beatrice (how dare her daughter want to be friends with the enemy). And of course this includes, Mary (how dare Mary follow her heart, she should know her place. She is a nobody after all) and the doctor (how could her doctor not interfere in the matter, how dare he not put his niece in her place. Well, she'll just have to deny him the pleasure of her business).

I loved this one. I did. I love Anthony Trollope. I love his characters. I love the complexity of his communities. How he peoples his novels so richly, so diversely. I love his narration. How he at times speaks directly to the readers, addresses the fact that this is a novel and that he is the writer. I love his sense of humor. I love how me makes me smile with his descriptions. His writing is amusing, charming, and oh-so-engaging. I cared about the characters. I cared about the story. Even though it's over six hundred pages, I wanted more. I would have gladly spent more time in the company of these characters.

The one son and heir to Greshamsbury was named as his father, Francis Newbold Gresham. He would have been the hero of our tale had not that place been preoccupied by the village doctor. As it is, those who please may so regard him. It is he who is to be our favorite young man, to do the love scenes, to have his trials and his difficulties, and to win through them or not, as the case may be. I am too old now to be a hard-hearted author, and so it is probable that he may not die of a broken heart. Those who don't approve of a middle-aged bachelor country doctor as a hero, may take the heir to Greshambury in his stead, and call the book, if it so pleases them 'The Loves and Adventures of Francis Newbold Gresham the younger.' (7)

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Way We Live Now

Trollope, Anthony. 1875. The Way We Live Now. 776 pages. (Wordsworth Editions)

Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury, upon whose character and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may have, as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own house in Welbeck Street.

I'd like you to meet a good friend of mine: Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now. This wonderfully thick novel was a little treat I picked up last year around this time for my birthday. It had high priority this past month because I volunteered to read it for Amy's little project. Her, "Newsweek, You're On! The Fifty Books for Our Times Reading Project." You can see a list of all fifty books here. Topping the list is my choice, The Way We Live Now.

This dramatic novel is all about men and women living beyond their means. Taking risks here and there trying to outrun the bill collectors. Wanting so much to live the good life, the high life, that they lose all sense of being realistic and practical. If they want it, they want it then and there. They feel like they deserve to have the best of everything. Sir Felix Carbury, for example, wants everything now, now, now. He thinks nothing of asking his mother (Lady Carbury) for her very last coin just so he can go out to his club and gamble and drink all night. He thinks nothing of asking his good old sister (Henrietta) to sacrifice so that he can have a new coat or hat. He's heartless and selfish among other things.

Is this Felix's story? Not really! He's just one of a dozen or so characters. Most of these characters revolve around the oh-so-wealthy Augustus Melmotte. Who is Melmotte? Where did he come from? Is he as wealthy as he claims? What about his wife and daughter? Is it true that she's to bring a fortune when she marries?

Some dislike him socially but don't mind doing business with such a man. He's affluent. He's powerful. He knows how to carry himself. But is he honest? Is he trustworthy? Does that even matter so long as he's on the rise? So long as his schemes are always successful?

The Way We Live Now has a little bit of everything for readers: business, politics, love and romance, humor, and social commentary.

This book had me almost from hello. It begins off by introducing Lady Carbury. Of showing readers three different letters she'd written to newspapermen that day. She's hoping that her new book, her first book I believe, will be favorably reviewed. As she is asking these three men to go above and beyond--in a way--I found myself smiling with the inappropriateness of it all. This character gave Trollope a great way to talk about writing, publishing, and reviewing.

Soon I found myself caring about all the characters, and all the stories. Paul Montague's confused love life--torn between the woman he really loves and respects and the American woman (supposedly divorced) whom he hastily agreed to marry in his travels. Maria Melmotte's dysfunctional home life. Her wanting so badly to be loved for herself, to matter to somebody. Poor Maria throwing away her affections on that jerk Sir Felix! Roger Carbury hopelessly doomed affair. One of the only men with common sense in the whole book. His big heart that wants only the best for Miss Henrietta. How he loves her! Even knowing that love will never be returned! Mr. Broune who despite it all finds a way to love and appreciate the crazy Lady Carbury! There was just so much to love and appreciate in this one!

Why do I love Anthony Trollope? He's a great writer. He tells a great story. He really captures so many different aspects of being human. His characters are always well-developed and above all else interesting or fascinating. They may not all be likable, or all be good. And all the better if they're not. (A world full of Roger Carbury's might be a bit boring or safe.) He creates multi-dimensional characters that become part of you. He creates unforgettable characters that stick with you. I also really love his narrative style.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Barchester Towers

Trollope, Anthony. 1857. Barchester Towers. 528 pages.

In the latter days of July in the year 185--, a most important question was for ten days hourly asked in the cathedral city of Barchester, and answered every hour in various ways. Who was to be the new Bishop?

Barchester Towers is the second novel in Trollope's Barset series. The first in the series, The Warden, I reviewed several months ago. What characters carry over to the second one? Mr. Harding, the former warden, and his two daughters: Susan, married to Dr. Grantly, the archdeacon, the son of the very recently deceased Bishop, and Eleanor Bold, a (somewhat-recent) widow and the mother of young Johnny Bold.

Barchester Towers is about how complicated and convoluted relationships can become. It's not just about church politics. It's about social relationships as well. Though church politics does capture much of it. Who will be the new Bishop? Who will be the new warden of Hiram's Hospital? Who will be the new Dean?

The novel is a romantic comedy of sorts. Eleanor, a widow, is quite the catch and there are plenty of men in the neighborhood who would do almost anything to win her heart. But not all of them are worthy of it. And some of them are more interested in her money than in her. Her three suitors are Mr. Obadiah Slope (boo, hiss if you like, trust me he deserves it!), Mr. Bertie Stanhope, and Mr. Francis Arabin. Two of the three are church men. Mr. Slope is chaplain and in the employ of the new bishop, Mr. Proudie. And Mr. Arabin is the vicar of St. Ewold. Mr. Stanhope is a gambler mostly, an idle man who thinks only of living in the moment. Does Eleanor want to be courted? Is she looking for a second husband? A step-father for young Johnny? Whether or not this is the case, it can't be denied that the men in the neighborhood are looking at her.

I said Barchester Towers is a comedy, and that is very much the case. Comical characters abound in Barchester Towers! Mr. Slope. Dr. Proudie. Mrs. Proudie. Those three can get into so much trouble all on their own! I feel a bit sorry for Mr. and Mrs. Quiverful and their fourteen (living) children, a family that gets caught in this tug-of-war power play. Will he or won't he be named the new warden? And those are just a handful of the characters we meet in this second novel. There are the Stanhopes (including the married and attention-grabbing Madame Neroni), the Thornes, and the lower-class sort including the Lookalofts and the Greenacres. I believe Miss Thorne's party is the delight of the novel--spanning about eight chapters.

The order of the day was to be as follows. The quality, as the upper classes in rural districts are designated by the lower with so much true discrimination, were to eat a breakfast, and the non-quality were to eat a dinner. Two marquees had been erected for these two banquets: that for the quality on the esoteric or garden side of a certain deep ha-ha; and that for the non-quality on the exoteric or paddock side of the same. Both were of huge dimensions—that on the outer side was, one may say, on an egregious scale—but Mr. Plomacy declared that neither would be sufficient. To remedy this, an auxiliary banquet was prepared in the dining-room, and a subsidiary board was to be spread sub dio for the accommodation of the lower class of yokels on the Ullathorne property.

No one who has not had a hand in the preparation of such an affair can understand the manifold difficulties which Miss Thorne encountered in her project. Had she not been made throughout of the very finest whalebone, riveted with the best Yorkshire steel, she must have sunk under them. Had not Mr. Plomacy felt how much was justly expected from a man who at one time carried the destinies of Europe in his boot, he would have given way, and his mistress, so deserted, must have perished among her poles and canvas.

In the first place there was a dreadful line to be drawn. Who were to dispose themselves within the ha-ha, and who without? To this the unthinking will give an off-hand answer, as they will to every ponderous question. Oh, the bishop and such-like within the ha-ha, and Farmer Greenacre and such-like without. True, my unthinking friend, but who shall define these such-likes? It is in such definitions that the whole difficulty of society consists. To seat the bishop on an arm-chair on the lawn and place Farmer Greenacre at the end of a long table in the paddock is easy enough, but where will you put Mrs. Lookaloft, whose husband, though a tenant on the estate, hunts in a red coat, whose daughters go to a fashionable seminary in Barchester, who calls her farm-house Rosebank, and who has a pianoforte in her drawing-room? The Misses Lookaloft, as they call themselves, won't sit contented among the bumpkins. Mrs. Lookaloft won't squeeze her fine clothes on a bench and talk familiarly about cream and ducklings to good Mrs. Greenacre. And yet Mrs. Lookaloft is no fit companion and never has been the associate of the Thornes and the Grantlys. And if Mrs. Lookaloft be admitted within the sanctum of fashionable life, if she be allowed with her three daughters to leap the ha-ha, why not the wives and daughters of other families also? Mrs. Greenacre is at present well contented with the paddock, but she might cease to be so if she saw Mrs. Lookaloft on the lawn. And thus poor Miss Thorne had a hard time of it.

And how was she to divide her guests between the marquee and the parlour? She had a countess coming, an Honourable John and an Honourable George, and a whole bevy of Ladies Amelia, Rosina, Margaretta, &c; she had a leash of baronets with their baronnettes; and, as we all know, she had a bishop. If she put them on the lawn, no one would go into the parlour; if she put them into the parlour, no one would go into the tent. She thought of keeping the old people in the house and leaving the lawn to the lovers. She might as well have seated herself at once in a hornet's nest.
Anthony Trollope is fast-becoming one of my favorite authors. I am just falling in love with him. His style, his wit, his humor, his characterizations. The way he can talk about anything (and everything) and make me care. Even the bad guys. Trollope develops these scummy characters with such grace and charm that even though you know they're no good, you enjoy spending time with them.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Warden

Trollope, Anthony. 1855. The Warden. Oxford World's Classics. 294 pages.

The Rev. Septimus Harding was, a few years since, a beneficed clergyman residing in the cathedral town of -----; let us call it Barchester.

This is a charming little classic concerning ethics. While that, strictly speaking, is true, it's not really the half of it. It's about one man, Mr. Harding, and his family: two daughters, one married, the other quite single. It's also about Harding's neighborhood and circle of friends. It's about the necessity of having a good reputation and a clean conscience.

Eleanor is the apple of her daddy's eye. Susan is married to an Archdeacon. (I *believe* his name is Grantley). Because of his eldest daughters good fortune in marriage, Mr. Harding, has been named warden of Hiram's Hospital (alms house). The 'enemy' of Mr. Harding (and the suitor of Eleanor) is a young man named John Bold. When we are first introduced to these characters, we are learning that Bold is encouraging a law suit against Mr. Harding. He feels that Mr. Harding is in violation of the will. (Way, way, way back when (several centuries past), a man left his (quite wealthy) estate to the church. The church followed the will for the most part, but as times changed, they changed the way they carried it out. They were following it through in spirit in a way: still seeking to take care of twelve poor men (bedesman) but over time the salary of the warden increased.) Bold has stirred up the twelve bedesmen into signing a petition demanding justice, demanding more money, demanding 'fairer' distribution of funds.

The book presents this case through multiple perspectives: through two Grantleys (father and son), a few lawyers, Mr. Harding and Mr. Bold, of course, and through a handful of the twelve men involved that would profit from the change. There is one man whose voice seems louder than all the rest. And that voice comes from the newspaper, the Jupiter, one journalist writes harsh, condemning words directed at Mr. Harding--he assumes much having never met Harding personally. These words weigh heavy on the heart and soul of Mr. Harding. (And they don't sit easy on Mr. Bold either.)

Can Mr. Harding get his reputation back? What is the right thing to do? Is he in violation of the will? Is the church? What is his moral responsibility in caring for these twelve poor-and-retired men? What is his responsibility to the community?

The Warden is a charming little book. In part because of the language and style. There's an easiness and rightness about it. It was one of those cases where I knew almost from the start that Trollope and I would come to be good friends. Though I'd never read any Trollope before, never seen a movie based on one of his books, reading Trollope felt like coming home. Trollope was good at characterization and equally good at storytelling.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Challenge

Name: Let's Trollope (A Perpetual Reading Challenge for reading the works of Anthony Trollope)
Host: Becky of Becky's Book Reviews
Dates: Perpetual; OR you can set your own start/stop times.
Books required: 2 or more books. (Or 1 book + 1 Film)

Rereads are allowed.
Audio books allowed.
Films allowed.
Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
A biography of Trollope can count if you want.
As do literary-criticisms. (But neither are required).

Do come back to the blog and share what you've read, what you're reading, and what you plan to read.

Sign up by leaving a comment.