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