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The Way We Live Now – Anthony Trollope




I had to read this for my Victorian study group. I liked it, but it was long – definitely a marathon reading event. It was serialised and that always makes for a long novel (it’s like being paid per word!)

Here is the entry in Wikipedia. This novel is timeless – it is as relevant today (well mostly) as when it was written. There are still Melmotte’s creating financial boom and bust cycles (GFC anyone?), the idle rich young men who don’t seem to be doing much of anything, people trying to be ‘in’ with the latest celebrity and how quickly it all falls apart.

There are some good people in this novel as well; Roger Carbury who is determined not to say a word against his rival, John Crumb who thinks the best of Ruby despite evidence to the contrary and even Mrs Hurtle is truthful at the end when she could have simply taken the easy option of saying nothing.

I am glad that I read this novel, but I don’t think I will be rushing back to read it again! When I wasn’t sure if I would finish it in time I watched the BBC adaptation. This is a lovely adaptation – the screen play was written by Andrew Davies and it does diverge a bit from the novel, but mostly remains true to the spirit of the story. Plus it’s lovely to look at …

I suggest you watch this first and then read the novel if you liked it!

More reviews…



and a review of the adaptation…





























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Phineas Finn – Anthony Trollope

Reading this novel is a bit like running a marathon – each little bit seems easy it’s all of them together that is over whelming.

It was an easy read, but very long.

Here is the synopsis from Wikipedia …

 Finn is the only son of a successful Irish doctor, Dr Malachi Finn of Killaloe, County Clare, who sends him to London to become a lawyer. He proves to be a lackadaisical student, but being pleasant company and strikingly handsome to boot, he makes many influential friends. One of them, a fellow Irishman and a politician, Barrington Erle, suggests that he stand for Parliament in the coming election.

At first, the idea seems absurd. Finn is supported solely by a modest allowance from his father, but a stroke of luck clears his path. One of his father’s patients is Lord Tulla, a nobleman who controls a little borough that can be contested cheaply. Lord Tulla has had a falling out with his brother, the long-time officeholder. As a result, while the staunchly Tory lord will not support the Whig Finn, neither will he hamper him. Convincing his sceptical father to provide the funds needed, Finn wins his seat by a small margin.

The closest of his London friends is his mentor, Lady Laura Standish, the daughter of the prominent Whig politician Lord Brentford. As their relationship develops, Finn considers asking for her hand in marriage, despite the great social and financial gulf between them. Lady Laura senses this, but despite her partiality for the man, monetary considerations and her own political ambitions convince her to marry the dour, extremely wealthy Robert Kennedy instead.

At first devastated, Finn soon recovers and becomes enamoured of a lovely heiress, Violet Effingham. This proves to be awkward, as both Lady Laura and Lord Brentford vehemently want her to marry (and hopefully tame) Lord Brentford’s estranged son, the savage Lord Chiltern. In addition, Lady Laura encourages Finn to become acquainted with her brother. Finn and Chiltern become fast friends, which makes the situation even more uncomfortable. When Chiltern finds out that Finn is also courting Violet, he becomes infuriated and unreasonably demands that Finn withdraw. When he refuses, Chiltern insists on a duel. This is held in secret at Blankenberg, resulting in Finn being slightly wounded. Eventually, Violet has to choose between her two main suitors; she somewhat fearfully decides in favour of her childhood sweetheart, Chiltern.

Meanwhile, Finn’s parliamentary career gets off to a rocky start. Overawed by his august surroundings, he delivers a somewhat incoherent maiden speech. Eventually, however, he becomes accustomed to his situation and grows adept at parliamentary proceedings. All is not smooth sailing however. When new elections are called, Finn is in a dilemma. Lord Tulla has become reconciled with his brother and Finn has no chance of re-election. At this point, fortune favours him once again.

Late one night, Finn and Mr. Kennedy, now the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, depart Parliament at the same time. When they go their separate ways, Finn notices two men who follow his colleague. Suspicious, he takes a shortcut and arrives in time to foil an attempt to garrotte and rob Kennedy. In gratitude for saving the life of his son-in-law, Lord Brentford offers him the seat for the pocket borough of Loughton. With the nobleman’s support, the election is a forgone conclusion.

Finn’s heroic feat exacerbates the growing rift between Lady Laura and her husband. Their temperaments clash; Mr. Kennedy disapproves of his wife’s interest in politics. Moreover, to her intense dismay, Lady Laura finds she has great difficulty suppressing her true feelings for Finn, and Kennedy becomes suspicious. Eventually, she becomes so desperately unhappy, she flees to her father’s house. (At the end of the novel, Mr. Kennedy’s legal actions push her to move to the Continent, where the law cannot force her to return to her husband’s household.)

In the meantime, Finn makes the acquaintance of a charming, clever foreigner, Madame Max Goesler, the young and beautiful widow of a rich Jewish banker. More materially, he is appointed to a well-paid government position, in which he excels. It seems as if he is finally secure.

However, Lord Brentford learns of the duel with his son and withdraws his support for the next election.

Finn visits Ireland with Mr Joshua Monk, a leading Radical politician and a supporter of increased rights for Irish tenant farmers. Under Mr Monk´s influence, Finn becomes radicalised. At a political meeting in Dublin, Finn argues that a new tenant-right bill should be presented to the Westminster Parliament during the next session. When this happens, the government, of which Finn is a member, does not support it. Finn must therefore choose between his loyalty to the government and his political convictions. He chooses the latter, resigns his government position and retires from politics.

With his political career in shambles, Finn seeks consolation from Madame Max. In an unexpected development, she offers him her hand and her wealth in marriage. Finn is greatly tempted, but finally returns to Ireland to marry his faithful, long-time sweetheart, Mary Flood Jones. As a parting reward for his hard work, his party obtains for him a comfortable sinecure as a poor-law inspector in Cork at a salary of a thousand pounds a year.

 This novel is full of interesting political detail and just details of life in Victorian times – it certainly highlights (however intentionally or unintentionally) the lack of rights for women and the need for political reform – despite being a reformer Lord Brentford is able to order (essentially) his borough to elect Phineas. Phineas is a flirt – there’s Mary, Laura, Violet, Madam Max and then Mary again. I think it is clear that this novel was serialised and I think it could have done with a good prune when released as a single novel. However, for lovers of 19th century novels, politics or social history this novel  is well worthing reading.

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The Warden – Anthony Trollope

I love Trollope’s writing and luckily for me he was a prolific author (I think he wrote 47 novels).

Here is the synopsis from Wikipedia…

 The Warden concerns Mr Septimus Harding, the meek, elderly warden of Hiram’s Hospital and precentor of Barchester Cathedral, at the fictional location of Barsetshire.
Hiram’s Hospital is an almshouse supported by a medieval charitable bequest to the Diocese of Barchester. The income maintains the alms house itself, supports its twelve bedesmen, and, in addition, provides a comfortable abode and living for its warden. Mr Harding has been appointed to this position through the patronage of his old friend the Bishop of Barchester, who is also the father of Archdeacon Grantly to whom Harding’s older daughter, Susan, is married. The warden, who lives with his remaining child, an unmarried younger daughter Eleanor, performs his duties conscientiously.
The story concerns the impact upon Harding and his circle when a zealous young reformer, John Bold, launches a campaign to expose the disparity in the apportionment of the charity’s income between its object, the bedesmen, and its officer, Mr Harding. John Bold embarks on this campaign out of a spirit of public duty despite his romantic involvement with Eleanor and previously cordial relations with Mr Harding. Bold discharges a lawsuit through a lawyer and Mr Harding is advised by the indomitable Dr Grantly, his son-in-law, to stand his ground.
Bold attempts to enlist the support of the press and engages the interest of The Jupiter (a newspaper representing The Times) whose editor, Tom Towers, pens editorials supporting reform of the charity, and presenting a portrait of Mr Harding as being selfish and derelict in his conduct of his office. This image is taken up by commentators Dr Pessimist Anticant, and Mr Popular Sentiment, who have been seen as caricatures of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens respectively.[2]
Ultimately, despite much browbeating by his son-in-law, the Archdeacon, and the legal opinion solicited from the barrister, Sir Abraham Haphazard, Mr Harding concludes that he cannot in good conscience continue to accept such generous remuneration and resigns the office. John Bold, who has appealed in vain to Tom Towers to redress the injury to Mr Harding, returns to Barchester where he marries Eleanor after halting legal proceedings.
Those of the bedesmen of the hospital who have allowed their appetite for greater income to estrange them from the warden are reproved by their senior member, Bunce, who has been constantly loyal to Harding whose good care and understanding heart are now lost to them. At the end of the novel the bishop decides that the wardenship of Hiram’s hospital be left vacant, and none of the bedesmen are offered the extra money despite vacancy of the post. Mr Harding, on the other hand, becomes Rector of St. Cuthbert’s, a small parish in the Cathedral Close, drawing a much lesser income than before.

 I loved everything about this novel, the writing, characters, plot. I did, however, agree with Dr Bold. I’m not sure the money should have been paid to the Warden. Yes, he deserves remuneration for his work, but how much did he actually do? Also, just because he is a kind, gentle man doesn’t entitle him to a life of luxury. However, should the money gone directly to the bedesman? I don’t think so – imagine the corruption in finding 12 frail old wool carders – maybe more people could be helped with the money? Trollope seems to imply we should leave well enough alone.

Anyway, this is a great novel for people who enjoy 19th Century Literature – you know the type with a beginning, a middle and an end?

I’m looking forward to watching the adaptation.

Here are some more reviews…



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