This is the sixth and final instalment of the political Palliser series of novels which started with Can You Forgive Her? and continued through Phineas Finn, The Eustace Diamonds, Phineas Redux and The Prime Minister.
At the very start of the book the delightful, charismatic Lady Glencora Palliser, Duchess of Omnium, dies. Given that she is so central to a number of the other books, this feels as if Trollope has decided to tie one hand behind his back; it is like the Forsyte Saga without Irene. She leaves a devastated husband, the Duke, most recently Prime Minister, and three grown up children: Lord Silverbridge who has been sent down from Oxford and intends to enter Parliament as a Conservative MP (the Pallisers have always been Liberal); he owns racehorses and is apt to lose huge sums of money gambling; Lady Mary who, with all the stubbornness of her mother, has decided to marry an impoverished commoner; and Lord Gerald who is in the process of being sent down from Cambridge. The story is mainly about Silverbridge who gets into scrapes and scandals of which the chief is his desire to marry an unsuitable woman.
As always with Trollope, true love succeeds if you are rich enough. If you are poor you can expect a lifetime of sexual frustration.
As always with Trollope, the lower classes are cads and bounders and generally come to a bad end. If a man drops his aitches he might as well go straight to prison.
As always with Trollope, he provides his own spoilers. One of the most charming chapters is the one in which he explains that most authors like to start a narrative in media res (in the middle of things) but he feels that this is to put the cart before the horse. He tries it, but is constitutionally unable to refrain from putting the horse first. All of his massive novels start slowly for the very reason that he must build up the details: he is painstaking but unfortunately the pains he is giving are the reader's.
He is also unable to remember all the details. This novel shows all the sings of having been written very fast and not edited. Thus Tregear denies having a sister in chapter 4 but by chapter 55 has acquired an elder sister.
It is a good book, on the whole, and Silverbridge is a charming youth with whose weaknesses and vacillations I very much sympathised. The bulk of the tension is whether the femme fatale will get her hooks into him and make him marry her before he can achieve true love. She is a very unsympathetic portrait although her schemes are intitally thwarted by herself because she cannot bear to be bad. In contrast, Silverbridge is a true gentlemen.
There was a moment of humour when Popplewell tries to court Miss Bonnaseen but far less than in other books. Most of it is the same plot of all the Palliser novels, recycled yet again.
October 2015; 506 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57