by Anthony Trollope
read by David Shaw-Parker
My Rating, ★★★★
This is a full star, ★, and this a half star, ✫
★★★★★ Not to miss, worth re-reading. And now, what? (One feels at loss after an excellent book)
★★★★ Books that surely have stayed with me. I also want to discuss them.
★★★ Very enjoyable read, recommendable.
★★ Meh. Nothing remarkable.
The half star, ✫, would make it closer to the higher category, an in-between of sorts.
As some of you know, I picked this book because my friend Linda loves Trollope. I got her into reading my favorite author, Galdós, and it was time for me to correspond and read her favorite. I did this gladly. I knew I’d love Trollope.
As it’s been my recent discovery, this book was, as gazillions of XIX century books, serialized. And as many epoch Victorian novels, this too has been taken to the screen. This time by Fellowes, the producer of Downtown Abbey and the writer of Belgravia, our next book club title.
This book is the third in Trollope’s Bartsetshire Series, but it could be read (or listened) on its own, and that’s just what I did. It was a whooping 22 hours and 45 minutes. I felt as if listening to dramatized radio. The reader did a wonderful job. I rented it for free through the library system called Hoopla. I don’t know about other countries, but if you live in the States, and have a library card, I believe you can sign up for Hoopla.
To the task. I immediately liked Dr. Thorne. Trollope, in his amusing addresses to the reader, let’s us know at the beginning of the story, that he and Mary Thorne are the heroes of the story. Victorian novels such as this, and the short list of others I have read, share this wonderful charm, wits, commentary, and all with greatly crafted characters and interesting, -even if predictable- plots.
Just curiosity, I was looking at the publication date of Vanity Fair, by Thackeray, and it’s 1848, while Doctor Thorne is 1858. Vanity Fair, another serialized novel, came across to me as crude, -maybe because there’s no character one can admire and like. Doctor Thorne is gentler, much more gentler. I quite agree with her. It seems a mix of other novels, all in one.
What I appreciate most in this novel, must be the abundant comments and wisdom the author regales us with, and the sense of realism, the depth of the characters, and probably, the historic legacy this novel leaves for us in order to understand where we come from (classes, marriage, societal customs and opinions, and universal themes).
In this podcast episode at Center for Lit, entitled Is Freedom Possible?, they discuss the theme of freedom in literature. How do authors define freedom?, what does it mean to loose it?, can others take it from us? They did not mention Doctor Thorne, but freedom is at stakes in the book. Frank loves Mary. But Frank must marry money. (And boy, that sentence was repeated ad nauseam). Does a young man, heir of a bankrupted state, owe it to his family (the pride of blood), to keep the state above his own feels and needs as an individual?, to the point of considering his marriage not as a free act of deciding whom he wants to spend his life with?, or does it come a time when one can cut those hereditary noble ties, and act nobly by not selling himself to money, and by honoring marriage as the union of two persons who love each other?
I know I’m always talking about Ortega y Gasset and his Revolt of the Masses, but in it he touches the topic of nobility. He says that, while the first noble man acted by earning that societal distinction due to his noble conduct, thanks to living a disciplined life, a life of betterment, (at the risk of dying in crusades or wars, or through the perseverance of studying or learning to manage a state or business), the son who inherits that state, would not be living his life, but trying to perpetuate the life of the one who came before. He comments how interesting it is than in Eastern societies, the sons are who, after their success, reinstate that nobility in their ancestors, elevating the family tree from the present to the past, retroactively, while in Western societies we pass (or try to) that nobility from parents to sons.
Frank and Mary too, were searching for their identities in the book, specially Mary. And while Augusta Gresham, Frank’s sister, did not have a Twitter account, she let herself be influenced by her cousin, Lady Amelia, who surely twitted her opinions in a letter. Augusta, you’d be better off having some thoughts of your own, young girl. But to be fair, one cannot always be 24 and know as much of life as her cousin at 34 knew, and who used that experience to her advantage in a dirty move.
I could continue on how much I laughed, and nodded with his sharp remarks on politics and everything else. Trollope is a genius. No wonder Fellowes admires him. Come to think about it, his Belgravia has broad traces of this novel. It’s not that Belgravia is a bad book, it’s just that it stands at a lower shelf in the world of books, that’s all. One can and should not compare a roast beef dinner to a piece of candy. I will stop that too.