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Stuck with two heavy serious books on my uncomfortable travels on Wednesday, I realised to my relief that I had downloaded this ebook from Project Gutenberg some time ago (onto my Blackberry, using Mobipocket - none of that silly DRM'ed stuff, thank you) and it kept me going.

I had gone off the Barchester Chronicles a bit after not really enjoying the second's retreading of the first's territory, so it was good to find new ground being broken here. In fact it reminded me a lot of both Middlemarch and P.G. Wodehouse, though less serious than the former, less funny than the latter and frankly not quite as good as either.

It is pretty obvious from the word go that Frank and Mary are destined for each other, not least because Trollope interrupts and delays the narrative to tell us so (which I find a bit precious). It also becomes obvious at a very early stage how Frank's mother's snobbish objections to Mary's (relative) poverty will be overcome, to the point that I found myself wondering how on earth Trollope was going to keep to book going for another x hundred pages (answer: by introducing more characters, or by blatant digression).

Although the characters are not especially three-dimensional, they kept my attention (more than Dave Eggers or seventeenth-century England). The happy ending is a bit of a cop-out, in that the social pretensions of Frank's mother triumph rather than being seriously challenged (Mary is still illegitimate at the end of the book, but now she is rich so everything is all right). It's a pleasant little tale as it is; I would have cheered a little harder if Frank and Mary had got on with their marriage on a modest income and without Lady Arabella's blessing.

(In real life, when I have encountered people behaving badly about their children's prospective weddings, they are usually repeating patterns of bad behaviour learnt from their own parents, often indeed about their own weddings; Trollope doesn't really indicate that as being a factor here.)

Anyway, I enjoyed it, especially the election chapters (always a winner for me).

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
steve_mollmann
Sep. 11th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Social problems being overcome by a sudden windfall of money is a common incident in Victorian novels: Jane Eyre (okay, not Victorian), Sybil, and North and South all spring to mind immediately. I think it's because, in some ways, it was the only way the problems could actually be overcome-- certainly the only way a woman can gain a tiny bit of independence, as odd as it is that she gains it from dependence.
raycun
Sep. 11th, 2009 07:24 am (UTC)
Nice Work (I think, one of Lodge's campus novels anyway) has a nice bit about the magical happy endings of Victorian novels.

I take it it's A Heartbreaking Work... you couldn't get into? I'm surprised.
steve_mollmann
Sep. 11th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
It's probably Nice Work, since that's a modern take on North and South. One of many books I keep on meaning to read...
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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