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Trilby

3.36 of 5 stars 3.36  ·  rating details  ·  527 ratings  ·  72 reviews
Immensely popular for a number of years, the novel of trilby led to a hit play, a series of popular films, and the trilby hat. The setting of the story reflects the author's bohemian years as an art student in Paris; indeed, James McNeil Whistler was to recognize himself in one of the early serialized instalments.
Paperback, 447 pages
Published February 5th 2003 by Broadview Press (first published 1893)
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Community Reviews

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Petra Xtra Crunchy
I've finished the book now, and so expanded the SC note to include something of a review, below.

Simon Cowell:

"They will not let me play myself, but I can teach, I taught the girl to sing, she was nothing by herself. A good voice, but that won't make a great singer. I taught her phrase by phrase, she was my instrument. This is how it begins.

I take the money, she sings more excreble nonsense and always they pay and she gives me half. Soon she is playing in larger clubs and gets more money and I ma
...more
notgettingenough
Such was the power of Svengali to mesmerise the world that his name became a word. In brief he takes a tone-deaf girl and turns her into a great diva, as long as she is hypnotised before she sings. Alas at one performance he is incapacitated and as Trilby tries to sing, but cannot - to the disgust of the audience – she is in a strange situation where she is aware of her life with Svengali but has no conception at all of her singing career. In fact this is not exactly how hypnotism works, but nev ...more
Genia Lukin
Well, this was quite the anti-Semitic rag. Even for the norms of the time, which were notoriously lax about this sort of thing, and a publication date perilously close to the Dreyfus affair, this book has a... kick in it, shall we say.

My favourite moment of that Antisemitism was when the villain - a Jew to end all Jews, of course, although not religious, unwashed and naturally cowardly - noticing the hero all alone and dejected and "being an Oriental Israelite Hebrew Jew, could not help but spit
...more
Trish
One day after a long session shelf-diving on Goodreads, I came upon the title of Trilby by DuMaurier. I was pleased to discover my local library had a copy, and placed it on hold. Over a year later, I received notice that it had come in. It was a first edition in the original, now torn, binding and cover. It had apparently been removed from the shelves for restitching.

What a treasure it is, with wood block prints of DuMaurier’s characters, Taffy, Billie, Trilby, and the infamous Svengali. The w
...more
Chloe Thurlow
Beauty Without Talent
From school with strict cheerless nuns to university, where I came under the severe hand of my tutor, I identified with the eponymous Trilby the moment I opened the pages of George du Maurier's novel of domination and submission, a book with an undercurrent of eroticism that can only have slipped by the censors by its sly subtlety and incisive examination of the human condition.

Set in the Paris Bohemia of the 1850s, it is in Trilby that we meet Svengali, a name from fiction
...more
Surreysmum
[These notes were made in 1983. I read this in an 1895 edition:]. Du Maurier is a minor novelist at best, and like Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley, what he has created is not so much a great work of art (although I would say that Frankenstein is a good one) but an impingement on popular consciousness, an addition to popular culture. Svengali is a byword these days, tho' few people know his origin, and fewer still, I think, would recognize him in his portrait here. I begin to realize how prevalent t ...more
Rick
Trilby is highly sentimental, in the worst tradition of late-19th century British fiction, and were it not set in Paris and London, I might be tempted to think of it as kailyard. Svengali and Trilby and several other characters are memorable, but they’re not enough to rescue the novel from bathos. Another deterrent for the average reader is that a large portion of the novel’s dialogue is in French, which makes it slow going for anyone whose French is rudimentary, even though all the French passa ...more
Laura
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

This book was published serially in Harper’s Monthly in 1894.

This is the story of Trilby O’Ferrall, an half-Irish girl working in Paris as an artist model and laundress. There she meets Svengali, a Jewish hypnotist who teaches her to sing since she is tone-deaf. In Paris, she meets Little Billee and fails in love with him but she cannot stay with him since he belongs to a higher social class. Later on, he will become a famous artist in London. After a
...more
Bryn
This is a gothic, tragic, beautiful novel and I loved it. There are so many ways in which the narrative defies romantic expectation.

Trilby is a Parisian girl, model for various artists. She's a simple, well meaning, innocent soul who at the outset can take her clothes off for art without any real shame. One of the artists (a naive young lad called Billy) falls in love with her, but she also wins the attention of Svengali, a dark, twisted sort of person whose intetions towards her are less than g
...more
Felix
Having finished reading Trilby, I am at a loss to explain why there ever was something like a Trilbymania around 1900. The hype about this book was as big as the one about Stoker's Dracula and Stevenson's The Strange Case of Mr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide, both of which still enjoy an immense popularity while Trilby's fame has dwindled over the years. Deservedly, I must say.

The narrator is one sickeningly condescending and self-loving windbag. The anti-semitism is hard to bear and coupled with a terrib
...more
El
In 2005 film critic Nathan Rabin coined the term Manic Pixie Dream Girl after watching Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown. Pulled from Wikipedia, Rabin's definition of an MPDG is "that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures."

Can an MPDG exist in literature?

Sure, why not. I make the rules here.

Trilby is an MPDG in so many ways. She's b
...more
Carly
a fascinating story, starting off regularly enough with some flirting, as victorian novels do, and then veering into this creepy, supernatural, pyschological place. plus it's about performing, and i'm all about that.
Jill
After studying abroad in Paris and traveling throughout Europe as a student, this book just hits so many spots.
Shel
In 1894, George Du Maurier, grandfather of writers Angela Du Maurier (Pilgrims by the Way, 1967) and Daphne Du Maurier (Rebecca, 1938), wrote a book with a villain so memorable his name, Svengali, is still used to describe, per Webster's, "one who attempts usu. with evil intentions to persuade or force another to do his bidding." Du Maurier's novel Trilby also inspired Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera (1910).

However, Svengali doesn't figure largely within the story, which dwells mo
...more
George
AN ENJOYABLE CLASSIC.

"Life ain't all beer and skittles, and more's the pity; but what's the odds, so long as you're happy?”—73/1081

Despite many too-long, two-star passages, TRILBY: A Novel, by George Du Maurier is an enjoyable classic read. And, at least now I'm familiar with the origins and who of Svengali—not a very likable fellow. (“He was not a nice man, and there was no pathos in his poverty”—145/1081)

Trilby herself, however (“She would have made a singularly handsome boy.”—53/1081), is a
...more
Kurtbg
I had read Patricia Cornwalls' 'Portrait of a Killer' in which she exposits on who Jack the Ripper could have been. Her #1 suspect was an artist by the name of Walter Sickert. His favorite was book was said to be Trilby. I was intrigued to find out if I could identify anything that would have been of interest to a serial killer.

The book was written in the mid 1800's and is about the lives of 3 english artists living in Paris and their commaraderie. Enter Trilby, of a young british stock who happ
...more
Tricia
I didn't really know much about this book going into it - just that it was a classic, that the name Trilby took off in popularity after it became a bestseller, and that du Maurier was a famous writer.

Another interesting fact I found out is that the Trilby hat is named after the book, not the other way around.

One thing that I postulate after starting this novel is that there are fashions in fiction. Nowadays we want the action to start right away, we want the main characters to be pointed out ea
...more
John Newcomb
A really nasty little book which may have reflected opinion of the times but is far from acceptable now and has justly not been serialised filmed and Televised ad nausium as so many books of the period have. A poor girl is let down by an English admirer because she is a life model with a past and is helped by a nice jewish guy who inspires her to take up singing. The three English guys (supposed heros) include a bloke from Yorkshire called Taffy and a bloke from Dundee which is perhaps strecthin ...more
Jodi Lu
Apr 10, 2012 Jodi Lu rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Balzac fans maybe
Love the uber-playful narration; the writing and most of the characters are, likewise, polished, interesting and fun. And who doesn't appreciate a book sprinkled with original pictures throughout?*
Yet sadly, this still somehow didn't sing for me. Maybe I'm being unfair, as I don't know what would've saved it. Certainly not Svengali's obnoxious dark magic.

*ohhh I know: maybe people with e-readers?!? you poor, modern babies, starved of cover art, intimate spine caressing, useful page numbering, c
...more
Alison
Much as I am a fan of fin-de-siecle fiction, this did drag a little for me at the beginning. As the text progressed, however, Du Maurier's satirical tone became more pronounced and really sparked up the novel. My favourite aspect of the novel has to be Du Maurier's agnosticism and subversive feminism. The message I take from this book is the author's mocking of the old Victorian ideals of women as a mirror of the best qualities of men and seems to support female assertion instead, an individuali ...more
Jessie
If you liked Shelley's Frankenstein, then you will probably like Trilby. This book was a melting pot of cultural backgrounds, from the warmth of the casual French, to the propriety of the British, to the intensity of the German-Jewish. I particularily liked the illustrations in this edition (drawn by du Maurier himself), for it helped to contextualize the story. Since the author was also the illustrator, the illustrations carried greater meaning in regards to interpretation of the story. In all ...more
Kate
Strange one - read this cos the Likely Lads loved it so much way back when. It had some sweet scenes,loveable characters, beautiful imagery and the wonderful backdrop of the Quartier Latin and its ateliers of late 19th century Paris but overall I couldn't honestly recommend it as a 'good read'. Story wasn't perhaps coherrant enough - too many 19th century wanderings! Trilby was lovely as were Little Billy, Taffy and the Laird - wish they could have had more fun together. It got me dreaming about ...more
Lee Ann
Well... Okay. As I said, I picked this book up on a whim because the library I work at has an 1895 edition with a lovely dedication from a "Bessie (Granes?) Newell" to her "dear husband, trusting that he my enjoy the book as much as I have" (March 15, 1895).

And Trilby wasn't horrible. I had to keep in mind that 1. Antisemitism was HUGE in this time period, so... the prejudice towards Svengali and Gecko and Marta? Totally a product of its time. Not okay, but still. And, 2. I have the attention sp
...more
Kate Heath
An interesting read, but George follows the period by including way too much detail and a lot of pigeon French that might have impressed others at that point. What was far more interesting was the treatment of the 'Jew' of the sotry, Svengali, and how he fits every stereotype of that period.
Michael Simpson
This is my favorite book. It's hard to say why, but it just through and through is. One thing I can say, there's no lack of joy, or laughter. There's everything else too, but the joi de vivra is at the core, and is its essence.
Joe Mason
A delightful romp in the world of mid-1800s bohemian society! Except for the anti-Semitism. And racism. And tragic ending. And everyone sells out in the end.

Maybe the romp wasn't so delightful after all.
Aileen
Make sure to get the Broadview Press edition of this book, as most editions don't include all the original illustrations by the author, and the Broadview does. The illustrations really enhance the novel.
Tyler Dunn
Svengali is a classic villian. Good for seeing into a mastermind of manipulation. Gothic story to the core but features a lot of Victorian conversation and frills.
John P
A surprising find, for me. I was led here via Hitchcock and the movie Rebecca. The movie was taken from a book and the father of the book's author wrote Trilby. Now, I had never heard of this work before and was surprised to find that it is the source of the character Svengali, who has morphed into the stereotype with which we are all familiar. And, it is an interesting story as well. The author's style is erratic; the plot is a bit herky-jerky with several wordy interludes. But, in any case, th ...more
sarah
good if you like artist's models, creepy old dudes, and delightful catchphrases like "milk below!" and "tit-for-tat."
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Racism in Trilby 1 3 Apr 22, 2014 07:08AM  
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Peter Ibbetson The Martian The Young George Du Maurier: A Selection of His Letters, 1860-67 English Society Works of George Du Maurier

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“But you are not listening, sapperment! great big she-fool that you are—sheep’s-head! Dummkopf! Donnerwetter! you are looking at the chimney-pots when Svengali talks! Look a little lower down between the houses, on the other side of the river! There is a little ugly grey building there, and inside are eight slanting slabs of brass, all of a row, like beds in a school dormitory, and one fine day you shall lie asleep on one of those slabs—you, Drilpy, who would not listen to Svengali, and therefore lost him! … And over the middle of you will be a little leather apron, and over your head a little brass tap, and all day long and all night the cold water shall trickle, trickle, trickle all the way down your beautiful white body to your beautiful white feet till they turn green, and your poor, damp, draggled, muddy rags will hang above you from the ceiling for your friends to know you by; drip, drip, drip! But you will have no friends…. ‘And people of all sorts, strangers, will stare at you through the big plate-glass window—Englanders,” 0 likes
“And, ach! what a beautiful skeleton you will make! And very soon, too, because you do not smile on your madly loving Svengali. You burn his letters without reading them! You shall have a nice little mahogany glass case all to yourself in the museum of the École de Médecine, and Svengali shall come in his new fur-lined coat, smoking his big cigar of the Havana, and push the dirty carabins* out of the way, and look through the holes of your eyes into your stupid empty skull, and up the nostrils of your high, bony sounding-board of a nose without either a tip or a lip to it, and into the roof of your big mouth, with your thirty-two big English teeth, and between your big ribs into your big chest, where the big leather lungs used to be, and say, “Ach! what a pity she had no more music in her than a big tom-cat!” And then he will look all down your bones to your poor crumbling feet, and say, “Ach! what a fool she was not to answer Svengali’s letters!” 0 likes
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