I love most of the Trollope I have read, in varying degrees. I took this particular book with me on holiday because it was long and I thought it would...moreI love most of the Trollope I have read, in varying degrees. I took this particular book with me on holiday because it was long and I thought it would last me through at least one trans-Atlantic crossing, which it did.
One of the things I frequently enjoy in Trollope is when he sets up a scenario that will be difficult to resolve, makes me fear the worst will happen, and then resolves it in a satisfactory way. I had great hopes of this situation: there were two couples facing obstacles to marriage, one a Marquess' daughter and an untitled (but otherwise unexceptionable) clerk in the Post Office, and the other the Marquess' heir (brother of the Marquess' daughter) and a simple Quaker (Marion Fay).
**Warning -- there will be spoilers**
The daughter was forbidden to marry so far beneath her and the Quaker refused to marry the heir because her mother and siblings had all died of TB and she was pretty sure that she would probably die soon too. As far as I could discern, Marion diagnosed herself out of thin air based on no symptoms whatsoever and never went to the doctor or anything. Maybe once or twice she had a heightened colour, but that could just have been love. However she died as predicted, blighting the young Lord's hopes. Fortunately the daughter's fiance found out that he was secretly the (legitimate) son of an Italian Duke, or rather society found out about it as soon as he did, because even though he refused to use the title the stepmother who had violently opposed the marriage was sort of brought around to tolerate it.
I thought I would really love the Quaker (they're temperate! they're modest! their religion starts with a Q!), but Marion's illogical intransigence irritated and bored me. The daughter and the Post Office clerk were a little more enjoyable, although not much was required of them other than to nobly bear their separation. The subplots around the stepmother and around the gossipy people who live near the Post Office Clerk's mother are more entertaining. (less)
I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I read this book, but there were mitigating circumstances. I had finished the only novel I had with me on holiday...moreI am somewhat ashamed to admit that I read this book, but there were mitigating circumstances. I had finished the only novel I had with me on holiday and was shopping in a store that was nominally a bookstore but didn't have much of a selection. I was looking for something light (from an intellectual point of view) but long. This book was in a so-called omnibus with another book by the same author and so looked very bulky, and the price was right, and the first page didn't seem horrible, and the blurb almost suggested that the plot was intriguing, so I bought it.
The plot as described was something like friend of virgin decides to give virgin a push into the arms of the man she (the virgin) fancies and then wishes she hadn't. On the first page the virgin unexpectedly runs into the best male friend of the man she fancies, thus setting the stage for at least one love triangle. I envisioned a happy ending in which the virgin ended up with the best friend and the pushing friend ended up with the fancied man and everyone is happy and suitably matched. But then there is a huge amount of description about how much the virgin is cosseted and admired by her circle of female friends because they attach a sort of mystical quality to her virginity and beauty and worry that she cannot stand up to the things in life that are often called vicissitudes, and there are pages and pages where the pushing friend (who is really a friend of a friend) is maddened by the adoration of the virgin and yet simultaneously aware of her perfection, and I was convinced for at least half a chapter that the pushing friend and the virgin would wind up together. But then the pushing friend (who had her own boyfriend) started to fancy the fancied man, and then realised that his willingness to be fancied made him unsuitable for the virgin. There are no interesting plot twists or dramatic emotional revelations -- the virgin and the best friend of the fancied man (who it turns out hasn't really been friends with the unworthy fancied man for years, and of course has been pining for the heroine without taking action ever since he first saw her) gradually drift together. He and his father breed roses and it turns out that because it takes a really long time and he's (coincidentally) had a really long time in which to pine, he has been able to breed a rose which he has named after her and I'm sure it's all very romantic. The heroine has a romantic notion that she would like to open a shop in Cornwall -- ridiculously, she has no actual overwhelming desire to sell anything specific, just a vague idea that she has seen very sweet little shops selling stuff and she fancies herself in just such a little shop with a fanciful name she has picked out but I forget. Of course she does suddenly make up her mind to just do it and puts the wheels in motion with the bank and rents a perfect shop and makes a deal with a very wonderful and coveted jeweler in Switzerland or someplace else one skis.
Only thing worthy of note: the unworthy fancied man's ex-girlfriend, Nessa something (who is only mentioned, not seen in the book) was named for someone who won or bought at auction the right to have her name used as the name of a character in this book.(less)
The most frivolous and yet fascinating thing I learned from this book was that we all have a real physical blind spot. When I got to the page in the b...moreThe most frivolous and yet fascinating thing I learned from this book was that we all have a real physical blind spot. When I got to the page in the book with the picture you are supposed to look at with one eye and watch as the spot disappears, I did it again and again until I started to feel self-conscious as I was reading it on the bus.
Other than that . . . it was an interesting read as an exploration into the nature of happiness and how we deceive ourselves about how happy we are and how happy we will be. I am not sure that I completely buy the thesis that this deception also makes capitalism work, but I don't know if that is my natural suspicion of capitalism or something with greater validity. There's another book out there about Happiness that I have a vague idea comes down too hard on the side of euphoria -- I am also suspicious of euphoria -- but I may read it someday to see how it compares.(less)
I picked up this book based on a brief review in the New Yorker and loved it. The meta-literary jokes are just my speed. Some of the later books are e...moreI picked up this book based on a brief review in the New Yorker and loved it. The meta-literary jokes are just my speed. Some of the later books are even funnier and more elaborate, but this is a good fun start to the series.(less)
I read The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate when I was in high school, and gradually worked my way through Nancy's less well-known novels, a...moreI read The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate when I was in high school, and gradually worked my way through Nancy's less well-known novels, and then found Jessica [Decca] Mitford. Having seen the family stories lightly fictionalised to great effect in Nancy's books, I was likewise entertained by their presentation in Decca's memoir. The Mitford world of teases and nicknames is completely alien to my reality, and yet for some reason I feel as though it does speak to me in an odd sort of way. This book (and probably Poisoned Penmanship) is also almost certainly responsible for my persistent weakness for Communism. I am longing to get the collection of Decca's letters when I don't have quite so much on my library hold list.(less)