Sean's Reviews > The Way We Live Now

The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope
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's review
Mar 06, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-in-2012, 19th-century, victorian, trollope
Read from August 06 to 29, 2012

The more that I read Victorian literature the more I am convinced that back in those days it was all about authors showing off. The educated public who could actually read and write were in much smaller proportion to the whole society than today. These people wanted to spend their hard earned shillings on something that was truly worth their time and money. The thought of watching television or films to fill people’s downtime would not appear until another half century or so. So what did people do to entertain them and fill their time when they weren’t working? They read BIG ASS books.

Books such as Bleak House, Middlemarch, Vanity Fair, and this monstrosity, The Way We Live Now, were all (and still are) enormously popular. All hailed as masterpieces, all over 800 pages long, all demanding more time and attention than your overly possessive girlfriend. Yet these books still are read today from cover to cover and are placed prominently on all bookstore shelves.

My next question for you is this. Is reading a BIG ASS book such as The Way We Live Now, really worth my time and attention? Or am I better off turning on the television and watching reality TV which is obviously less difficult, no less time consuming, and requires significantly less brain power? My answer is simple. I believe that a book such as TWWLN is worth the time and effort. We read these old BIG ASS books because they take us to a long bygone time free from reality television, iPhones, and emails. They keep our minds sharp and words plentiful. They explore human imagination and they simultaneously entertain us. And they do so for what seems to be an eternity.

But what about TWWLN? How does this book, Trollope’s most famous novel, stand out as an absorbing read in its own right? Well, the first thing that I have to say about this is that Trollope’s writing here is about as good as it gets in the English language. Trollope, like his peers Collins and Dickens, is a master wordsmith. He can take an ordinary sentence and turn it into something clever and delicious. The second thing, which concerns plotting, is that this book is very average. The central plot concerning a Ponzi scheme initiated by a notorious French swindler among the aristocrat class of Victorian London was in itself groundbreaking and original. However, the various subplots which incorporate love triangles galore and the tedious drama and woes of marrying for money seem a little tired. Obviously, this book, written as a social commentary, dwelled upon these themes because they were the concerns of the time. My only issue with this is that these themes, like much of Victorian literature, follows too much in the footsteps of Jane Austin and doesn’t really add anything too imaginative to the genre. Also, I believe the love triangles were a little too numerous and various characters could have been removed to enhance the pacing of the novel.

Regardless of some of the flaws of this novel, I believe that TWWLN was a thoroughly enjoyable read and contained some of the most interesting and lifelike characters in all of literature. Trollope was known for his consistency so I will continue to explore his work. With over 40 novels written by his pen, there is a lot of ground to cover. Yet, TWWLN, has satisfied my current desire to read Trollope. At least for now.
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Reading Progress

08/13 page 200
04/28 marked as: read
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by MJ (new)

MJ Nicholls All hail the BIG ASS novel!

message 2: by Nathan "N.R." (new)

Nathan "N.R." Gaddis Up the Irons! Big Ass books from here to eternity.

message 3: by Jim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jim I don't think authors were showing off. They were just well educated, especially in Greek and Roman classics. It is awesome, for example, just to see how many quotes from Horace there are in TWWLN.

And yes, Trollope was a 19th century man, with a lot of 19th century ideas about marriage and relationships. It's our job to see through the fog of time to arrive at the eternal verities: Trollope couldn't help being immured in his time and place.

Duffy Pratt He only wrote 38 novels. So there is hope. If you are going to explore further, I recommend the Palliser series. There, you not only get a big ass novel, but a series of six. They are tons of fun and have a few of the great characters in English Lit: Lady Glencora, Madame Max, Phineas Finn, etc...

Sean Thanks Duffy. I am current reading the last barchester novel. Great series. I may start pallister but I may take a break from Trollope to explore other authors.

message 6: by KP (new) - added it

KP A lot of classic novels in this era were published in parts or by chapter. Similar to us waiting for another tv episode every week. This was their form of entertainment but they were not reading these lengthy books all at once. Bleak house was released over 20 months. :)

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