Becky's Reviews > Castle Richmond

Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope
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First sentence: I wonder whether the novel-reading world — that part of it, at least, which may honour my pages — will be offended if I lay the plot of this story in Ireland! That there is a strong feeling against things Irish it is impossible to deny. Irish servants need not apply; Irish acquaintances are treated with limited confidence; Irish cousins are regarded as being decidedly dangerous; and Irish stories are not popular with the booksellers.


Premise/plot: Castle Richmond is set in Ireland at the start of the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1849). Is it solely about the potato famine? No. Not really. Would it be better if it were? Maybe. Maybe not. You see what the plot turns around mainly are two men in love with the same young woman: Herbert Fitzgerald and Owen Fitzgerald are cousins in love with the same woman, Lady Clara Desmond. If that were all, it wouldn't be all that surprising and unusual. But that's not all.

Lady Clara's mother--also named Clara, a countess and a widow--is madly in love with Owen Fitzgerald. It is for herself that she invites this man into her home, into their lives. She doesn't suspect that Owen will be more likely to fall in love with the young daughter instead of herself. Patrick, Clara's brother, is best, best friends with Owen. So Owen is at their place a lot of time. Until...one day he declares his love for Lady Clara. Lady Clara says YES, I'll marry you. Her mother and brother say NO, NEVER. GET OUT AND STAY OUT. Why the rejection? Owen Fitzgerald is a poor man. He has no estate, no wealth, no title. And Lady Clara deserves an estate, wealth, and title.

Herbert Fitzgerald will have an estate, wealth, and title--when his father, Sir Thomas, dies. When the story opens, that is looking like it will happen soon. Sir Thomas is STRESSED. It seems that his wife's first husband is very much alive and that Herbert--and his other children--are illegitimate. Herbert will not inherit after all. And the next in line....is, of course, Owen.

You would think, Owen will win the approval of the family now! Owen and Lady Clara will live happily ever after. All will be well. But I forgot to mention one little thing. While the potato crop is failing, and Owen is sad and depressed--Herbert Fitzgerald starts wooing Lady Clara. Though she swore to be true to her love forever and ever, her mother has said that the marriage is impossible. And Lady Clara finds herself more and more okay with that. When Herbert proposes, she says YES. This happens days--maybe a couple of weeks--before the big reveal. And it isn't long after the big reveal that Sir Thomas dies.

Lady Clara has said I love you to two different men. She's accepted two proposals. Now that the poor man will be the rich man, and the rich man will be the poor man....who will she stand by? who do we want her to stand by?

Owen doesn't want the estate. Owen wants Lady Clara. Herbert does want the estate. He wants Lady Clara too. So when Owen offers to sign the estate back over to Herbert in exchange for Herbert breaking the engagement, Herbert says NO. Owen pouts. But that doesn't really change anything. Owen still doesn't want the estate. Owen still loves and wants Lady Clara.

Meanwhile, Clara (the mother, the countess) is breaking her heart over Owen. If she can't have him for herself, maybe Lady Clara can still have him. At least he'd be part of her life. Maybe that would be enough. Patrick returns (oh so briefly) but Lady Clara says she won't break her engagement with Herbert (no matter how poor) to marry Owen (no matter how rich). Patrick and Lady Clara are a bit confused. Could Lady Clara really have fallen out of love so quickly with Owen and into love so quickly with Herbert?!

Herbert runs away to London, and begins to study law. But this study is cut very short because of two letters the family lawyer receives. One is from Owen saying he has no plans whatsoever to accept the estate. The other is from the book's villain. The son of Lady Fitzgerald's first husband. He has news that will change everything....or so he claims.

Throughout the book, readers get a few sketches here and there of how the failure of the potato crop has disastrous effects on the poor. It is very here and there coverage. And it's mainly on how the gentry and clergy come together to offer "relief" to the poor. One minor plot revolves around whether Catholics and Protestants can come together to help the poor.

My thoughts: This book reminded me of Spin Doctors' Two Princes. "I ain't got no future or a family tree. But I know what a prince and lover ought to be. I know what a prince and lover ought to be." I had a hard time connecting with Lady Clara. I feel there was a definite lack of development. I know that both men loved and adored her. But we're not shown why exactly. Other than the obvious: she's young; she's presumably beautiful.

It wasn't clear--at least to me--which direction Trollope would take with Owen and Herbert. Would this be a story of young lovers overcoming the objections of their families to be together and live happily ever after? Would Lady Clara prove loyal to her first love and not be persuaded by her family, or by the lure of money?

Trollope never clearly shows us the moment when Herbert and Lady Clara fall in actual love with one another. It's more a matter of Lady Clara accepting an invitation to visit his estate and get all chummy with his mother, his aunt, his two sisters. The visit lasts a few days, and after that visit he proposes and she says yes. They'd never really had a relationship before that visit.

Personally, I could see why Owen would be like WHAT'S GOING ON?!?! IS SHE SERIOUS?!

Lady Clara doesn't appear to be a gold digger; she does appear--to me--to be FICKLE. Perhaps readers are supposed to be oh-so-impressed by the fact that when Herbert loses his inheritance, she sticks like glue to her man and refuses to end the relationship. I wasn't. I wasn't sure why she was in relationship with him--so quickly--to begin with.

Both Owen and Herbert are good men. Neither is a villain necessarily. Lady Clara wouldn't be throwing away her life by marrying Owen. She wouldn't be throwing away her life by marrying Herbert. She has in many ways equal chances of happiness with either man. My question: DOES SHE LOVE EITHER MAN? I'm not sure Lady Clara is old enough, wise enough to know her own mind and her own heart. I think she was "caught up" in a moment--twice. I'm not sure she knew either man well enough to say yes.

Lady Clara's mother--pathetic as she may come across--is more developed. One of the sad, awkward moments of the novel comes when Clara pours out her heart and soul to Owen confessing that he is the love of her life. There will be no happy ending for Clara....or for Owen.
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Reading Progress

August 22, 2017 – Started Reading
August 22, 2017 – Shelved
October 12, 2017 –
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0.0% "Finished the first 20 chapters."
October 18, 2017 –
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0.0% "Just seven chapters left!"
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: 2017reviews
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: classicsclub2017
October 19, 2017 – Shelved as: shareatea2017
October 19, 2017 – Finished Reading

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