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Archived Group Reads 2015 > "The Mistletoe Bough"

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message 1: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1861 comments Mod
Please use this thread to discuss the story, "The Mistletoe Bough" by Anthony Trollope.


message 2: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1861 comments Mod
Aww. That was adorable! It reminded me of stories by Louisa May Alcott for some reason.

I'm also struck by how much the character of Trollope's heroines drives these stories. So much rides on Bessy's sense of propriety and her pride.


message 3: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 296 comments We've now had two stories in a row in which the heroine, despite apparently loving the hero, chooses to reject him on apparently very minimal grounds-was this realistic? Would a young woman throw away what seem to be relatively rare chance for happiness (not that many eligible single men of the right age around in any social circle who are handsome, personable, appropriately solvent and in love with them) on such a flimsy pretext as he called Christmas dull? I have to admit i'm finding this aspect of the stories a little annoying.


message 4: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1861 comments Mod
I interpreted it differently. I have the impression that young Godfrey called Elizabeth dull. Or something to that effect. And the two day, unannounced engagement was broken off due to there having been some unkind words between the lovers. She wrote, "I know that I should not make him happy as his wife. He says it is my fault."

It's definitely light, a kind of a flick off the great man's pen, and it's filled with the silliness of high-spirited young people. But I think there's a seriousness underneath. I like the reference to how hard it is for Elizabeth to make this decision which will affect the rest of her life.


message 5: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Renee wrote: "
It's definitely light, a kind of a flick off the great man's pen, and it's filled with the silliness of high-spirited young people. But I think there's a seriousness underneath. "


I agree on both counts.


message 6: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments I thought the opening scene, with Frank and Harry teasing and, really, being a bit mean to Elizabeth, and her leaving the room, "her eyes were full of tears, but she would not let them see that they had vexed her," was enormously realistic and touching.


message 7: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1861 comments Mod
Yes. And her hurt feelings after putting such effort into making things nice for their return. The plight of the one left behind.


message 8: by Ginny (new)

Ginny (burmisgal) | 193 comments Renee wrote: "Yes. And her hurt feelings after putting such effort into making things nice for their return. The plight of the one left behind."

Yes--no school for Elizabeth. Her creativity is put into "making everything warm and pretty" for her brothers. And boys at 16 and 17 are never going to reciprocate. Elizabeth has decided that martyrdom is a path to strength and control over her life. Do we ever learn what the quarrel was about? Perhaps the offence was not trivial. "She had resolved that in loving her lord she would not worship him". Very likely he treated her with condescension and because she didn't like it, it was "her fault". Because she cannot defer to her future husband, she really feels she cannot make him happy.


message 9: by Ginny (last edited Dec 15, 2015 02:14PM) (new)

Ginny (burmisgal) | 193 comments I really enjoyed the sub-plot of Frank's study schedule. "I was to have been up at four this morning, but that alarum went off and never woke me." Almost every Christmas holiday in my life I have had similar plans with a similar result.


message 10: by Frances (new)

Frances (francesab) | 296 comments I also enjoyed that sub plot and have also had a lifetime of great plans for accomplishing great things over holidays!

Unfortunately I no longer have my copy of the stories (someone else requested it at the library) but I thought that initially Godrey called Christmas dull in a light-hearted sort of way and she rather blew it out of proportion. Coupled with her nixing the mistletoe in the first place, I thought she did come off a little priggish and over-sensitive, though it may just be that she had had so much less exposure to the world outside the parish than the others that she was simply somewhat more naive and sheltered. Then she was rather slow in accepting his apology and allowing things to right themselves, which all seemed a bit melodramatic.

In any case, all ended well and I'm sure they will come to understand each other better with time and familiarity.


message 11: by Renee, Moderator (new)

Renee M | 1861 comments Mod
I was just thinking about all the cooking and baking I did as a young person living at home with my parents. I would put all this love and effort into something like baking and decorating cookies... Then my younger brother would come into the kitchen, grab a glass of milk, and make off with an enormous stack. It was maddening!


message 12: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (alynor) | 4 comments Frances wrote: "We've now had two stories in a row in which the heroine, despite apparently loving the hero, chooses to reject him on apparently very minimal grounds-was this realistic? Would a young woman throw a..."

This isn't uncommon in Trollope's novels. I haven't read them all (yet!), but I can instantly think of three other Trollope heroines who initially refused to marry or broke off engagements to highly suitable men they loved. In one of those cases, it's been a while since I read it, so I can't recall the details, but the other two were variations of the "I'm worried I'm not good enough for him and won't make him happy" scenario, which seemed like minimal grounds to me, especially considering no other characters in the books held that opinion but the ladies themselves.


message 13: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 923 comments Frances wrote: "We've now had two stories in a row in which the heroine, despite apparently loving the hero, chooses to reject him on apparently very minimal grounds-was this realistic? Would a young woman throw a..."

I think her feelings were already hurt by the broken engagement for which he blamed her. How many of us react more strongly over something trivial when our feelings are hurt?


message 14: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 923 comments Sharon wrote: "Frances wrote: "We've now had two stories in a row in which the heroine, despite apparently loving the hero, chooses to reject him on apparently very minimal grounds-was this realistic? Would a you..."

One thing to keep in mind, marriage was forever. She could not divorce her husband, and if she divorced him, she would lose her children. Maybe the anxiety, while stated as not being good enough, was really about that,


message 15: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (deborahkliegl) | 923 comments Coming in a bit late to the discussion due to christmas craziness :).

I have just one thing to add. Elizabeth's care for her brothers' happiness, and her being left behind, really is the role of wife. Her whole world would be her home and family with the possibility of her efforts not even noticed.

I enjoyed the story, and Elizabeth's uncomfortableness. I felt it to be an accurate portrayal.


message 16: by Rut (new)

Rut | 55 comments Hi, I´m sorry I had not been around lately, long story….
Anyway, I finished my first Trollope’s story today (and probably the only one I will read for I had not been able to find a paper copy in any bookstore yet and my eyes would not let me read on a screen for long periods these days. I need new glasses, I guess).

Since I had never read anything by Trollope before, I was very excited about this reading.
And even though I did like “The Mistletoe Bough” I must admit that Hardy (a new Victorian author for me until recently) won the battle.
That does not mean I will give up on Trollope, quite the opposite. I was glad to notice that his narrative was actually as realistic as I had expected it to be. For example, as Ginny mentioned, Frank’s doing homework made me wonder what it should have been like to be a student at those days. Several other little details such as Elizabeth leaving a room “with her slow, graceful step, hiding her tears, --hiding all emotion, as latterly she had taught herself that I was feminine to do.” Or Isabella’s manner of talking and confessing that if she could she would go hunting with the boys, such a portrait of what young spirited women might have felt under the restriction of the norms and the female role imposed at the time.
Renee said this story reminded her of Louise May Alcott’s ones. I kind of happened to me too but I sensed it as a critic. I felt like Bessy could have very easily be one of Alcott’s characters and Trollope was somehow exposing the dark, proud and harsh side of a, otherwise, reflexive, self-denial and sweet nature in a girl. I thought about it when Isabella claims she hates to hear people talk of knowing their hearts and that girls who are so intent upon it generally end by knowing nobody’s heart but their own.” I am not saying Trollope supported that opinion as the best, only that it made me think about some protagonists in other Victorian stories I have read and what intellectual men of the time might have thought of them.

This realism and subtle examination makes me wanting to read more by him. His autobiography looks pretty interesting, especially since it made him become criticized because of the way he described his approach to writing.


message 17: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte (charlottecph) | 271 comments Frances wrote: "We've now had two stories in a row in which the heroine, despite apparently loving the hero, chooses to reject him on apparently very minimal grounds-was this realistic? Would a young woman throw a..."

Me too, I thought her rejection was not realistic and couldn't figure it out. I was also annoyed. So I am very happy for the discussion later on in this thread!


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 2531 comments Rut wrote: "That does not mean I will give up on Trollope, quite the opposite."

Oh, absolutely do not give up on Trollope. While it's a little off-topic for this thread, I can't help recommending that you read The Warden and Barchester Towers.


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