Rating: 9 out of 10
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Challenges: 2012 Back to the Classics Challenge, 2012 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Synopsis (from Wikipedia): At its center stands Augustus Melmotte, a crooked financier whose enormous schemes ensnare an array of avaricious aristocrats, politicians, and “important people.” Among them are Lady Carbury, who earns the family bread by churning out fatuous potboilers and her spendthrift, ne’er-do-well son, Felix, who sets his sights on Melmotte’s dangerously beautiful daughter, Marie. Meanwhile, Felix’s sister, Hetta, falls for Melmotte’s partner, Paul, who’s encumbered with an American fiance, herself a widow who may have shot her husband. As the frauds expand and the romantic entanglements grow ever more complex, Trollope revels in the antics of his characters while pillorying the corruption of their morally bankrupt society.
Overall Impression: I’ve been reading this forever. I mean, other reviewers are crying, “this took me three weeks to read!” But since I started reading this through DailyLit, which gives me just a snippet of the book each weekday (takes about five minutes to read), I have literally been slowly reading this book for 81 weeks. That’s more than a year and a half.
Holy crapsauce, people.
Good thing I loved it! Back in grad school, I watched the BBC version, which is also excellent (David Suchet, you amazing, amazing man!). I decided to read this chunkster (1024 pages!) and I’m so glad I did. It is so rich with complex characters and wonderfully intricate-yet-gloomy plot that weaves itself into this gorgeous satirical tapestry. There are few characters that are truly likable, but each has their good and bad points, making them all very realistic, even if you don’t necessarily want any of them as friends.
Many people find books from the 19th century hard to get through, but I think Trollope is one of the most accessible. Even though the book is long, it’s not that difficult to read, and the complex plot is surprisingly easy to follow. I find Dickens’ characters to be more Good and Bad, whereas Trollope’s characters are multifaceted and intricate. One of the things I like about Trollope’s writing is how he moves from character to character — it keeps the book from being bogged down by one point of view.
The best part about this book is that the title and themes apply to 2012 as much as they did to 1875 — we live in such a similar world, full of people trying to make a fast buck at the expense of other people. Everyone looks out for themselves, makes decisions based on their immediate desires, and many pay the consequences (though…not enough to be 100% satisfying.)
Also, Paul Montague: MAN THE HELL UP.
Positives: It’s everything a long, satirical Victorian novel should be. If you love the classics, you won’t be disappointed with this one. Augustus Melmotte might be one of my favorite villains of all time.
Negatives: Because it was originally written for serialization, there’s some repetition. Also, I’m not in love with how Trollope uses the “I” for the omniscient narrator. Breaking that fourth wall is usually awkward for me, especially so intermittently.
Other books I’ve read by Anthony Trollope: none
Other blogger opinions:
Becky’s Book Reviews: “Why do I love Anthony Trollope? He’s a great writer. He tells a great story. He really captures so many different aspects of being human.”
Suey’s Books: “I really enjoyed it, even though I drug it out over many months time!”
A Library is the Hospital of the Mind: “I thoroughly enjoyed this read. The story plot is thick (so much happens within the story over the course of six months) and the characters richly colorful and quirky.”