It feels like an age since the New Year (certainly more than 3 weeks) and my trip up north. I took a pile of books confidant through the haze of ill being that constituted ‘The Cold’ that I would work my way through them. Alas my eyes were bigger than my desire to concentrate and I didn’t do very well. It also seems that packing with a bad cold is very like packing when blind drunk, so for a winter stay in Scotland with a New Year’s party I forgot gloves, the top half of my pyjamas (which I thought I remembered packing and eventually found under a cushion on the sofa when I got home – no idea what happened there). I neglected to take any sort of semi formal party wear of the sort approved of by my father (though I did remember pearls which I feel went a long way towards making things proper), didn’t manage to wrap my sisters Christmas present but found sachets of instant yeast at the bottom of my weekend bag - although the shampoo I was looking for would have been a better item to take and finally and surely even more inexplicable than the pyjama episode I took the wrong Trollope.
It should have been ‘Framley Parsonage’ but turned out to be ‘The Small House at Allington’. I was a hundred pages in before I realised my mistake which left me with a dilemma of sorts – put the book down and wait until I could read them in order or carry on regardless? After plenty of dithering and a bit of advice which suggested that reading the books the wrong way round wouldn’t matter too much I carried on and finished ‘The Small House’ (it has meant spoilers for ‘Framley Parsonage’ but hopefully nothing to central to the main plot).
After ‘Dr Thorne’ ‘The Small House’ feels like a very different beast – in short it’s a much better book; the plot is tighter, there’s much more action, less repetition, perhaps more human interest, and a scene with a bull. The heroine of the piece is Lily Dale (good family, no money, attractive) who meets and falls in love with Adolphus Crosbie (limited but comfortable means, ambitious, able) a friend of her cousins. Within a few weeks they are engaged and Lily has given herself heart and soul to Crosbie. Crosbie who isn’t exactly a bad man proves to be entirely unworthy of Lily’s love when within a week of leaving her side he engages himself to a woman of better birth.
Lily is publically humiliated and privately broken hearted as befits a young woman who’s been dumped and effectively lost her job in one fell swoop, but she carries on loving Crosbie all the same feeling herself to be almost his widow and won’t hear a word against him. I found myself with a degree of sympathy for Crosbie; carried away on a holiday romance he clearly proposes before he’s really ready to commit himself and when he finds Lily will bring nothing but herself to the marriage he gets cold feet, but this is part and parcel of his ambitious nature and then Lily throws herself so entirely into the affair it would be hard to resist the momentum she creates. Even after she’s jilted Lily persists in forgiving Crosbie for his crimes against her and in loving him as wholeheartedly as ever regarding herself in the light of a widow, nor will she allow anyone else to speak against him in her presence. I couldn’t help but feel that Miss Dale was treated with altogether too much forbearance by her family and friends; if ever a girl required a good talking to Lily does.
And now for the rest of the book – there is the fate of Lily’s sister Bell to be decided (Bell is a far more interesting heroine to my way of thinking; she has self control and a radical turn of mind), there are a host of characters to be introduced or disposed of including Plantagenet Palliser which has thoroughly whetted my appetite for the Palliser series, and the De Courcys who I’m always happy to be outraged by. There is also the hero; a young man who loves Lily but has somehow entangled himself in a sort of engagement to his landlady’s daughter, and who acquits himself well in the adventure with the bull.
For me Trollope’s strength as a writer lies in his exploration of the everyday, I really believe in the protagonists in ‘The Small House’, I can love them for their flaws and share in their dilemmas. There might not be many surprises but the world he creates is as absorbing as it is comfortable and ‘The Small House at Allington’ has certainly fed my enthusiasm for the man.
I've read the first two of the Barchester Chronicles but never managed to get any further. However, some years ago the BBC did a radio serialisation of all six novels and I've just got hold of a copy. Given the pile of books waiting to be read I think I'm going to take the cheats way out and listen to the dramatised version instead. From your description there are enough characters there for me to really enjoy having them brought to life. I have, however, read all the Palliser novels and they are superb. You have a real treat to come.ReplyDelete
I can just feel the pain of realizing that you were 100 pages into the wrong book. I'm not sure what I would have done in your situation. After the first in the series, I think Small House is my favorite of the group.ReplyDelete
It was very annoying Thomas - 100 pages was more than enough to have hooked me in to the story and in the end the idea of waiting maybe a month to get round to it again seemed to long. I really enjoyed the small house not least because it's the best plotted Trollope I've read so far, but now I've started Framley Parsonage I think I'm enjoying it even more. Maybe that's just a growing Trollope dependancy though.ReplyDelete
Annie - like you I sort of see audio books as cheating but must admit when I look at the inches of Pallisers waiting for me I'm torn between excited anticipation and trepidation at the size of the task ahead. The idea of listening suddenly becomes very appealing and is surely a god send for these long part works.ReplyDelete
Trollope is quite brilliant at creating believable people.ReplyDelete
Lily is annoying but I do feel sorry for her and - in the end - for Crosbie. He pays a very high price for his ambition.
Lou, I think I have more sympathy for Crosbie who does indeed pay a very high price for his ambition. What frustrates me about Lily is a sense that she's determined to martyr herself for no very good cause. I need to fit in the last chronicle soon to find out what happens next.ReplyDelete
I just read this one (having read the previous ones, so I'm still in order) and unlike you or Thomas it's my least favourite! Isn't it funny how different people have different tastes? :) I'm sad that I only have one left, but then on to the Pallisers (which, sadly, I can't read quite in order since my first Trollope was The Eustace Diamonds-no idea why I didn't check first)!ReplyDelete
Eva, I think my favourite so far is 'Barchester Towers' followed by 'Framley Parsonage'. I still have the last chronicle left but got seriously sidetracked by Mrs Oliphant's Carlingford Chronicles.ReplyDelete