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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Can You Forgive Trollope?

Last night started Anthony Trollope's Can You Forgive Her?, which might better be called Can You Finish It?, not that the novel is bad or daunting - to that in a moment - but that it's a two-volume heavyweight that I'm reading on my iPad, which calculates the pages as 2400+ ! - admittedly each page on the pad is small and navigable. Believe it or not I've never read a word of Trollope, to the best of my knowledge and memory, nor did I watch a moment of The Pallissers (Can You is the first of 6 volumes of Pallisser) - but have wanted to do so, partly bcz Trollope looms as a literary gap, partly because of my late-life interest in multi-volume series (Proust, Knausgaard, FM Ford, et al. - plus numerous TV series of high literary value in their own right, the medium Shakespeare would no doubt be inhabiting today). As to Can You, it's hard to judge based on 5 percent of the novel but it seems at first very straightforward - a young woman with a small amount of money living in London late 19th century deciding between two suitors, the Worthy Man and the Wild Man, as AT calls them: Worthy, her actual fiance though they have not "set a date" (he wants to, she demurs) is tall handsome smart Mr. Bland (his name aptly is Mr. Grey) and dull in his dependability and servility; Mr. Wild (Vavaser) is actually her cousin (mores on that score were different then) and a former fling, flamboyant, irresponsible, charming - woman and her cousin/his sister (Kate) are going to Switzerland on vacation and ask Vavaser to escort them (respectable women do not travel unescorted) - so you can see the plot developing. Vavaser had also been a radical candidate, unsuccessful, for Parliament - an opening clue, as the Pallissers is a series about political life (not much evident in first 150 pp.). First impression is that Trollope's style is anything but daunting. Clearly, he was paid by the word and is in no rush to move the plot along nor does he dwell on style, metaphor, or nuance - he's like a genial old windbag telling you a good family yarn - so you can pretty much read him at any pace, and if you nod off for a moment while your eyes skim the page you probably haven't missed anything and you can just pick up where you woke. He's not as vivid and funny as Dickens, as sharp as Eliot, as descriptive and melodramatic as Hardy - to name a few contemporaries - but more than any of them he presents a window onto the life of his time, at least the life of a select set and class.

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