Thursday, 1 January 2015

Buried in Birmingham

This is a direct quote from Anthony Trollope's Can You Forgive Her.

'A woman needs only one husband and mine is buried in Birmingham'.

This from one lady - and I used the term well because this is Trollope and all his women are ladies, when is receiving a proposal.

The title of the book is awful. It gives me heart. His titles are all awful but his books are brilliant and his plots so good and so relevant to our lives that they are ready to be lifted wholesale by lesser mortals.
To say that Trollope was prolific is like saying that it rains a lot in Manchester.  I am downloading his books on to my kindle, mostly for nothing or just a few pennies but best of all I downloaded Timothy West reading Can You Forgive Her.  I thought eighteen pounds a lot of money for an audio book but it's wonderful!

I fell asleep yesterday afternoon listening to his gorgeous voice and when I woke up after two hours ( I don't usually sleep during the day, I've had tonsillitis for the past three weeks and it's very tiring ) he was thirty thousand words on and Alice was still trying to make up her mind whether to say yes to her suitor, her cousin, George. I was so pleased I hadn't missed anything and yet I knew that I would be able to listen over and over again to the intricacies and I would enjoy each word.

Trollope does all those things which writers aren't meant to do. I don't know whether he just ignored such things but apparently Henry James didn't like Trollope's authorial intrusion. It's something I do myself and nobody's ever objected. It makes the story more intimate somehow rather than the other way about. Also unlike most other male writers, his women are incredible, so well drawn, so likeable, so funny on occasion, so wise as they consider and solve the problems which the writer sets before them. They are the best I have ever seen any writer tackle. Dickens pales beside him. A lot modern day male writers could learn a great deal from him.
He tells you what he's doing so that you don't get lost in the deep intricacies of his plots.  It's like gossip. It's all so delicious.

If you are new to Trollope I can't advise you better than to say download the audio of Barchester Towers. BBC Radio, God love them, presented this in play like form several years ago and it is funny, clever and highly entertaining, written apparently after a visit to Gloucester cathedral. The Warden was his first successful book.  Mr Harding, who is the warden of the hospital is possibly the loveliest character I have ever met and his two daughters are fascinating.

Part of Can you Forgive Her is set in the lakes, places I recognise and love, Penrith, Shap. Alice and Kate, the two main female characters go for long walks where their grandfather owns an estate and you feel as if you are there with them.
One of his characters, Mr Bot ( or possibly Bott, I haven't seen it written down yet ) is so awful and so aptly named. His names his characters for their characters very often. Mr Bot is from Manchester, a politician and monstrous tedious. Oh dear, I fear I have turned into Alice or Kate in my speech, strong, intelligent, honest women, they make their way through society disadvantaged in the ways that women were then, excluded from professions, sitting in the drawing room, finding husbands or not to the detriment of their futures, being kind to impossible men such as Alice's cousin George, who is Kate's dearly beloved brother. I fear that Kate betrays her cousin because of George. Alas.
This book is the first of the Pallisers, known as the Parliamentary novels. Trollope's books tend to follow his desires  and his lifestyle and he very much wanted to be come a politician. Early on he worked for the post office in Ireland and his first novels are set there.
I am so glad that I found Anthony Trollope. He wrote so much and I love all of it so far. I am reading Lady Anna, whose mother married a lord and then found out he was already married. What problems follow this!

So for 2015 I'm going to fill my reading time with Trollope and delight in the entertainment he gives me and learn about fictional relationships from him. And indulge in his plots which are like a good television series. I shall wait impatiently for the next exciting instalment.


  1. Lovely new year comment making me want to rush to Trollope for inspiration to write in 2015, Happy new Year Liz. Wxx

  2. Hi Wendy, thanks. Happy New Year!!