So, my first book of 2010 was published exactly 150 years ago. Framley Parsonage is the fourth of Trollope’s six Barsetshire novels, mainly concerning the initial hostility and eventual approval of Lord Lufton’s mother towards her son’s love for the more humbly born Lucy Robarts; a substantial subplot concerns the financial problems of Lucy’s brother Mark, who is the vicar of Framley and whose home therefore gives the book its title. Although it recapitulates much the same plot as Doctor Thorne, the third in the series, I think it is rather better: the characters are more likeable, and the rather nasty sneering at the lower orders which crept into Doctor Thorne is replaced by some jabs at the comfortable contemporary reader which are a little (though only a little) more savage than Trollope’s usual gentle mockery: “There are two classes of persons in this realm who are constitutionally inefficient to take any part in returning members to Parliament—peers, namely, and women.” “You millionaires always talk of Christian resignation, because you never are called on to resign anything. ” And, summing up pretty much the whole book: “A lady who can sell herself for a title or an estate, for an income or a set of family diamonds, treats herself as a farmer treats his sheep and oxen”. Trollope is particularly cynical about party politics; he sees almost no ideological difference between Whigs and Tories, simply different styles of snobbery and patronage. But his cynicism is not especially vicious, and he sees the situation as part of the natural order, peculiar and quirky though it may sometimes seen. (There is no suggestion that women might perhaps be given the vote, let alone that the peerage could be reformed.)
This has been my Blackberry book for a couple of months – progressing at about a chapter a day. I’ll download the next from Project Gutenberg in due course, but may try something other than Trollope first.
LibraryThing unrecommendation: Prey by Michael Crichton