Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Mount TBR #24

I read this book for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge hosted over at My Reader’s Block from January 1 – December 31, 2016. The challenge is to read books that you already own.

Orley Farm – Anthony Trollope

In this early novel, Trollope tells the story of a disputed inheritance. Lady Mason, beautiful and hard-pressed, and her repulsive son-in-law, Sir Joseph Mason, clash again concerning the legality of her late husband's will, which bequeathed her his estate. They had litigation 20 years before the opening of the story but Samuel Dockwrath, a greedy unscrupulous lawyer, stirs up litigation a second time purely out of revenge against Lady Mason. The first volume finds Lady Mason seeks advice first from local friends and then entrusts the case and her fate to the barrister Furnival, who calls in our old friend Mr. Chaffanbrass who first appeared in The Three Clerks. The second volume is the run up to the courtroom duel among the barristers.

I keep details to a minimum because I hate spoilers. All I have to say is, this novel will please fans who know they like Trollope. He uses comedy and grotesque characters as if he were writing in the Dickensy manner, only for us grown-ups. At a little over 800 pages, the book has some dead-ends. For instance, Trollope makes much of Lucius Mason's experiments in guano for agricultural use and Mrs. Joseph Mason’s pain-in-the-neck daughters. But he does not pursue these comic lines. Adding to length are six marriage proposals. Six, for the luvva Mike.

I liked this novel for the sheer number and variety of characters, especially Sir Peregrine Orme, and Trollope’s narrative skill at constructing what some critics call his best plot. Trollope was in his late forties when he wrote this so I found heartening the sober reflections of middle-aged Victorian moralist. Finally, although the theme was not always comic, I found realistic that characters were constantly acting on judgments that they thought were correct but in fact were dead wrong.

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