Wednesday, March 5, 2014

He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope



For my most recent Classics Spin pick, I got #20 on my list, He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope.  I was pleased because it was one of the many Trollopes I still have unread on my shelves (about 20!) but a little dismayed because it was by far the longest book on my Spin list, more than 800 pages.  We were asked to post our reviews on April 2 so I decided to get an early start, but I couldn't stop reading it!

Well, my fears were unfounded because I ended up tearing through this 824 pages behemoth in just over a week.  I could hardly put the book down and now it is one of my Trollope favorites -- an easy read with some great characters and a compelling storyline.  Well, mostly.  Ironically, the main story is actually the one I liked least. 

I'll back up a bit.  The main thread of this story is the unhappy marriage of two young people, Louis and Emily Trevalyan, nee Rowley.  Emily's father, Lord Marmaduke, is the Governor of the Mandarin Islands.  Louis met her there, married her, and brought her back to England.  Her younger sister Nora accompanied them back to London as Emily's companion.  Things were good for awhile, and Louis and Emily have a young son, but things started to go bad when Emily began spending time with her godfather.  Colonel Osborne, her father's best friend, is a bit of a rake and has a reputation for causing trouble among young married ladies.

 People have begun gossiping about Emily's friendship with Osborne, which makes Louis uncomfortable.  He tries to discourage her from meeting Osborne, but she's rather stubborn and annoyed that he doesn't trust her.  He becomes jealous and annoyed that she won't yield to his wishes, and things just go downhill, spiraling out of control.  They both want their own way and it isn't going to work out well for either of them.



Meanwhile, Emily's lovely sister Nora has attracted some suitors -- one is Lord Glascock, who will someday be incredibly rich.  He's very kind but a little boring and old for Nora, nearly twice her age.  She's actually in love with Trevalyan's old friend, Hugh Stanbury, a journalist who had until recently been supported by his wealthy aunt.  Miss Stanbury, his maiden aunt back in Exeter, also likes to have her own way, and she cut him off when he gave up an attempt at a law practice to become a writer.   Aunt Stanbury, though essentially good-hearted, likes to use her money to manipulate other people.  During the course of the story, she takes Hugh's younger sister Dorothy under her wing as a companion, and decides to try and manipulate Dorothy's love life as well. 

The novel interweaves the stories of the downward spiral of Emily and Louis with Nora's struggles to choose the right man, and Dorothy's struggle to overcome her manipulative aunt and her matchmaking. There's also a great storyline about the Exeter vicar, Reverend Gibson, and his dramatic love life, which is pretty hilarious. 

Parts of it, especially the action in Exeter, were very reminiscent of Jane Austen.  I really enjoyed the characters and the storylines -- Aunt Stanbury in particular was a real hoot, especially her interactions with her faithful servant Martha.  Trollope also gets in some good digs about Americans, especially independent American women.  However, I did find the story of Louis and Emily Trevalyan a bit tiresome, and parts of it dragged -- it seemed like their storyline was the same thing over and over.  Overall, though, it was one of my favorite Trollope novels so far and I've already started watching the six-part BBC adaptation which stars Bill Nighy as Col. Osborne and the wonderful Anna Massey as Aunt Stanbury.  Therefore, I'm using this as my Classics Club selection for "Classic Adapted as a Movie or TV Series."

That makes twelve novels by Anthony Trollope that I've completed -- only 35 left to go!!  Bloggers, which are your favorite Trollope novels?

24 comments:

  1. This is one of my top favorites as well - I'm so glad you enjoyed it! For some reason it doesn't seem to get as much notice. And I agree with you about the subplots being more interesting than the main. I just dote on Aunt Stanbury! I haven't seen the adaptation you mention, but I'm tempted by Bill Nighy as Col. Osborne.

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    1. Aunt Stanbury was my favorite -- I've started watching the series and Anna Massey is brilliant. Bill Nighy isn't quite how I pictured Col. Osborne -- I think he's a bit more buffoonish in the book, but Bill Nighy is a little more believable as a man who ruins women's reputations.

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  2. I swear I am going to finally start with Trollope this year! (Okay, I say that every year but I have to actually do it sometime.) I think this is the first book on my list so I'm glad that it is a good one!

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    1. Trollope's books can be long, but they aren't difficult reads compared to most Victorians -- I can sometimes finish a Trollope in a week, but I don't think I could do that with Dickens. My first was The Way We Live Now which is also long, but riveting.

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  3. Glad this turned out to be such an enjoyable read... plus I can't believe you got thought it in a week! Congratulations on completing your Classics Spin with so much time to spare... have a feeling I'll be going right down to the wire with Middlemarch :)

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    1. Well, it was probably closer to 10 days, but that's still pretty good for an 800 page book! I did have a lot of down time last weekend, and I was dying to find out what happened. I know I wasn't supposed to post until April 2, but I just couldn't hold off that long.

      And Middlemarch was great, but I think it took longer. I remember the first 100 pages were sort of dry, but it really picked up after that.

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  4. Excellent! I was at a thrift shop last weekend and score a slew of Trollopes for mere dollars. He Knew He Was Right is a title I picked up and I am looking forward to it. If you're interested Melissa and Avid Reader's Musings and I are doing a Chronicle of Barsetshire Readalong! http://figandthistle.com/2014/02/14/chronicles-of-barsetshire-readalong/

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    1. I just finished the Barchester series last year!! I know I should start on the Pallisers but I'm a little afraid to get sucked into another long series so I'm trying to read more of the standalone Trollopes -- I still have about a dozen and some of them are relatively short. I found about 10 last year at Half-Price Books and couldn't resist them.

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  5. I have only read the first three in the Barsetshire series. The Warden is my favorite because I love Mr. Harding and just because it was the first book I read, but all three were excellent. I know I will read more Trollope but I want to complete the Chronicles first before I move on to any stand alone novel.

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    1. That's interesting -- I found The Warden a little slow, but I was so glad I stuck with it because it's really tied to Barchester Towers which I loved. Doctor Thorne was my other favorite in the series, but they're all good.

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  6. My Classics Club Spin book was Can You Forgive Her? I'm reading it now and enjoying it, though I think it's going to take me a lot longer than a week to read it! He Knew He Was Right sounds great but I will probably try to finish the Palliser series first before reading the stand-alone books.

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    1. I do want to get to the Pallisers -- I have the whole series on my TBR shelves. However, they're mostly really long and I hesitate to start a whole new series. I'm going to try to get through some of the stand-alone books first. Of course my library does have Can You Forgive Her? as an audiobook so that's tempting!

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  7. Wow, I'm impressed that you read this so quickly - it must be riveting!
    I struggle to like Trollope and have had a hard time reading his books so I've only finished one. I want to like him so badly, but I might have to give up that dream.

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    1. Maybe he is just not for you -- I find his books very easy to read and usually read them pretty quickly. It was about ten days for this one, although I did have a lot of down time last weekend and made a lot of progress. My previous Trollope read was Orley Farm which didn't go nearly as fast. I did find that one to be more repetitive.

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  8. I have been wanting to reread this one. I just loved it. It isn't my favorite-favorite Trollope, but it's so very, very good! I also did not care for the "main" couple, but the other characters I enjoyed so much that it more than made up for it!!!

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    1. I agree, Louis and Emily were the least interesting. I found Nora Rowley and Dorothy Stanbury to be much more interesting, and Rev. Gibson was just a hoot.

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  9. This is one of my favourites, think it might have been my first Trollope. Also love The Warden, which I'm re-reading this month for the Chronicles of Barsetshire read-along :)

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  10. Oh, I didn't know Anthony Trollope wrote thát many books! I've not read one of them yet.... Your review mirrors my feelings after watching the BBC miniseries though, the 'side' stories where way more interesting compared to the main storyline.

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  11. I have read a lot of Trollope and like his sly social humor. Favorites include The Way We Live Now (financial chicanery), Can You Forgive Her (beginning of the Palliser series) and The American Senator (fox hunting and husband hunting).

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  12. I did enjoy He Knew He Was Right but my favourites are the Palliser novels although I'll always have a soft spot for the Barchester books, which was the first series which I read.

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  13. Hello, I wanted to let you know I've nominated you for the Sunflower Blogger award: http://lady-ofthe-manor.blogspot.nl/2014/03/sunflower-blogger-award.html#comment-form

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  14. The more Trollope I read, the more I like him, which is good because he has so many books. I am looking forward to reading this one, eventually, but meanwhile I can relate to the idea of the main thread of a novel getting worn and finding the subthreads more interesting.

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  15. Great idea to watch the series. I have recently been told about the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice and now Wives and Daughters. Where have I been all my life? I've been missing out. The Pride and Prejudice series was awesome, and I'm looking forward to many more.

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  16. I WILL get around to Trollope this year. It sound like this is the one to start with ...

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