Saturday, March 31, 2012

Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope



Finally!  I've had this book out from the library for weeks, probably since I finished Dr. Thorne in January.  Seriously.  I started a couple of chapters weeks ago and then didn't really read it until about a week ago.  Once I got started, I was really rolling and finished it in about five days.  I can hardly say that about Dickens!

This is the story of two families, the Luftons and the Robards.  Mark Robards, the son of a respected doctor, is the childhood friend of Ludovic Lufton, a young lord and the heir of Framley.  When Mark and Ludo are still young men, the living of the parsonage at Framley becomes available, so Lady Lufton, Ludovic's mother, gives it to Mark, basically setting him up with a good job for life at quite a young age.  She also finds him a nice wife, Fanny, the best friend of her daughter.

However, Robards is still very young and rather foolish.  He starts mixing with some of Lord Lufton's swanky friends, to the disapproval of Lufton's mother, his patroness.  One weekend Mark attends a house party with some mutual friends, to the very great disapproval of Lady Lufton.  She has the right idea -- Mark is persuaded by a rich spendthrift named Sowerby to co-sign an IOU for 400 pounds (which he, Mark, doesn't actually have).  According to the Trollope website, in today's dollars that's the equivalent of about $25,000.  (Yowza!)  Mark doesn't mention this to his wife, since Sowerby is convinced he's going to marry Miss Dunstable (the rich heiress previously introduced in Dr. Thorne) and he'll be able to make the debt good himself in a couple of months, and it won't cause Mark a bit of trouble.  Ha!  Of course nothing does as planned and Mark is on a downward spiral of debt when he never even used a penny of it for himself.  Following all this so far?

Meanwhile, Mark's father has died, and though this might have saved the day if there was any money to inherit, it adds a different wrinkle to the story.  Mark's charming younger sister Lucy comes to live at Framley Parsonage.  Though she's described as "little and brown," she's quite delightful, and his friend Lord Lufton starts to become friendly with her, to dismay of his mother.  Lady Lufton wants nothing more than for her son to marry Someone Of Consequence; money isn't an issue for the Luftons, like we saw with the Greshams in Dr. Thorne, but LL still wants her son to marry someone impressive.   She's jockeying to get him married off to Griselda Grantley, the daughter of Archdeacon Grantley from The Warden and Barchester Towers.  Griselda is beautiful and rich, but doesn't seem to have much personality.

Meanwhile, there's some political stuff that I found very confusing and honestly, I skimmed parts of it.  Trollope does tend to ramble on about politics, and since I don't know the history, it really meant nothing to me. (I suspect this might get worse when I start reading The Pallisers novels, many of which are in the 800-page range).   Essentially I think there was some kind of vote of no confidence in the current Parliament, and people were in and out of the government.  Plus, Sowerby is trying to get re-elected for Parliament, despite the fact that he's about to lose his estate and his shirt because of all his bad debts.

The best thing about this book was the relationships between the people at Framley Parsonage itself.  Lady Lufton is bossy, but not a monster, and Mark's wife Fanny and his sister Lucy are just wonderful characters.  For a Victorian novel, there's a lot of strong, admirable females -- it's mostly the male characters that are making complete asses of themselves.

At the end, naturally, it all works out and most everyone is happy.  That's another difference between Dickens and Trollope.  With Dickens, the main characters usually turn out all right, but people always die and it's more melodramatic and tragic.  Trollope is closer to Jane Austen in that the endings are fairly happy and the bad people usually get comeuppance.  At any rate, that's what's happening in the Barset series so far.

I did like this book but not quite as much as Dr. Thorne -- the kerfuffle over Lady Lufton and Lucy was sort of a repeat of the situation in Dr. Thorne, and some of the political stuff was sometimes boring.  However, it was definitely worth reading.  I have two more novels in the series left,  and they're both whoppers -- The Small House at Allington is about 700 pages, and The Last Chronicle of Barset is more than 800!  Still, I hope to get to them sometime this year.

Bloggers, has anyone else read the entire Barsetshire Chronicles?  Which did you like best?

17 comments:

  1. I love Anthony Trollope and I've read The Warden, Barchester Towers and Doctor Thorne. I definitely plan to read the rest of the series and the Palliser novels. I also really liked The Way we Live Now and The Eustace Diamonds. Thanks for the review of Framely Parsonage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you read the other Pallisers first or jump right in to The Eustace Diamonds? I know a lot of people love it but I feel like I should read them in order, but I was getting bogged down with the first Palliser novel. Maybe it just wasn't the right time.

      Delete
  2. I've read the entire series, and The Last Chronicle of Barset is my favorite, closely followed by The Warden and Framley Parsonage. I enjoyed Doctor Thorne, but for me that story dragged a bit. But it's still better than The Small House at Allington, one of my least favorite of all of Trollope's novels, because of a character that I want to send to therapy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought The Warden took a long to get started, considering it's so short. It was worth sticking with because I just love Barchester Towers. Now I'm dreading the Small House! Well, I'll have to get through it before I tackle Last Chronicle which I've heard is one of his masterpieces.

      Delete
  3. Great review, thank you! I enjoyed it a lot, as I many of your reviews, though I haven't commented earlier. I'd just like to say, though, that I disagree that Lord Lufton's marrying Griselda Grantly would have been marrying "up" - I'd say it was more like "on the same level".

    LRK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's true, the match wasn't about the money or status, Lady Lufton just thought Griselda would be a more impressive DIL than Lucy, who would have been marrying up. I'll have to correct that.

      Griselda struck me as sort of beautiful but empty-headed, kind of a trophy.

      Delete
  4. I finished the series last year and just loved it! I loved both Small House at Allington and the Last Chronicle of Barset. (Framley Parsonage was probably my least favorite of the series. Though I did enjoy the character of Lucy very much!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that's one vote for and one against the Small House, but unanimous for Last Chronicle. I also loved Lucy and I loved Fanny, she was so loyal. Both of them might have been a tiny bit TOO perfect, but they were a nice contrast to the men in the book who were kind of idiotic. What was Mark THINKING???

      Delete
    2. There is a character I loathe in Small House...I just HATE him. But as much as I disliked the one character, I just loved and adored the others. It introduces my favorite hero.

      Delete
    3. Well, I'm intrigued by this hero -- does he show up again in Last Chronicle?

      Delete
  5. I so appreciate your lovely reviews of books that I might read someday but truly wonder. Don't give up on me yet - but let me finish Cranford first and then I'll come ask for a short funny classic of this ilk. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cranford was good, but I thought some of her longer works were better -- I loved Wives & Daughters and North and South. I hope you like Cranford. The BBC adaptation is delightful!

      Delete
  6. I read The Small House at Allington (one of my favorite books) years and years ago, and then came back last year for the first two, as the start of a project to read all six. It may be a while before I get back to it, but your reviews of Doctor Thorne and this one are great introductions! I can't wait to read them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Was it hard reading them out of order? I did think that Barchester Towers made more sense having read The Warden. I think I might have been somewhat lost in this one if I hadn't read the others in sequence. Dr. Thorne could stand alone, but not this one.

      Delete
  7. I haven't yet read any Trollope, but I'm looking forward to reading The Warden and Barchester Towers soon. I'm glad to hear you've been enjoying the later books in the Barchester series, it's given me motivation to read them all at some point.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I definitely recommend reading The Warden first. It's sort of slow for the first half, but it picks up, and Barchester makes a lot more sense if you've read them in order. BT is still my favorite of the series.

      I'm hoping to read all of Trollope someday -- only 42 more to go!

      Delete
  8. I should definitely try Trollope - especially if its easier to get into than Dickens! -Sarah

    ReplyDelete