I finished reading this a few days ago, and this work by Anthony Trollope was very good indeed. I’m not sure if it’s on the level of the best Barsetshire novels, but it was certainly worth reading all 716 pages (according to my e-reader).
The book follows the marriage between Louis Trevelyan and Emily Trevelyan, nee Rowley, which is in turmoil for virtually the whole book, excepting only the first pages which give us the background leading up to the quarrel. They have been married for about two years at the time of the disagreement, which is on a matter ridiculously trivial: a friend of Emily’s father, Colonel Osborne, visits too often and treats her with too great a familiarity for her husband’s comfort; therefore, despite the fact that nothing strictly improper has been done, and Emily is true to her husband, her husband wishes her to (at least somewhat) drop the acquaintance. Emily takes this as a gross insult to her fidelity, and as she also has a temper, storms away. The rift grows and grows.
Complicating the matter is their son, also named Louis, who at the beginning of the book is ten months old. Emily’s sister, Nora, also lives with them, and has a subplot built around her. One of the members of this subplot branches off eventually into a different subplot, and another character, who participates in the main plot as well, has two sisters, one of whom has another subplot. Yet another subplot grows around a character in this subplot. This is typical of Trollope, and in this novel he gives nearly as much, if not more, time to the various subplots as to the main plot; a relief, since they are much more humorous, cheerful, and rather more interesting than the main plot.
I heartily recommend this book to my readers, once they have returned from reading the Barsetshire novels and The Way We Live Now. It might even read well before the latter book.
I thought that since I haven’t posted in over a month, I would write a quick post about one of my favorite authors, Anthony Trollope.
I do not think he is particularly well-known. This is a great misfortune, for his books are numerous, amusing, plain, and comfortable. He wrote in the great days of Queen Victoria; the golden age of English novelists, producing Dickens, George Eliot, Thackeray, the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, Robert Louis Stevenson, and various others. (Preceding the golden age, we had the novels of Jane Austen, which are probably at least equal to the best novels of the golden age, as well as Sir Walter Scott, who, I am told, was excellent also; I have not read enough of him to either confirm or contradict that statement.)
He is best known for his excellent Barsetshire series, beginning with The Warden and ending in, most suitably, The Last Chronicle of Barset. His books, being Victorian, are acceptable reading for even the straitlaced (though they do deal with mature themes on occasion, such as adultery or illegitimacy). His characters are delightful. I point out with especial affection his portraits of Anglican clergymen and elderly noblewomen. Although C. S. Lewis would probably sigh sadly to read this (well, perhaps not, but he would not like it), I thoroughly enjoy his love-stories. There are usually at least two or three in each novel, and frequently more – at the end of one book, there were four weddings. There are also usually some romances that fizzle out by the end, or have already been commenced at the beginning of the book.
His novels have many subplots. If you have trouble keeping up with many characters, then it is perhaps wise to write them out on a sheet of paper, for there are certainly quite a few. He has ample time to keep up with them all, for his books are rarely less than 450 pages long, and generally more like 700 or 800.
If you are to start reading them, I recommend starting with The Warden and reading through the whole Barsetshire series. His other series is the Palliser novels. I have read only the first one and The Eustace Diamonds; neither was his best work, though I suspect Phineas Finn is better; I have only read a very small portion of that work, however.*
I’ve never actually read The Warden – I started with Barchester Towers – but you had probably better begin with it. Both novels deal largely with Anglican clergymen, and Barchester Towers is very funny.
After you’ve finished those, I recommend The Way We Live Now. It is long, relatively serious, and has about fifty million characters. I have also read Ayala’s Angel and Orley Farm. The first is rather weak. The second has some good pathos, but is not really one of his best. Just now I am reading He Knew He Was Right; I will endeavor to make known my opinion of it when I am finished. If by some miracle you read all of these books before I finish it, go ahead and read Can You Forgive Her?. I liked it when I read it, but in retrospect it seems tedious.
*I mention it here, because Catholicism is mentioned in the beginning of Phineas Finn (the title character being Irish); Trollope rarely mentions Catholics, in the novels I have read, but there is a part in Barchester Towers where he writes a page or two, perhaps more, about Cardinal Newman’s conversion. Skip it. I did, and I don’t believe I missed anything important. There’s a minor priest character in The Way We Live Now, also, and I believe I skipped some of the conversations that began to veer into Protestantism vs. Catholicism, because I do not like that sort of thing. Several of the other few references are by a character in the Barsetshire novels who is both anti-Catholic and a negative character. So if that kind of thing bothers you, Trollope doesn’t mention it much, though like I said, it does come up at the beginning of Phineas Finn and I don’t know if it stays up. Maybe it comes up in The Warden.
Yesterday night I went to see a local production of the musical “My Fair Lady”. I thought it was quite well done, though I don’t have much to compare it to. This review will not further discuss the particulars of that production; rather, I will speak about the aspects of the musical itself, apart from any one presentation of it. (Let it be known, however, that last night’s viewing and the Audrey Hepburn movie are the sum of my acquaintance with the play.)
Before I start writing this, I will mention as evidence against my defense, that Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney movie of all time. If you disagree with me, you may be tempted to use this to disprove my thesis. However, keep in mind the ad hominem fallacy; do not think that you can dismiss my arguments simply by saying that I am biased. The arguments must be dealt with on their own terms.
Today I’m reviewing Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke.
I first heard about Ben Hatke because I am a fan of Regina Doman, as you all know, and he illustrated her book Angel in the Waters (I feel sure I noticed him first in connection with her, but I don’t think it was through that book; I’m not really sure). I’ve also seen some of his work in Gilbert, the magazine of the American Chesterton Society.
A few weeks ago, I was at the library and they had that newsletter called BookPage out. One of my friends was looking at the last page and showed it to me; it was an interview with him mentioning Zita, and I was delighted to recognize that it was someone whom I had heard of. And so today, I was at the library again, and I saw the same newsletter and decided to look at the interview again. Then I thought, you know what? I bet they have Zita the Spacegirl at the library. So I checked, and they sure did. I brought it home and read it.
Wow. I’ve never read a graphic novel all the way through before, and it was absolutely fantastic. I cannot possibly recommend this book enough. It’s targeted at ages 8-12, apparently, but I would highly recommend it to anyone who can read. There’s some scary bits, but nothing extraordinarily terrifying. It’s a glorious little romp. The plot is this:
Two children, a boy and a girl, find an interesting device which allows their entrance into another planet. There the young girl (whose name is Zita, obviously) must go in search of her friend, Joseph, and save him from his kidnapper. But that’s not all; there’s an asteroid approaching the planet, and it will arrive in three days, destroying it. She meets several highly interesting characters, including a giant mouse and a sentient Heavily Armored Mobile Battle Orb. But don’t you dare call him Hambo. It’s not dignified.
What with an exciting plot, the whimsical creatures, and the likable characters, this book is difficult to put down. It’s funny, thrilling, and wholly charming. High praise, but it deserves it. The ending is an obvious set-up for the next book, which I believe the author is currently finishing.
I can’t wait.
Here’s the book’s trailer:
Zita the Spacegirl: Trailer from Ben Hatke on Vimeo.