1. If you like Jane Austen, you will love Anthony Trollope. Even though they were of different eras (some Victorian writers, including Charlotte Bronte, loathed Austen’s novels) Trollope has several things in common with Austen: a deadly wit he uses to expose human folly, an understanding of how money (or lack of it) can impact romantic relationships, and a talent for writing about both loving and contentious familial relationships.
2. If you don’t like Austen, you will love Trollope. Unlike Austen’s, the world his characters inhabit is far more varied. Austen’s was more limited because in her day women had very limited lives. (She even has her character Anne Elliot comment on the limited sphere of women’s lives in her last novel Persuasion.)
Like Austen’s, many of Trollope’s books are about several country families interacting, but he expands his stories to other areas like religious institutions, politics and the work place. (Trollope worked for the General Postal Office for many years and eventually ran for the House of Commons). While many of his romantic pairings have happy outcomes, not all of them do, so there’s an element of mystery as to whether they’ll get together at the end.
3. Unlike many Victorian novelists, he’s funny. While I admire many Victorian writers, I find them overall a fairly gloomy bunch. (One of my favorites, ironically, is Thomas Hardy, the
gloomiest of them all.) While there can be humorous moments and characters in other Victorian novels (especially Dickens) I’ve found none of them to have moments as laugh-out-loud funny. He uses an omniscient narrator who is ironic and at times almost snarky, something he was criticized for in his time, but which helps make his work seem fresh today.
That’s not to say he doesn’t tackle serious issues—he does, and his stories have tragic elements. But this is tempered with much-needed humor.
4. He has a way of making you like characters you shouldn’t like at all. Characters who come off as stiff-necked can still elicit sympathy. Even most of his villains get a fair shake.
5. He has a way of making you see the flaws of his most admirable and loveable characters. It is not unusual for his “bad” characters and “good” characters to have the same exact flaws. There are several characters on both ends of the spectrum who stupidly get suckered into deep debt, as well as “bad” guys and “good” guys who string along women they have no intention of marrying. Corruption can even touch his most kind and virtuous characters.
6. His female characters are complex and can be just as powerful in their own way as male characters. And unlike in a Thomas Hardy book, they aren’t punished for this with tragic outcomes.
7. Many of his stories have elements that are remarkably relevant to a modern audience. The Way We Live Now is the most glaring example, with a villain who has more than a passing resemblance to Bernie Madoff and a storyline that mirrors much that happened before and during the latest economic crash. His work place and political storylines show that a century and a half later, nothing much has changed in the work place or politics.
8. If you’re a writer, he’s a great role model. When he started his career he held a full-time position and still managed to crank out a lot of books. He’s the poster boy for the “butt in the chair” writing career philosophy.
9. Which means he was incredibly prolific, so there are lots and lots of books to help you fill up your e-reader. Best part: you can get some really good editions for very little money or even for free.
Finally, if you’re a bit hesitant about picking up one of his books, there have been several TV adaptations of his books. The Barchester Chronicles, The Pallisers and The Way We Live Now are all outstanding series.
If you’re a fan of Alan Rickman, one of his earliest roles was as the “odious” Mr. Slope in The Barchester Chronicles.
That alone is reason enough to dip your toe into Trollope’s world.
- Today’s Birthday: ANTHONY TROLLOPE (1815) an English novelist (euzicasa.wordpress.com)