In November I read:
• The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan — I read this one aloud to some of my siblings, who enjoyed it immensely. It is funny and exciting. It is something of a mystery story, too, and we entertained ourselves coming up with possible outcomes. We also ended much more familiar with Greek gods and goddesses, &c. than we began.
One thing I didn’t like was the occasional attempt to twist reality into the alternate world the author created. For example, in the underworld, a sham preacher is punished and one of the characters wonders how the preacher feels faced with something so different from what he claimed to believe. The answer is that, since “he believes in a different hell”, he probably isn’t “seeing this place the way we’re seeing it [meaning, the way it is] … Humans see what they want to see.” There were only a very few scattered instances of this, so it wasn’t really a problem, just an annoyance.
• Can You Forgive Her?, by Anthony Trollope, read by Simon Vance — This is the first of Anthony Trollope’s six “Palliser” novels. I decided to read it before finishing the “Barsetshire” series because it was published before the last of those. The Palliser novels shift from the clerical scene (of the Barsetshire novels) to the political scene. I already knew the storyline of Can You Forgive Her? from having watched the series The Pallisers. From the movie, I made the assumption that the book would be about Lady Glencora and was surprised to find that the “Her” of the title is actually Alice Vavasor. Besides Alice, the story is largely about the marriage of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora (their wedding is briefly mentioned towards the end of The Small House at Allington).
Plantagenet and Glencora were realistic people, both with their admirable and likable points, but neither in any way perfect. Glencora’s struggles and Plantagenet’s obliviousness were sympathetically portrayed. Glencora had been in love with a rake, but was prevented from marrying him. “Alas, she had loved him! It is possible that her love and her wealth might have turned him from evil to good. But who would have ventured to risk her,—I will not say her and her vast inheritances,—on such a chance? That evil, however, had been prevented, and those about her had managed to marry her to a young man, very steady by nature, with worldly prospects as brilliant as her own …” (chapter 24) I was reminded of Doctor Thorne and the title character’s desire that Sir Louis Scatcherd find a wife. In Can You Forgive Her?, however, Anthony Trollope came down more solidly against the idea of marriage as a means to reform a dissolute man.
Anthony Trollope liked to have more than one storyline going at a time and he managed to keep them all interesting. When he switched from one set of characters to another, though I sometimes wished I could stay with the one set, it wouldn’t be long before the current storyline had me interested again.
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In December I read:
• The Last Chronicle of Barset, by Anthony Trollope, read by various readers for LibriVox.org — As the title suggests, this is the last of Anthony Trollope’s six Barsetshire novels. It is peopled with many of the characters of the previous novels. Lily Dale and Johnny Eames (from The Small House at Allington) were back, just as annoying as they were before. With them, in fact, it was largely a replay of the last novel, with Lily unable to make up her mind to accept Johnny, and Johnny getting himself involved with another woman, despite being warned against it. I wouldn’t blame Lily for being sick of the name Johnny, though, as every one, whether they’ve met her before or not, seems to make it their business to talk of him to her.
Mark Robarts and his wife, Lady Ludlow, and all that set (from Framley Parsonage) made their appearance. Mrs. Thorne (Miss Dunstable from Doctor Thorne) marries off a cousin. Dr. Grantly (from The Warden and Barchester Towers) is back in full force. Even Mr. Harding makes a few appearances. The main couple of the story, Grace Crawley and Henry Grantly, were both introduced as children in the previous books. I wasn’t sure whether I would approve of Henry Grantly, but I ended up liking him.
The story could be looked at as a mystery. Mr. Crawley (Grace’s father, a character from Framley Parsonage) is accused of stealing a check for twenty-pounds. He himself doesn’t know how it came into his possession. It was not difficult to guess what happened, however, and the interest of the story comes from the people, not the plot.
I liked Grace Crawley. However, I reject the idea that, with a father accused of theft, she is no longer fit for marriage to a decent man and must, as far as any of them could tell, remain a spinster in consequence. I can see how she might want to wait to engage herself until things had been settled one way or the other. Such a cloud over her family would certainly lessen her joy in making plans for her own future.
Paintings: Young Woman Reading and Lady in Blue by Alfred Stevens (1823 – 1906).