I loved this book even more than the previous Barchester books, because there’s more action and more dialogue. I love the country setting, and how the small doings of ordinary people become quite important.
The scope of this novel is wide in that it concerns people of all walks of life, and how they interact and influence one another. But the scope is also small in that it tells of the little day-to-day concerns of plain people. That is the genius of Trollope!
In this book, there aren’t really any villains per se; just foolish, proud people that you feel sorry for or despise for their weakness and selfishness. They certainly keep the plot interesting with their bad decisions, and make things difficult for the heroes. The villains bring about their own unhappiness through clinging to their own stupidity.
Doctor Thorne himself is a wonderful character; he’s well-rounded, funny but dignified, clever but simple in his habits, kind and gracious in every circumstance but liable to lose his temper if pushed too far. Just brilliant writing!
I was so glad that Mary Thorne wasn’t one of these perfect angel heroines that you see so much of in Victorian literature. She has her faults, and her struggles against the evil within. She makes mistakes and gets angry, then regrets it later. She is stubborn sometimes but never selfish. She won’t sink to the petty level of those around her; she’s high-minded. She is fiercely loyal against all odds. I just adore her!
Frank Gresham is perhaps the best character of all, because he goes through the most change and growth. I loved seeing him becoming more sure of himself, more manly and confident. His love for his father and sisters is very sweet, and his courageous unselfishness was inspirational. He has his faults too though (What a flirt!), and his moments of weakness and stupidity. A delightful character!
I could have done without the whole political elections sub-plot. Boring, and not actually necessary to the main plot, but it was okay. A few funny anecdotes about political morality were good, and thankfully not very long.
One thing that I didn’t like was that the entire story was told by jumping around chronologically. An event would be told focusing on one character’s experience, then told again focusing on another character, but in order to understand the second character’s reactions the narrator goes back two months before to explain something else that happened which influenced that second character, then back to the “present”, and we’re told that neither character knew that only two days from now there would be another event which would make both their experiences of the present event null and void. So everything was told by jumping around in time. It was never confusing though! It was easy to follow what was happening, but after 600 pages of jumping through time, I was tired of it.
The plot is fairly predictable, but that did not ruin my enjoyment in the least! There are plenty of small surprises in the plot which make up for the obvious happy ending. I was gasping and crying and laughing the entire way through!