When I find a writer I like I always hope it\’s somebody with a large opus, so I can dive in and swim around in the stuff and not come up for air for a long, long time. With Trollope, I\’ve hit the jackpot.
I first read his Palliser novels ten years ago, followed by the Barsetshire series. Then at the book sale at our local library last month I found Phineas Finn (one of the Palliser series) in paperback for a dollar. I stuck it in a pile of books during Christmas, and pulled it out after our guests were gone, just as it began to snow. I found that I loved that novel even better than the first time I read it. It was a brick-sized tome, but the snow lasted three days, and Trollope saw me through it.
Then we had a clear day or two, and another snow was forecast. I had a bunch of books to read, but no more Trollope. I rushed to the local bookstore, and they had a single book by Trollope on their shelves. (What are people reading these days, anyway?)
Luckily, it was one I hadn\’t read, The Way We Live Now, and even thicker than Phineas Finn. I clasped it to my breast and rushed home as the first flakes began to fall. The storm went on for days, but the book outlasted it. I\’m only half way through it.
There is no end to the man\’s inventiveness. There are love intrigues, money intrigues, political intrigues. The last two are not my favorite reading topics, but I\’ll take anything from Trollope, who makes me empathize with his financiers and understand his politicians by shining the clear light of his intelligence over each one. His women are nuanced–unlike Dickens\’s icons–fully formed and human. There are salt-of-the-earth heroes whom I find irresistible.
But my favorites are his dithering young lords, forever in need of money, forever in search of an heiress–any heiress– who will provide it. They have the oddest notions of honor–it\’s o.k. to owe money to tradesmen, but disgraceful to expect a fellow club member to pay a gambling debt. They are so clueless and so bumbling, that I\’m sure that P.G. Wodehouse was thinking of them when he created Bertie Wooster and his cohorts at the Drones Club.
Trollope is smart and he is kind, and that\’s about the best thing I can say about anybody.
If there is a heaven, do writers go there? And in that heaven, are there peepholes through which they can watch us reading their books? I hope so. And I hope that Trollope knows how glad I am that he wrote every day of his life (nulla dies sine linea was his advice to writers) and how grateful I am for his company this winter.