Doctor Thorne. Anthony Trollope. 1858. 639 pages. (Oxford World's Classic, 1981)
Before the reader is introduced to the modest country medical practitioner who is to be the chief personage of the following tale, it will be well that he should be made acquainted with some particulars as to the locality in which, and the neighbors among whom, our doctor followed his profession.
Doctor Thorne is the third in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series by Anthony Trollope. The first two are The Warden and Barchester Towers. Though it is part of a series, it can truly stand on its own.
There is Doctor Thorne and his niece, Mary. The Gresham family--the squire, his oh-so-proud wife, Lady Arabella, his firstborn son, Frank, who must marry money. (They hope that by saying it every hour of every day that maybe just maybe Frank will realize his responsibility to the family.) And the Gresham daughters--the two who enter into the story are Augusta, who has cause for some of the bitterness, and Beatrice, who is sometimes cranky and other times sweet as can be. (Lady Arabella is proud of her de Courcy blood. These de Courcy relations enter into the story as well.) Then there are the Scatcherds--Sir Roger and his son, Louis. (Of course there is a Lady Scatcherd as well.) They may not have the best blood, but they do have money. Money that the Greshams desperately need (and therefore borrow never minding the consequences) And then there are the competing doctors in the neighborhood. But I won't go there. (Though they do lend some humor now and then.)
What is this one about? Frank loves Mary. Mary loves Frank. But. Mary is not an heiress. Mary is also not of good birth, but that isn't as big of a stumbling block for most. It seems these two find themselves in an impossible position. They cannot marry for they have nothing to live on. But they cannot stop loving one another either. Though Mary says that she'll not hold Frank to any of his promises, he cannot even begin to picture himself married to someone else. Not once he's sure of her love.
Because Lady Arabella is not getting her way--how dare her son have his own ideas about how to live his life--she decides to make everyone miserable--her husband (who she has been making miserable for almost the whole duration of their marriage), her son (who couldn't possibly take joy in his mother nagging him day and night), and her daughter, Beatrice (how dare her daughter want to be friends with the enemy). And of course this includes, Mary (how dare Mary follow her heart, she should know her place. She is a nobody after all) and the doctor (how could her doctor not interfere in the matter, how dare he not put his niece in her place. Well, she'll just have to deny him the pleasure of her business).
I loved this one. I did. I love Anthony Trollope. I love his characters. I love the complexity of his communities. How he peoples his novels so richly, so diversely. I love his narration. How he at times speaks directly to the readers, addresses the fact that this is a novel and that he is the writer. I love his sense of humor. I love how me makes me smile with his descriptions. His writing is amusing, charming, and oh-so-engaging. I cared about the characters. I cared about the story. Even though it's over six hundred pages, I wanted more. I would have gladly spent more time in the company of these characters.
The one son and heir to Greshamsbury was named as his father, Francis Newbold Gresham. He would have been the hero of our tale had not that place been preoccupied by the village doctor. As it is, those who please may so regard him. It is he who is to be our favorite young man, to do the love scenes, to have his trials and his difficulties, and to win through them or not, as the case may be. I am too old now to be a hard-hearted author, and so it is probable that he may not die of a broken heart. Those who don't approve of a middle-aged bachelor country doctor as a hero, may take the heir to Greshambury in his stead, and call the book, if it so pleases them 'The Loves and Adventures of Francis Newbold Gresham the younger.' (7)
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews