Saturday, December 04, 2010

He Knew He Was Right

He Knew He Was Right. Anthony Trollope. 1869/2009. Oxford University Press. 992 pages.

When Louis Trevelyan was twenty-four years old, he had all the world before him where to choose; and, among other things, he chose to go to the Mandarin Islands, and there fell in love with Emily Rowley, the daughter of Sir Marmaduke, the governor.

I love Anthony Trollope. You probably know that by now. Almost all of his novels have ended up on my "favorite and best" list. While He Knew He Was Right won't be topping that list, I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it in spite of Mr. and Mrs. Trevelyan.

One of the strengths of the novel is how it is peopled. So many characters. So many stories unfolding. Like a soap opera. You may not love all the plots and subplots. You may not love all the characters--love them equally I mean. But chances are you will find many you do like--perhaps even a few you'll love.

Louis Trevelyan loves his new wife, Emily, and is happier still when their son is born. But the happiness is not lasting for he becomes jealous of one of Emily's friends.

Emily Trevelyan can't understand why her husband has gotten this notion that she is "sinning" against him by having a few private conversations with her father's old friend, Colonel Osborne. Yes, he's her husband, but is it really necessary that he read every letter she receives and every letter she sends out?

Colonel Osborne is flattered to be the cause of a "little" argument between these newlyweds. He can't decide from one day to the next whether or not he's a "real" threat to their marriage or not. At times thinking that, yes, Emily would be the sort of woman he'd love to love. But, at other times, remembering quite clearly that she is much too young for him.

Nora Rowley, Emily's younger sister, can't understand--at least not at first--why this "little" argument has practically overnight become EVERYTHING. Emily's talking to her friends; Louis is talking to his friends. And everyone is taking sides. The good news? Most seem to think her husband's jealousy is unfounded. The bad news? He insists on a separation. It doesn't matter if he is the only one who thinks he has a just cause. He knows he is right.

Lady Milborough is one of the first friends Mr. Trevelyan consults. He values her opinion--at least at first. She is always ever pushing reconciling. Why should the couple fight over something so small? After all, Emily only needs to be shown the way. Unfortunately, her idea of "showing the way" to Emily doesn't work as planned. Still, she can't help wanting the best for this foolish couple.

Hugh Stanbury is another of Louis' friends. At first, he seems to be the unofficial messenger between this estranged husband and wife. It doesn't hurt that he's quite taken with Nora Rowley. But because of his lack of "profession", he hesitates declaring his feelings for her. (He's a journalist for London's Daily Record). He doesn't know it yet, but there's another suitor for Nora's attention. His romantic troubles only deepen when Nora's parents come to visit.

Mr. Glascock is a rich man soon to inherit a title. (Not that he doesn't wish his father well, mind you). He needs a good wife, is Nora the one? Or will she send him to Europe still in quest for 'the one'?

Mrs. Stanbury and Priscilla Stanbury--for better or worse--become involved in this mess of a separation. The three set up house together in the country--and peace lasts for a time. At least as far as they can see. Unfortunately, Louis, isn't done "investigating" his wife yet.  These two feel uncomfortable in their new position. It just doesn't feel right that Louis and Emily can't work out their problems.

Miss Jemima Stanbury (Aunt Stanbury) and Dorothy Stanbury. Oh what a character Miss Stanbury is! She's wealthy. She's eccentric. She's got an OPINION on just about everything. Including who should get married. And who shouldn't. Unfortunately, she's decided that Dorothy would make a great wife for Mr. Gibson. Dorothy does NOT agree. Especially after meeting Mr. Burgess.

Brooke Burgess has been told many things about Miss Stanbury, and he isn't quite sure what to believe. He certainly didn't expect to meet someone like Dorothy during his visit...
If you can spare Mr. Gibson some pity, he may just deserve it. There were times he seemed almost as mad as Louis Trevelyan. For whatever reason, he's decided to marry. Now if he could just make up his mind between the two French sisters--Arabella and Camilla. (Which sister is the 'better' sister?)

And those are just the highlights--as I see them. This one is complex--but in a good way. It's a richer novel for having so many characters, so many stories. I think it would suffer if it was just the story of Louis and Emily's horrible marriage. With each chapter, Louis becomes more and more intolerable. He's just an infuriating character--he really is. Have you read this one? Do you agree with me?

I do like this one. I think Trollope was great at developing characters. I found his style to be as enjoyable as ever. My favorite stories--in this one--were the romances between Nora and Hugh and Dorothy and Brooke. Of course, Mr. Gibson--as a clergyman--was quite a comical figure. Though perhaps not quite as memorable as Mr. Collins or Mr. Slope. Still, I think that love triangle adds something to the novel.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Anonymous said...

Great review, Becky! This book has so many "angles", so many storylines - and you managed to describe them all admirably; really great work!:) L.

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