Sunday, February 16, 2014

Eustace Diamonds (1873)

The Eustace Diamonds. Anthony Trollope. 1873. 794 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

It was admitted by all her friends, and also by her enemies,—who were in truth the more numerous and active body of the two,—that Lizzie Greystock had done very well with herself. We will tell the story of Lizzie Greystock from the beginning, but we will not dwell over it at great length, as we might do if we loved her.

The Eustace Diamonds is the third novel in Anthony Trollope's Pallisers series. The first two being Can You Forgive Her? and Phineas Finn. (The series is, in my opinion, only loosely connected to one another.)

Lizzie Greystock (Eustace), our "heroine," is selfish and conniving and lacking self-awareness. One of her more annoying habits is her tendency to start believing her own lies. Since she tells a lot of lies, you can see how this could get annoying. What else do you need to know about Lizzie? Well. She's a widow. She sought out to marry a wealthy man whom she knew was dying, and she did. Her husband suspected his wife to be heartless by then, but, it was too late. She had his child, and that was, I suppose, her good deed in that regard. Is she a tender, loving mother? Not really. Out of sight, out of mind. The big thing you should know, of course, is that she inherited some of her husband's money, his Scottish estate during her life, and supposedly a diamond necklace. The Eustace family is not convinced on that last one. Those diamonds belong to the family, they should be kept in the family; physically, they should be kept secure in the bank. Threat of prosecution, threat of a trial might be persuasive to other women, "weaker women" but Lizzie is one stubborn woman.

Frank Greystock, our "hero," is smarter when he's away from his cousin, Lizzie. The closer he gets to Lizzie, the weaker he becomes: morally and mentally. What is it about his cousin that makes him forget his moral and ethical duties? What is it about his oh-so-beautiful cousin that makes him leave his common sense behind? Supposedly, he's her closest relation, he's all she has in this world to hold onto. The whole world is after her, he's her only hope, don't you know?! She trusts his legal advice, it's true, but the lies seem to come more quickly when they're together.

Lucy Morris is a "childhood friend" of Lizzie. (I doubt Lizzie ever actually had any genuine friends. She sees people only in terms of their usefulness to her.) She falls in love with Frank. And Frank despite his better judgment--after all Lucy is dreadfully poor, she's a governess after all--falls in love with her. His confession was a bit unplanned. But his letter a few days later did the job nicely, he's decided that he wants to marry her anyway. Lucy perhaps chooses to not notice that Frank is a plaything for Lizzie.

The Fawn family. Lucy is a governess in the Fawn household. Lord Fawn, the son and heir, is engaged to be married to Lizzie. But this would-be second husband wises up faster than the first. He decides that the relationship though financially beneficial to him would cost him much too much. Lizzie is TROUBLE. And Lord Fawn doesn't want to have anything to do with anything that even hints of trouble. Some might say he lacks spirit or gumption. In this case, I think he shows a bit of common sense. He is firm: if Lizzie will give up her diamonds quietly and avoid a scandal, he'll stay true to his word. If she persists in trying to rule the whole world and making a fuss, then he won't. He has a lovely mother who is a good friend to Lucy, though Lucy doesn't always appreciate the advice.

In terms of plot:

Will Lizzie give up her diamonds? Will they be safe in her possession? How big will the scandal be?
Will Frank marry Lucy or will he be weak and marry Lizzie for her money? Will Lord Fawn successfully escape from his promise? Will Lucy's heart break?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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