Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Prime Minister (1876)

The Prime Minister. Anthony Trollope. 1876. 864 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

The Prime Minister is the fifth book in the Palliser series by Anthony Trollope. Previous titles include Can You Forgive Her?, Phineas Finn, The Eustace Diamonds, and Phineas Redux.

I liked this one. I definitely liked it. The Prime Minister shares some themes with other Trollope novels which I've enjoyed. Trollope often wrote about marriages: happy marriages AND unhappy marriages. While some of Trollope's heroines have had their happily ever after endings, just as many have not.

The Prime Minister introduces the Wharton family into the series. Readers meet Everett and Emily and their father, Mr. Wharton. Everett is chummy with a Mr. Ferdinand Lopez. Emily's aunt also welcomes Mr. Lopez into her home. Emily and Ferdinand have had some meetings which lead him to hope that he has a good chance of marrying her. When he goes to her father, he is rejected. Mr. Wharton is quite upset at the very idea of it. He can't imagine ever saying yes and blessing that union. Emily is a dutiful daughter, but, stubborn and ultimately persuasive. She will not disobey her father, but, she will not move on and forget Mr. Lopez either. Her heart has decided that he is the one. Eventually Mr. Wharton softens his resolve and allows the marriage to take place. He is still not happy about it. He still would have preferred Arthur Fletcher, a man who has been in love with Emily for half his life. But he accepts that his daughter has a right to make her own decisions and be with the man she loves.

Plantagenet Palliser, now the Duke of Omnium, becomes Prime Minister. He sets up his coalition government. His wife, formerly Lady Glencora--now officially a Duchess, is so enthusiastic that she goes above and beyond her duty. She's determined that her husband will be a SUCCESS and that everyone will LOVE and ADORE him. Her hostessing plans are almost endless. She plans and spends, plans and spends. Her husband who has always been more than a little reserved is not happy exactly. He loves, loves, loves his wife. And he doesn't want to hurt her feelings and offend her. But her tastes aren't his. What she thinks is best for him, isn't what is truly best for him. She may be very social and thrive on society, he doesn't. The more she pushes him to be social, the less civil he becomes about it! One of the young men that the Duchess takes an interest in is Mr. Lopez. She'd like to see him elected to parliament. She says she'll help him win a seat in an election. At the very time she's promising him a seat, her husband is emphatically declaring that he will not support or endorse ANY candidate. He does not want there to be even a slight hint that he has an interest in the district. Such things might have been done in the past, might still be done by others in the present, but to him, the election would be tainted if he got involved and told everyone I want you to vote for him.

By this point, readers know and Emily knows that Mr. Lopez is a great disappointment. He is far from the husband of her dreams. It's not that she loses love and respect for him, though she does, she comes to despise him because of the way he treats her, the way he talks to her, the way he manipulates her, the way he controls her and tells her not only what to do but what to think. She realizes too late that Arthur Fletcher is the better man. One of the first things Mr. Lozez does after the wedding is making the attempt to train her. Part of this training involves manipulating money out of her father. She is NOT happy now that she sees Mr. Lopez only wants money, money, and more money.

In terms of plot:
  • Will Palliser's coalition government be a success?
  • Will his wife ever stop throwing parties and spending money?
  • Will Lozez win his election? Or will his rival Arthur Fletcher win?
  • Will Emily find a way to escape her horrid husband?
  • Will Mr. Wharton and Everett reconcile?

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Laura's Reviews 2:25 PM  

I love Anthony Trollope, but still have many of his novels to read. Your review reminds me that I need to move his novels up on my list of "to read" books.

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