First sentence: It is not true that a rose by any other name will smell as sweet. Were it true, I should call this story “The Great Orley Farm Case.” But who would ask for the ninth number of a serial work burthened with so very uncouth an appellation? Thence, and therefore, — Orley Farm.
Premise/plot: Can Orley Farm be condensed into a single plot or premise?! Doubtful. Should it have been condensed into a single plot or premise by an editor way back when? Maybe. There are essentially two very different stories unfolding with a few overlapping characters to tie them together.
Lady Mason is one of the heroines of the novel. Twenty years before our novel properly opens she made a decision inspired by the story of Rebekah and Isaac from the book of Genesis. Her husband was dying, and, she needed to act then and there to do what was best for her baby son, Lucius. She did not think it fair that Orley Farm should be left to the older son, Joseph, Lucius' much much older half-brother. Why should he get it all when he already had property? There was a trial after the husband's death. Joseph found it strange--suspicious--that his father should at the last minute add a codicil to his will leaving Orley Farm to Lucius. But the jury found in favor of Lady Mason.
Twenty years have come and gone. Her son is all grown up. Her son is beginning to have ambitions of his own. Ambitions for improving the property. Ambitions of marrying well. But obstacles spring up in his path. An embittered man with questionable motives and intents decides the Orley Farm case should be reopened. He just has to convince Joseph Mason and the lawyers that it will be worth their while. And emphasis that if it is worth their while that they will make it worth his while.
The community is shocked when Lady Mason's honor and innocence is challenged. Hasn't the will and its codicil been challenged and verified already? What new evidence could there be to make a new trial worth the time and effort? Who will stand by Lady Mason?
Lady Mason takes refuge with the Orme family of The Cleeve. She's disliked by the grandson, but BELOVED by the grandfather. He falls madly, deeply head-over-heels in love with her. He's ready to sacrifice his good reputation for her sake, to be a complete fool for her. But will she let him make that sacrifice? She finds great support with Mrs. Orme--the daughter-in law/mother. Mrs. Orme may best be compared to Melanie Wilkes. She sees the best in people even in the darkest situations. She is compassionate, sympathetic, true to herself and steadfast to others. Is it any wonder that she's my favorite character in the book?
There are PLENTY of other characters in the book. Some of them are loosely connected to the 'main' story by being friends, neighbors, lawyers, or even acquaintances. For example, there are several young men that are acquaintances/friends with Lucius Mason. The book begins following their adventures/misadventures in love and courtship.
Mr. and Mrs. Furnival are two people we meet in the novel. Mr. Furnival is one of Lady Mason's lawyers. Mrs. Furnival is VERY unhappy in her marriage and becomes viciously jealous. Is she right to do so? She is right to suspect that her husband's attentions are not what they used to be and not what they should be. But she is wrong to suspect that Lady Mason is a no-good flirt out to steal Mr. Furnival. These domestic scenes are lively to say the least.
Two young women that we meet are Sophia Furnival and Madeline Staveley. The young men we meet are Lucius Mason, Augustus Staveley, Peregrine Orme (the younger), and Felix Graham. One successful marriage results in the end. But NOT every proposal gets a yes in this one.
My thoughts: Last year I set out to read Anthony Trollope in chronological order. I knew it would take more than one year. I knew that it could possibly take a good many years. I knew there would be stumbles along the way and that I'd encounter books that would be sluggish to get through. I knew that there would be books that were "easy" because I LOVED them from the start. I knew that there would be books that were "hard" because I'd find them difficult to get into. I didn't expect any book to take as long to read as Orley Farm did. It is a LONG book not made any easier because of its story.
I found it picked up quite nicely once the new trial began. But that was like sixty-something chapters into an eighty-chapter novel!!!
Quotes to share since last week's My Victorian Year:
But a woman can do things for which a man’s courage would never be sufficient.
“As long as a man can pay twenty shillings in the pound and a trifle over, what does it matter if all the judges in the land was to call him stupid?” said Snengkeld. “Stupid is as stupid does,” said Kantwise.
Had Lady Mason been guilty of all the sins in the calendar except one, Mrs. Furnival could find it within her heart to forgive her.
But no lesson is truer than that which teaches us to believe that God does temper the wind to the shorn lamb. To how many has it not seemed, at some one period of their lives, that all was over for them, and that to them in their afflictions there was nothing left but to die! And yet they have lived to laugh again, to feel that the air was warm and the earth fair, and that God in giving them ever-springing hope had given everything.
Men will not be talked out of the convictions of their lives. No living orator would convince a grocer that coffee should be sold without chicory; and no amount of eloquence will make an English lawyer think that loyalty to truth should come before loyalty to his client.
We can do nothing by interference. Remember the old saying, You cannot touch pitch without being defiled.
Nobody holds a good opinion of a man who has a low opinion of himself.
What are love and friendship worth if they cannot stand against such trials as these?
Friendship between true friends must extend to all the affairs of life.
It is easy to talk of repentance, but repentance will not come with a word.
When heart has spoken to heart, or even head to head, very little other speaking is absolutely necessary.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews