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Can You Forgive Her? (Penguin Classics)

(Book #1 in the Palliser Series)

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The first novel in Anthony Trollope's 'Palliser' series, Can You Forgive Her? traces the fortunes of three very different women in an exploration of whether social obligations and personal happiness... This description may be from another edition of this product.

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The Jagged Edge of Marriage

In an unusual turnabout for a Victorian novel, we have here three cases of women being very uncertain about their men -- to the point of, in one case, jilting a fiance and, in the other, with threatening to abandon a marriage by running off with an infamous ne'er-do-well. Also, we have Anthony Trollope's most dastardly villain, the ambitious and egoistic George Vavasor, with a visible fault line through his face for expressing rage. In a Trollope novel, everything is not as it seems. The institution of marriage, in particular, comes in for some hard knocks -- all from the point of view of the women involved. Alice Vavasor, Lady Glencora Palliser, and Arabella Greenow come from the aristocracy and the upper middle class. All three women in the course of the novel grow and change before our eyes. As the first novel in the six-book Palliser series, _Can You Forgive Her?_ also introduces us to the world of high politics. Sir Plantagenet Palliser is about to become Chancellor of the Exchequer; and George Vavasor dips into his fiancee's fortune to run twice as a Member of Parliament for Chelsea. Trollope had always wanted to become an MP himself, and ran once (and lost) for the borough of Beverley. His bad experiences were the stuff of some masterful election scenes in novels, notably the much underestimated _Ralph the Heir_. Other Trollope set pieces include a fabulous fox hunt in Book I, in which the author himself appears under another name. There is also a dispute over an inheritance; fascinating legal trickery in George Vavasor's borrowings from his fiancee; and the typical Trollope developing of his characters' weaknesses until they pop. While over 800 pages in length, I felt as if this was less than half that. Yes, reading Trollope requires a commitment; but his books are intriguing enough to reward it. This is one of my favorites.

Trollope begins his Palliser novels.

Having almost completed chronicling the ecclesiastical affairs of Barchester in 1864, Anthony Trollope began a further series of six novels, this time depicting the English political scene of his day in general and the members of the Palliser family in particular. This one, the first of the six novels, carries a title that carries no hint of any political content whatsoever. Indeed, the "her" of the title is a perverse young lady, Alice, who refuses for almost 900 pages to marry the man whom all agree is so eminently suitable. Alice is one of at least four women that Trollope presents, all of whom struggle to answer the question, "What should a woman do with her life?" As usual with his female characters, Trollope is a sensitive, sure and unsentimental narrator. The business of the men, and the political issues they address, seem to consist in keeping solvent, gaining a seat and an office in parliament, and sniffing out any parliamentary intrigues. All of which might suggest that this is one early Victorian novel that today's feminists could pick up, read, and enjoy.I enjoy any Trollope novel immensely. No matter how slow moving, no matter how often he intrudes to comment on his characters and tell us what he does and does not know about them, every page of his novels and perhaps every sentence carries the stamp of a great novelist and language craftsman at work. Nevertheless, I must admit that "Can You Forgive Her?" has featured by my bedside for more than a year. This is not, therefore, a recommendation for something to quickly and thrillingly absorb the reader. It takes a long time to get to the novelist's final words, "But as they all ... have forgiven her, I hope that they who have followed her story to its close will not be less generous".

Magnificent Obsessions

With "Can You Forgive Her?" Trollope begins his masterful series of Parliamentary novels, but here he is concerned with the politics of love and the demands of society. Alice Vavasor, lovely, intelligent and just a bit prudish, is torn between two men -- the upright if plodding John Gray, and the evasive yet alluring George Vavasor. She has accepted and rejected their proposals of marriage, uncertain of her own worthiness and the worth of her love. Alice's dilemma makes for a sharp exploration of free choice, a woman's role in a constricted society, and self-examination to the point of emotional stalemate. Add to this the predicament, on a grander scale, of Lady Glencora Palliser, Alice's cousin. The energetic, vivacious and utterly charming Glencora is married to Plantagent Palliser, heir to a ducal throne, who is a man who finds passion in Parliamentary proceedings, not people. Glencora is still pining for the beautiful ne'er-do-well, Burgo Fitzgerald, whom she was forced to leave behind in order to marry as she had been groomed to. Glencora feels that her young marriage is a sham. She feels she cannot live a life without ardent love, that the future for her is bleak without a burning, almost tragic, passion. Here, Trollope examines a marriage in its first tentative stages (in the Palliser novels he gives us the most discerning and moving portrait of a marriage in literature), with all of the self-sacrifice, compromise and reluctant devotion that marriage entails. The novel's third subplot, involving Alice's aunt's choice between somewhat unsuitable suitors, provides a comic, yet still subtly touching, foil to the two main stories. Throughout, Trollope brilliantly evokes the power of society on its players, their private tumult, their public displays of decorum or disgrace. One scene in particular, at a fabulous ball, is among the most thrilling in literature, because Trollope manages to convey, amid the throngs of idle partygoers, the despair, the conflicted psychological motivations, the terror and anguish of two star-crossed lovers, Glencora and Burgo, whose passions are so different: hers a naive yet heartfelt romance, his a self-centered quest for an end to financial woe whatever the emotional cost and public scandal. Neither party is self-aware enough to change here, but one eventually learns to, and finds hope by overcoming the hestitation of commitment brought on by misdirected ardor. The only way to grow is through sacrifice, and fearless self-knowledge. The only way truly to live is through doing the next right thing, publicly and privately. Trollope takes us through the agonizing conflicts of his characters, drawn with a depth and nuance matched by few in literature. This is a towering achievement.

The First of a Great Series

Reading Anthony Trollope is like seeing a great mental movie. If you let the fact that he was a Victorian scare you off, you will be cheating yourself out of some great entertainment. Just as the characters in Thackeray's Vanity Fair are 3-D, so are Trollope's. None of them are perfect individuals, and none of them lack a parallel to people we all know today. CYFH is engaging, as are his other works. The insight into British Parliament is fascinating and educational, but you are passively educated rather than drilled. By the time you read three of his books, you will know an amazing amount about Victorian-era British Parliament without realizing you ever learned anything. Did Planty Palliser and Phineas Finn teach me *that much?* is what you'll ask yourself. Learning has never been this entertaining since John Dos Passos, and characters haven't had this much blood flowing through them since Dickens and Thackeray.

A tale of three triangles

"Can You Forgive Her," the first of the Palliser novels of Anthony Trollope, deals with two romantic triangles, each with a lady who has difficulty making up her mind between an honorable man and a charming rogue. Lady Glencora Palliser is married to a highly respected Member of Parliament who is obviously destined for a top position in the government. However, she is still in love with an extremely handsome ne'er-do-well whom she had earlier barely been dissuaded from eloping with. Alice Vavasor, after an entanglement with her cousin George, has become engaged to John Grey, a perfect man in every respect, perhaps too perfect for the adventuresome Miss Vavasor. The two ladies come perilously close to deserting the worthier men for the scalawags, whom the reader can see becoming worse and worse scoundrels as time passes, especially George Vavasor. Alice even breaks her engagement with the perfect Mr. Grey, whom she really loves, and becomes engaged to her self-centered cousin, to her almost instant regret. A subplot deals with yet another triangle, the rather absurd rivalry of farmer Cheeseacre and self-styled hero Captain Bellfield for the hand of a wealthy fortyish widow. This sometimes distracts from the main plot, and yet the reader is left with the idea that perhaps the flirtatious widow might be the best catch of them all; at least she knows how to have fun. The chief merit of the novel is the brilliant characterizations. No author in fiction can surpass Trollope in creating real people with motivations which can be throroughly understood, no matter how the reader might disagree with the characters' actions. The novel's length is perhaps necessary to permit Trollope to fully develop such a vivid, believable and engrossing cast.
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