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Paperback Phineas Finn: The Irish Member Book

ISBN: 0192835335

ISBN13: 9780192835338

Phineas Finn: The Irish Member

(Book #2 in the Palliser Series)

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Book Overview

The second of Trollope's Palliser novels tells of the career of a hot-blooded middle-class politician whose sexual energies bring him much success with women. This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Great romance

If I were going to be stranded on a desert island with only one novel to read for the next 50 years, this would be the one I'd want. The world picture it paints is finely detailed and entirely believable; and taken together with Phineas Redux it comprises the most nuanced exercise in character development I've ever seen in English fiction. Trollope's London is thickly populated with memorable characters, but two women stand out in particular: Lady Laura Standish and Marie Max Goesler. Both are gifted, charming, and in love with the eponymous hero -- a handsome (but poor and socially inconsequential) Irish barrister who finds himself swept up into the world of parliamentary politics. Without giving away too much, Lady Laura becomes a kind of study thwarted passion. She is riveting; a sad, tragic figure but one the reader never stops caring about. Trollope considered her to be the best character in the novel, and one of his finest literary achievements. Phineas proposes marriage to Lady Laura, and she rejects him, pledging herself instead to a rich man she does not love. This rejection happens quite early in Phineas Finn, but it haunts the characters through both Phineas novels like original sin and propels the entire plot. About Madame Max I feel I can't safely say too much without spoiling everything, but she is, to my mind, utterly captivating and the actual best character in the books. The scene in which she seduces the Old Duke by allowing him to catch a glimpse of her perfectly turned ankle is the best written seduction scene I've ever had the pleasure to read anywhere. One doesn't usually think of Trollope as a steamy sort of writer, but this is certainly very very erotic stuff. Another reviewer states that many feel the conclusion of Phineas Finn to be rather weak. Perhaps. But Trollope says that Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux should be understood to comprise but a single narrative. I suspect that many readers who've had the patience to read through both novels will agree with me in stating that the conclusion to the latter novel is probably the most gratifying they have ever read, but it wouldn't be so had the first novel ended in any other way.

Unlucky in Love, Unlucky in Politics, but Irrepressible

Recently, a personal tragedy resulted in a rare hiatus in my reading. In attempting to return to normal, I found the only author that suited (and soothed) me was Anthony Trollope. As an English major at Dartmouth, I never encountered his works, and none were on the required reading list; yet now, there are few writers who can "embed" me in their world so easily as Trollope. This is the second of the Palliser series of six novels, the first of which was CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? Although it is not a prerequisite to understanding PHINEAS FINN, I recommend that readers start at the beginning, so that they have some idea of British parliamentary politics in the mid 19th century and the characters of Plantagenet Palliser, his wife Lady Glencora and their circle. To begin with, there was at that time no monetary recompense for being a member of the House of Commons. The assumption was that: (1) the member was independently wealthy or (2) the member had a day job which paid his bills. This becomes an overriding issue in the novel. Enter Phineas Finn, an engaging Irishman, who gives up the practice of law to run for an Irish seat in the House -- much to the consternation of his friends and relatives who worry how he is to make ends meet. He joins in with a group of Liberal politicians centered around Lord Beresford and his beautiful daughter, Lady Laura Standish. No sooner does Phineas get up the courage to propose to her than he finds he has been beaten to the punch by a wealthy Scottish member, who happens to be a dour and rigid Presbyterian. Next he targets Violet Effingham, who has an on-again, off-again relationship with Lord Chiltern, the brother of Lady Laura. In targeting Violet, Phineas runs up against the choleric Chiltern, whose "red hair is no lie," to quote one of my favorite lines in THE QUIET MAN. The two actually fight a duel across the Channel on a Belgian beach with no serious injory to either party. But Violet makes up her mind for Lord Chiltern, and Phineas is out in the cold again. As Phineas eventually makes it into the Treasury, which does carry some salary, he meets a beautiful wealthy Jewess named Mme Max Goesler, who has some feelings for him. Unfortunately, he had fallen under the tutelage of Mr. Monk, another Liberal politican who runs up against the prevailing political winds in the house. Not only does Phineas become a victim for his principles, but the Liberals are voted out; and Phineas is out of a job and flat broke. He returns to Ireland, marries an old childhood sweetheart, and gets a sinecure position in Cork as the Tories busily redraw the political map under Disraeli (called Daubeny in the novel). In addition to being a charmer -- though a bit feckless at times -- Phineas finds himself liked wherever he goes. Mind you, not enough to nab a beautiful, wealthy wife -- but there is a sequel to come called PHINEAS REDUX, which I am reading now, in which Phineas makes a comeback in his old haunts. As in all of my favori

More great stuff by an underrated Victorian novelist

PHINEAS FINN is a book of many virtues and one unfortunate flaw. The flaw lies in the ending, of which I can say nothing here without giving away a bit of the plot. Let me just say that the ending is a bit of a "tack on." Trollope himself confessed in his AUTOBIOGRAPHY that he botched the ending, and explains that when he decided to write a second novel starring Phineas Finn, he awkwardly had to correct the mistakes he made in the ending of the previous book. The virtues of the book lie in part in its presentation of the social complexities of the British upper class in 1860s. While a political history of the period could explain the various ins and outs of the major pieces of legislation dealt with at the time, Trollope shows us how many individuals at the time actually felt about these issues from the inside. In this way, Trollope performs a service that no historian ever could. Virtually all the major political figures of the time, from Gladstone to Disraeli appear under thinly veiled aliases. But the true heart of the book is Trollope's great characters. I absolutely love Jane Austen. She is one of my two or three favorite writers. But sometimes I find the enormous propriety of her characters to be a tad tiring. In these way her characters, as magnificent as they otherwise might be, sometimes seem a little less than fully human. Trollope's characters, on the other hand, often fail to act with complete propriety. They do improper things, and feel improper emotions. Our hero falls in love with one woman, then another, feels attraction to another, and falls in love with yet another, and in general fails in his role as a great romantic hero. A woman marries someone she doesn't love, yet retains feelings for another, and suffers from the threat of a bad marriage. Another woman is attracted to two men, and must decide which. Two close friends love the same woman. I find all this emotional complexity to be extremely compelling.Trollope's most compelling and interesting characters are nearly all female. In the book, Lord Chiltern seems cardboardish and unbelievable, the title character likable but not terribly vivid. But whenever Lady Laura, or Madame Goesler, or Violet Effingham take the stage, the novel comes to life. This is not unique to this novel. In nearly all his books, Trollope's most compelling characters are female. If we could give half stars, I would give this one four and a half stars because of the weak ending. But I will stick with five rather than four, partly because the rest of the book easily makes up for the weakish ending, and one can view the excellent PHINEAS REDUX as the real ending of the novel. Either way, I heartily recommend the novel.

The quintessential Trollope novel

Whenever people tell me which is the funniest Trollope novel to start with I always suggest BARCHESTER TOWERS; whenever they ask for the most typical of his novels, I suggest this one. Trollope rarely planned his novels through to the end when he started writing them, so his stories flow by almost haphazardly; you cannot expect them to adhere to the tighter construction of Dickens or Eliot. But for all of its vagaries this novel is extraordinarily captivating, and you will find yourself particularly drawn to the women in Phineas's life and their peculiar limitations. The most deftly portrayed of them, the gifted Lady Laura Standish who makes a disastrous marriage to a wealthy MP in the hopes of involving herself in meaningful political activity, is unforgettable. The masterful little chapter detailing her dawning horror at having married an uptight prude, "Sunday Morning in Grosvenor Square," may be the finest thing Trollope ever wrote.

Story of a charming young politician and lover.

Phineas Finn, the hero (if he can be called that), is a young Irishman who gets elected to Parliament at the age of 25 and enjoys a spectacular rise, although he lacks money, title, and social position. His assets are extreme good looks, sincerity, a modest but confident charm, and lots of luck.The most interesting parts of the plot deal with his relationships with 4 women: little Mary Flood Jones, his childhood sweetheart back in Ireland; Lady Laura Standish Kennedy, who takes a special interest in the new MP and helps to further his career; Violet Effingham, as rich as she is beautiful; and Mme. Marie Max Goesler, a very wealthy widow, beautiful, intelligent, and very interesting (my personal favorite). Phineas proposes to 3 of these women and receives a direct proposal from the other. The portions of the plot dealing with parliamentary business may be a bit mystifying to those who know little about the British governmental system or Victorian history, but this is a good place to add to your education. Some consider "Phineas Finn" to be the most tedious of the Palliser series; however, I found it fascinating throughout.
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