“Can You Forgive Her?” by Anthony Trollope

CanYouForgiveHerWikipedia tells us that Can You Forgive Her? was first published in serial form in 1864/65 and that it is the first of six novels in the “Palliser” series. The plot follows three parallel stories of courtship and marriage and the decisions of three strong women: Alice Vavasor, her cousin Glencora Palliser, and her aunt Arabella Greenow. Early on, Alice asks the question “What should a woman do with her life?” This theme repeats itself in the dilemmas faced by the other women in the novel.

 We read the book in March 2014

 Everyone enjoyed the book but there was enough disagreement about the aspects enjoyed (as well as plenty of agreement) to provoke a good discussion.

We wondered which character was referred to in the title and agreed that it was Alice. We thought she was over-scrupulous in her worries and one of our readers couldn’t forgive her for not forgiving herself. We also thought that all four main female characters had something to be forgiven for.

Several people really liked Glencora and Mrs Greenow. We talked about Kate’s purpose in the novel and felt that she was more of a plot contrivance to provide opportunity and promotion for the reunion of George and Alice. We felt that Trollope had a rather Victorian view of women but that he saw more in them than Dickens and had more sympathy for them. Trollope’s female characters seemed more human and less stereotyped than Dickens’ women.  Of the male characters, John Grey was felt to be too remote and on a pedestal whereas George gradually became almost a pantomime villain.

Most people felt that though the book was lengthy, it didn’t feel too long; they really wanted to go on reading. Our group clearly has more staying power than the author Stephen King: his book “On Writing”  suggests that a more appropriate title might be Can You Possibly Finish It? [Wikipedia, again]

Several people thought there was a lot of humour in the book but one person thought Dickens did humour better. One or two compared some of the sense of humour and the dry wit to Austen.

The book scored an average of 8.1 points, from 10 members.

A number of other bloggers have written about the book, including Catherine Pope and Desperate Reader.

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