Friday, 19 February 2010
Book: DR THORNE by Anthony Trollope
So as I said I'm reading DR THORNE. 2666 is my bus and bedtime book, and DR THORNE's what I read at work. I'm reading it on the truly fabulous gutenberg.net, my friend through many a tedious temp job. Once I managed like 3 Balzac novels in 3 weeks. It was wild.
So this is the third of the Barchester novels, the first two being THE WARDEN and BARCHESTER TOWERS. I've certainly read one if not both of the previous, so decided to give this a go. I LOVE me some Victorian novelists. I love the assurance of their writing, and especially the sense that there is a definite plot to life, that proceeds logically and with meaning. This is nothing at all like real life, and that's obviously what's fabulous. I only realised that this was why I found the Victorians so comforting when I read THE MILL ON THE FLOSS (George Elliot). I don't want to spoil it for you if you haven't read it, so let's just say that there's something that happens on the penultimate page that you have in NO WAY been prepared for and makes NO SENSE. ie, just like real life. This is not what we read the Victorians for. So, advice, don't be reading the end of THE MILL ON THE FLOSS in public, as someone reading this blog may have been, as it is HECTIC.
I also like the scope of their ambition, and their energy - writing hundreds of pages, covering tens of characters - it's bracing. It's sort of like all their bridges and buildings and railways: just massive cultural energy. Do you know, at the V&A Museum here in London, you can see the entire front of medieaval French church, cast in plaster in France and shipped here in bulk. They did this sort of shit a lot in the days before people could travel. They just decided to bring the world to them, so there's also David (complete with unnecesarily large fig leaf for when royalty visits) and Trajan's Column and stuff, all in the same room. These Victorians are crazy.
So anyway, this novel is about a country doctor, Dr Thorne.
Or is it? As Trollope writes: "The one son and heir to Greshamsbury was named as his father, Francis Newbold Gresham. He would have been the hero of our tale had not that place been pre-occupied by the village doctor. As it is, those who please may so regard him. It is he who is to be our favourite young man, to do the love scenes, to have his trials and his difficulties, and to win through them or not, as the case may be. I am too old now to be a hard-hearted author, and so it is probable that he may not die of a broken heart. Those who don't approve of a middle-aged bachelor country doctor as a hero, may take the heir to Greshamsbury in his stead, and call the book, if it so please them, "The Loves and Adventures of Francis Newbold Gresham the Younger."
I just love this. I love the fact that he tells you plainly that he's too old for heartbreak. It's very charming. And not at all pretentious. So far, we've followed the Doctor adopting his illegitimate niece after his brother dies in unpleasant circumstances. The niece, Mary Thorne, is included with the children of the local squire in their education, and now she seems to be on a collision course for romance with the squire's son, Francis Newbold Gresham - thankfully called Frank - referred to above.
I will keep you updated. But, just fyi, let me point out that Trollope was one of the most prolific authors of all time, all the while also working for the Post Office, and not in a minor way either - he was responsible for the invention of the red post box. He used to write on trains during his long commutes. Ponder my dears if in comparison you are achieving enough. I THINK NOT.