Wednesday, 2 November 2011

THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS by Anthony Trollope


It was admitted by all her friends, and also by her enemies – which were in truth the more numerous and active body of the two, - that Lizzie Greystock had done very well with herself. We will tell the story of Lizzie Greystock from the beginning, but we will not dwell over it at great length, as we might do if we loved her.
This is the beginning of THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS, which I find to be quite charming,and absolutely vintage Trollope. It is all total lies of course – we do dwell on Lizzie's story at great length, not just because Trollope can't do anything except at great length, but also because really he loves a bad girl, as do we all.

Lizzie is a fabulous bad girl. She marries Lord Eustace even though (or perhaps because) she knows he is very frail and soon to die. As the widowed Lady Eustace she claims to have been given as a gift by her husband, a diamond necklace worth ten thousand pounds. His family say this is a family heirloom, and thus not hers to keep, and so begins protracted legal wrangling in the midst of which the necklace is stolen. Cue drama! I won't give the rest away, as it's a fun and unpredictable plot.

Lizzie is helped throughout by her cousin, Frank Greystock. Frank is in love with a governess called Lucy Morris, and is engaged to her, but slowly comes under Lizzie's spell, and stops seeing or writing to his fiance. Eventually he comes back to his sense and Doormat, sorry, I mean Lucy, accepts him back without a murmur.

This is the third book of the Palliser series (the previous ones are here and here) and as always with Trollope this book has an exciting plot, fun characters, a gently comic narrative voice, and the fun of meeting characters from the other novels. I loved this description of Conservatives, who feel always that Britain is on the verge of ruin:
And yet to them old England is of all countries in the world the best to lie in, and is not the less comfortable because of the changes that have been made. These people are ready to grumble at every boon conferred on them, and yet to enjoy every boon. They know, too, their privileges, and, after a fashion, understand their position. It is picturesque, and it pleases them. To have been always in the right and yet always on the losing side; always being ruined, always under persecution from a wild spirit of republican-demagogism, - and yet never to lose anything, not even position or public esteem, is pleasant enough. A huge, living, daily increasing grievance that does one no palpable harm, is the happiest possession a man can have.
It's the TeaPartiers to a T.

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