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Old 11-04-2009, 10:39 AM   #1
HarryT
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Post Trollope, Anthony: Palliser Omnibus. v1. 4th Nov 2009

In contrast to Trollope's "Barchester Chronicles" (also available as an MR download), which describe life in mid-19th-century rural England, the six novels in the "Palliser" series, collected here into one (very large!) omnibus edition, describe the goings-on in Parliament and "high society". This series has been called the best novelisation of the British political system and the workings of Parliament ever written, and quite rightly so.

The six novels in the omnibus are:

Can You Forgive Her? (1864)

Alice Vavasor cannot decide whether to marry her ambitious but violent cousin George or the upright and gentlemanly John Grey - and finds herself accepting and rejecting each of them in turn. Increasingly confused about her own feelings and unable to forgive herself for such vacillation, her situation is contrasted with that of her friend Lady Glencora - forced to marry the rising politician Plantagenet Palliser in order to prevent the worthless Burgo Fitzgerald from wasting her vast fortune. In asking his readers to pardon Alice for her transgression of the Victorian moral code, Trollope created a telling and wide-ranging account of the social world of his day.

Phineas Finn (1869)

Struggling to make his mark among gentlemen and to find a suitably rich and well connected wife, Phineas is an attractive, ambitious and adaptable young Irishman. In a time of radical political agitation, his story reveals both the splendour and absurdity of parliamentary proceedings, the sloganeering, jockeying for position and inevitable compromises of the party system.

The Eustace Diamonds (1873)

Following the death of her husband Sir Florian, beautiful Lizzie Eustace mysteriously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace. She maintains it was a gift from her husband, but the Eustace lawyers insist she give it up, and while her cousin Frank takes her side, her new lover Lord Fawn states that he will only marry her if the necklace is surrendered. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie’s truthfulness is thrown into doubt, and, in her desire to keep the jewels, she is driven to increasingly desperate acts. The third in Trollope’s Palliser series, The Eustace Diamonds bears all the hallmarks of his later works, blending dark cynicism with humour and a keen perception of human nature.

Phineas Redux (1874)

In the fourth of the 'Palliser' stories, Trollope follows Phineas Finn's return to the dangerous world of Westminster politics. When his political rival is murdered, Phineas is thrown under suspicion and eventually finds himself standing trial at the Old Bailey. The situation is complicated by the presence of two women in his life: his old flame Lady Laura, whose estranged husband is determined to destroy Phineas's reputation, and the wealthy and enimgatic widow, Madame Max.

The Prime Minister (1876)

Plantaganet Palliser, Prime Minister of England - a man of power and prestige, with all the breeding and inherited wealth that goes with it - is appalled at the inexorable rise of Ferdinand Lopez. An exotic impostor, seemingly from nowhere, Lopez has society at his feet, while well-connected ladies vie with each other to exert influence on his behalf - even Palliser’s own wife, Lady Glencora. But when the interloper makes a socially advantageous marriage, Palliser must decide whether to stand by his wife’s support for Lopez in a by-election or leave him to face exposure as a fortune-hunting adventurer. A novel of social, sexual and domestic politics, The Prime Minister raises one of the most enduring questions in government - whether a morally scrupulous gentleman can make an effective leader.

The Duke's Children (1879)

Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of Omnium and former Prime Minister of England, is widowed and wracked by grief. Struggling to adapt to life without his beloved Lady Glencora, he works hard to guide and support his three adult children. Palliser soon discovers, however, that his own plans for them are very different from their desires. Sent down from university in disgrace, his two sons quickly begin to run up gambling debts. His only daughter, meanwhile, longs passionately to marry the poor son of a county squire against her father’s will. But while the Duke’s dearest wishes for the three are thwarted one by one, he ultimately comes to understand that parents can learn from their own children. The final volume in the Palliser novels, The Duke’s Children is a compelling exploration of wealth, pride and ultimately the strength of love.

Enjoy!
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