The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope
|The Duke's Children by Anthony Trollope|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: It's the final book in the Palliser series and the shortest of them all. An exceptional read and highly recommended provided that you've read the earlier books in the series.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 576/21h27m||Date: August 2011|
The story opens to probably the worst news of all: Lady Glencora Palliser is dead. Her husband, Plantagenet Palliser, the Duke of Omnium, is nearly paralysed by grief and struggling - at the same time - to adjust to no longer being prime minister, or even in office. He seeks to protect and guide his three adult children, which is easier said than done when none of them wishes to be guided. Silverbridge (his elder son, actually called Plantagenet, but always known by his title) and Gerald are destined to be sent down from Oxford and Cambridge respectively and to run up gambling debts, occasionally in eye-watering sums. Lady Helen has fallen in love with - and wishes to marry - Frank Tregear, the penniless son of a poor squire, which the Duke cannot countenance, not least because he sees echos of what might have happened when he married Lady Glencora. He's about to learn that parents do not always get their way.
I came to The Duke's Children fresh from The Prime Minister and was expecting a book of similar length - about 320,000 words and was surprised to find a (relatively) slim volume. It had originally been Trollope's intention to publish The Duke's Children in twelve monthly parts and four volumes but (possibly at the publisher's suggestion) it was dramatically reduced. It's a credit to Trollop's cutting skills that you can't see the joins - and what you get is a (relatively) fast-moving story and - most importantly - the rehabilitation of Planty Pal. Instead of the dry old stick (he was that from an early age...) we see an austere and grieving man struggling with three adults who are determined to have their independence.
Perhaps the most interesting thread for me was that of Silverbridge's relationship with Isabel Boncassen, the American who has completely eclipsed Lady Mabel Grex whom the Duke had thought of as the perfect wife for his son. The story - and the situation - has resonated down the ages and Isabel's summary of the situation his daughter could find herself in if she was not accepted socially put me in mind of a similar situation in the royal family in the twenty-first century. Some things never change - no matter how much you might wish that they could.
Trollope didn't cut the racing, hunting and sporting elements of the story: on occasions these sections do, perhaps, go a little over the top, but that's a personal view based on my own preferences. It's been a very enjoyable series and I'm sorry to get to the end of it. I didn't actually do much reading of the books but - instead - listened to an audio download (which I bought myself) narrated by Timothy West. He's narrated all the novels in the series and had been a real pleasure to listen to, with an excellent range of voices and the ability to narrate without intruding between the author and the reader.
Where to go after this?
Unless you're a purist (they're abridged) you might enjoy The Complete Barchester Chronicles. The stories are set some three decades earlier but the same social norms apply in The Complete Novels: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion by Jane Austen.
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