The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

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The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: The third book in The Palliser (or Parliamentary) Novels deals with the story of a young widow who is determined that she will not hand over to her late husband's executors the diamonds which she says that he gave to her absolutely. An exceptionally good story, particularly on the subject of Victorian marriage.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 784/25h 38m Date: July 2010
Publisher: Audible Studios
ISBN: 978-0140430417

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It was generally thought that Sir Florian Eustace had come to regret his marriage but he didn't live long enough for this to become a problem. After his death, his wife, Lizzie - still only in her late teens - was in possession of a very valuable diamond necklace and was determined that she would not hand it over to her husband's executors. She was adamant that Sir Florian had given it to her absolutely, although the precise circumstances of the giving varied from telling to telling. Lady Eustace was not a woman to whom truth meant a great deal. All that was important to her now, she maintained, was her son. And, of course, her diamonds.

Lizzie's cousin, Frank Greystock, might have made an offer for Lizzie Eustace's hand: circumstances prevented him from doing so and in a fit of pique Lizzie accepted an offer from Lord Fawn, whom we met as the suitor of Violet Effingham in Phineas Finn. Fawn would soon come to regret his offer when he realised that his future wife would appear to be trying to take ownership of jewels to which she was not entitled and much of the book is concerned with his efforts to extricate himself from the situation whilst still trying to retain some honour.

Frank Greystock, in the meantime, had fallen in love with Lucy Morris, the governess in Lord Fawn's family home. When he makes an offer to her it's obvious that he - a struggling barrister and member of parliament - is in no position to provide a home for her. Lucy is effectively in limbo as Frank goes on with his life and even appears to continue to pay court to Lizzie Eustace although he would have justified what he was doing as assisting her in her fight for the diamonds when there was effectively no one else to help her. Not everyone was inclined to believe this and Frank does, on occasions, appear to waver.

Superficially, The Eustace Diamonds is the story of Lizzie Eustace's fight to hold on to the titular diamonds but in essence, it's a story of Victorian marriage, the conventions which surround it and the restrictions which it placed on women. It's superbly written. Trollope's skill as a writer is such that he can make rivetting reading out of discussions as to whether or not a diamond necklace can be considered to be an heirloom or whether it should be treated as paraphernalia. Trollope took advice on the legal situation which Lizzie Eustace would have found herself in and it's not only excellent reading - it's also legally sound.

The characters are compelling. It's difficult to warm to Lizzie Eustace in the beginning although this does change a little as the story progresses. Frank Greystock will remind you of Phineas Finn although their politics diverged. As usual, Trollope handles what seems like a cast of thousands with skill and aplomb and all come off the page fully clothed. He is an excellent observer of human nature.

I listened to an audio download, which I bought myself, narrated by Timothy West and it's impressive. I was never in any doubt as to which character was speaking, the pacing is excellent and I never had the feeling that West had brought his own interpretations into the story, I've already bought his narration of the next book in the series.

Although part of the Palliser Novels, The Eustace Diamonds is only loosely connected to the story arc. Lady Glencora Palliser is the only character to appear in the story and her part is only incidental. You could read the series and miss this book out, but it would be a pity to do so. The first book in the series is Can You Forgive Her?

Anthony Trollope's Palliser Novels in Chronological Order

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