Can you forgive her?

by Anthony Trollope

Paper Book, 1991

Status

Available

Genres

Publication

Oxford [Oxfordshire] ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1991.

Description

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.

User reviews

LibraryThing member lit_chick
2011, Blackstone Audiobooks, Read by Simon Vance

“What's a woman to do?” (Ch 6)

Indeed! Trollope introduces a delightful cast of women in Can You Forgive Her, all of whom have their own ideas as to the age-old dilemma. Heroine Alice Vavasor cannot make up her mind at all as to what a woman should do. Twice engaged to her cousin George Vavasor, and twice engaged to John Grey, she eventually marries. But she could not possibly have made the decision more complicated. Kate Vavasor, cousin to Alice, is firmy of the mind that her role is to manage the affairs of others, in particular those of her cousin and her loathsome brother, George. Unfortunately for all concerned, Kate seems not qualified to manage her own affairs, never mind those of others. Lady Glencora Palliser, also cousin to Alice a wealthy heiress, does what a woman in her position was expected to do: marry a title and yet more wealth. Alas, she is in love not with her husband, Plantaganet Palliser, but with the worthless Burgo Fitzgerald. And Arabella Greenow, Alice’s aunt and an impressively forward thinker, determines that a woman’s best course of action is to marry young to a wealthy old man, wait out the “old,” secure the “wealthy,” and then enjoy the luxury of doing precisely as she pleases!

“Her marriage for money had been altogether successful. The nursing of old Greenow had not been very disagreeable to her, nor had it taken longer than she had anticipated. She had now got all the reward that she had ever promised herself, and she really did feel grateful to his memory. I almost think that among those plentiful tears some few drops belonged to sincerity.” (Ch 47)

Trollope’s staple political landscape is inhabited by Plantaganet Palliser, John Grey, and George Vavasor. Palliser, heir to the enormously wealthy Duke of Omnium and wholly preoccupied with politics, aspires to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. Grey, a well-educated gentleman of modest means, seeks the parliamentary seat at Silverbridge. And finally, George Vavasor, a disinherited, despicable, scoundrel, and the perfect foil to both Palliser and Grey, hopes to secure any seat he can, by any means he can.

I adored Can You Forgive Her! Hands down, my favourite character is the charming and irrepressible Lady Glencora. She is Trollope at his absolute finest, and I often could not help but laugh aloud at her spirited chatter. I read the Barsetshire series last year and loved them, but, if Can You Forgive Her is any indication, I’m going to absolutely treasure the Palliser novels! Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member cbl_tn
It seems that everyone but Alice Vavasor can forgive Alice for waffling over her engagements. (Except for her cousin George, but by the end of the book readers won't care what George thinks about anything!) But can the reader forgive her? Or is it Lady Glencora we're supposed to forgive? Or perhaps even Mrs. Greenow? All three women face similar circumstances. Each must decide which of two men to accept. Will they follow their hearts or their heads? Will they accept or reject advice? Will any choice lead to happiness, or is it just a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils?

I couldn't help comparing Alice to both Anne Elliot in Jane Austen's Persuasion and Lily Dale in Trollope's The Small House at Allington. Both Anne and Alice are motherless with fathers who have largely abdicated their parental responsibilities. Anne follows the guidance of a family friend in deciding whether to accept or reject a suitor, while Alice refuses to be guided by any but her own inclinations. Neither course of action works out well for these women. Alice is better suited for Lily Dale's life than is Lily Dale. She has money of her own and would not be a burden to other family members if she chose not to marry.

Aunt Greenow, recently widowed by a much older wealthy husband, provides comic relief. While she is the master of every situation and everyone does her bidding, she manages to make people think it's their idea to do what she wants them to do. The suspense for the reader is not in what might happen, but in how it will unfold.

Lady Glencora is my favorite of the three women. She may not know much about politics, but she understands people and she isn't easily fooled. My affinity for Lady Glencora is probably proof that I wouldn't have been cut out to be a society wife in Victorian England either.

I read this years ago but remembered very little of it. I was probably too young to appreciate it the first time around. Now I'm eagerly looking forward to discovering the pleasures ahead in the remaining books in the Palliser series.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
This was a story of three marriages and possibly the vilest literary villain, George Vavasor. Totally devoid of of a conscience, or any kind of moral scruples, George is out for no one but himself. Along the way he manages to get himself engaged to be married, twice, to his cousin Alice, one of the most confounding women in literature. Page after page, for 800+ pages she put herself down, full of regrets until I wanted to scream or at least throttle her. In between her engagements to George she was engaged to the extremely marriageable John Grey.

Making up for her shortfalls is the feisty Lady Glencora who, even though we are in the Victorian Age, is not afraid to leave her husband, a rising star in Parliament by the name of Palliser, and her fortune in order to be with the man she should have married, the ne'er do well Burgo Fitzgerald. But my favorite has got to be Aunt Arabella Greenow who married a very wealthy (and very old) man first and now that he's gone and she's rich she doesn't mind taking up with a penniless former military man over the wealthy farmer, Mr. Cheesacre.

But this is Trollope so it is all great fun. Layered between the love stories are the inklings of the political story that will be developed in the subsequent volumes, the intricacies of which are merely hinted at.

Totally delightful, just as I've come to expect from Trollope.
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LibraryThing member lauralkeet
It’s been a year since I finished Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire, and it was such a joy to return to his depiction of Victorian England in The Pallisers. In Can You Forgive Her?, Trollope shows the good, bad, and ugly of marriage through three different situations. Young Alice Vavasor, egged on by her cousin Kate, breaks off her engagement to John Grey in favor of Kate’s brother George. Lady Glencora “Cora” Palliser was recently forced by her family to break off a relationship with handsome, dashing Burgo Fitzgerald, to marry the prosperous and ambitious Plantagenet Palliser. Her comfortable lifestyle can’t make up for a dull and so far childless relationship. Finally, the widow Arabella Greenow toys with two different suitors and provides comic relief in the novel.

Alice’s reputation is sorely damaged, yet she remains oblivious to this and insists on providing financial support to George as he runs for parliament, even though they are not yet married, the sums are significant, and he proves himself to be a cad of the highest order. John Grey, meanwhile, is never far away and continues to have feelings for Alice. Cora finds solace in friendship with Alice as her husband largely ignores her and enlists others to keep Cora in check as he focuses on his work.

In an unusual move for the time, the story is told almost entirely from a female perspective. The women are strong characters with money and opinions of their own. However, Trollope cannot envision a world free from Victorian conventions, so naturally the only successful outcomes involve marriage. Still, I can forgive Trollope for being a product of his time, and I can forgive the eponymous heroines whose actions, both scandalous and annoying, made for a very good story.
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LibraryThing member stillatim
I put off reading this for a long time because I unforgivably confused CYFH? with 'He Knew He Was Right', the mini-series version of which was utterly horrible. I knew they were different, but something just held me back. I even read Phineas Finn before this, which was a real mistake.

CYFH? does what really, really great literature does: asks very difficult questions about life, but in such a way that you don't realize they're being asked, because the thing is just so entertaining. The question, in a much less entertaining form, is not whether you can forgive Alice Vavasour for turning down the genial John Grey; it is whether you ought to or ought not to enter public life, how you ought to think about public and private life in general, and, in the end, why we put up with a world that allows the rich to get all the best things, and shunts the poor off to its margins.

Grey prefers private life, and is very rich. Palliser prefers public life, and is very rich. George prefers public life, and is very poor. Fitzgerald prefers private life, and is very poor. George and Palliser share an idealism about politics, but the realities of their private lives are different enough that (plot spoiler!) Palliser triumphs in private and public, while George loses out in both. Fitzgerald and Grey are both idealistic about private life, but the rich Grey can basically afford to be, while the poorish Fitzgerald cannot, and suffers for it.

By the twentieth century, this plot would have presented George and Fitzgerald as wonderful, kind men trodden down despite themselves by the system; Palliser and Grey would have been evil, evil, evil capitalists. But Trollope knows what should be obvious to anyone with any social conscience: poverty destroys people, and makes us worse than we could be. So George and Fitzgerald (who aren't really that poor in the grand scheme of things, as Trollope is careful to show us) suffer and become vicious; Grey and Palliser do not suffer, and become better men. Just in case you miss the point, the poor man who *does* get the lady ends up as a better person after she starts paying for all his stuff. That's how it works. Stories of virtuous, proud, upstanding impoverished men and women are nonsense.

And that's without even touching on the other side of the three marriage plots, the women, and their own follies, braveries and self-indulgences. And also without touching on Trollope's clear eyed presentation of late Victorian society: there's no need for ideological trickiness here. Everyone pushes in the direction of straight cynicism, because that's what happens when you live these kinds of lives.

One of the best nineteenth century novels I've read--imagine Pride and Prejudice with an extra marriage plot and a greater balance between the problems of men and women.
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LibraryThing member cdeuker
Okay, I like Trollope as much as the next guy, but this one did get a little tedious. Alice is a pain in the neck; John Grey is too perfect (Helping out the scoundrel who steals his girl??? Come on!) But the redeeming qualities are there, too. George Vavasor is a wonderful villain. There are two great, shocking scenes: the fistfight with John Grey and then the encounter with sister Jane where he pushes her down and breaks her arm. Wow! I also liked Jane very much. A truly human person. Trollope also does things unheard of in Dickens. Characters make decisions--even the right (moral) decision--and then regret them within hours. Yes Yes Yes. I also liked the whole Greenow/Cheesacre/Bellfield subplot though others find it low brow. The book needed a little humor as Alice was, by and large, a stick in the mud.
Now I can read more Pallisar novels and not be missing any background.

(Oh, Lady Glencora is also a wonderful, fully developed character. Burgo Fitzgerald is the handsome neer do well who almost wins the girl.)
I read this on Nook and listened to Timothy West on Audible. My question is: Had I not listened on audio, would I have ever finished a straight "reading" of the text? I wonder. Audio gets one through even the most boring parts effortlessly.
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LibraryThing member uncultured
I started this book based on a number of reviews on Trollope--people said he was much more grounded than Dickens, much more sympathetic and understanding than prim, demanding George Eliot...all in all rather worldly. Perhaps I picked the wrong book to start with--this book kicks off the "Palliser" sextet of novels, detailing the machinations of a group of people concerned with the British government. Trollope thought that government service was just the BEST thing a Britisher could do, and I think he himself ran (and lost) for office. So there's a sort of fascination/admiration for political figures running through ALL his novels.

This volume, however, concerns itself with one Alice Vavasor, the woman mentioned in the title. Feeling rather proto-feminist, she throws over the kind, yet rather dull country gentleman John Grey (she's engaged to him). She does so after taking a trip to Switzerland with her cousins Kate and George. She used to be engaged to George, but broke it off for rather murky reasons, but it hints that he was a bit angry and gruff. Kate, however, is bent towards hooking the two up. So when Alice gets back to London and breaks up with John Grey and tells him that it has nothing to do with him or anyone else but herself, it's a little irritating. Especially when she agrees to become re-engaged to George, who is endeavoring to run for a seat in Parliament. She is pestered by a great deal of people to change her mind, and refuses to do so. But she also refuses to discuss the matter at all, threatening to leave the room or similar bratty behavior. It's certainly no one else's business, and when she gave it to a couple old biddies I was thrilled, but at other times she was really getting obnoxious about it.

There's also a subplot about Kate, who goes with a rich relation to the seaside. The relation, a melodramatic widow, quickly becomes the target of two rather different men, one a farmer, the other a spendthrift. I really liked this part--it was quite comic, and the two men would fight over all these ridiculous trifles, like who got to open the wine at a picnic, because whoever did so would be complimented on said wine. There's also ANOTHER subplot about this bore, Plantagenet Palliser and his "smile-brilliantly-until-it-hurts" wife Glencora. They are badly suited for each other...actually they ended up married because the man Glencora loved, Burgo Fitzgerald, would have run through all her money and left them both penniless. He wasn't trying to hide the fact, though, and is a not-unlikeable character.

I had really mixed feelings about this book. Maybe Dickens spoiled me and made me used to more excitement--Trollope mocked his (occasionally) syrupy drama by calling him Mr. Popular Sentiment--but I enjoy Thackeray, and he's not bouncing up and down like Dickens. Trollope is just...there are too many bores. And if they're not bores, they spend quite a while being unlikeable. Maybe I'm just cranky and short-tempered, though. The book resolves into a fairly happy ending, and Alice Vavasor does change quite a bit, but damn, it's not a short book.

There was a wonderful section involving a fox hunt, which Trollope did wonderfully. And the book wasn't boring, it was just a sort of lusterless gossip, like the kind of gossip you might hear your grandmother whisper to you about her various acquaintances. It's amusing and passes the time, but once you kiss grandma goodbye, the stories quickly melt into a puddle and go right down the drain.

And while I do think that Trollope is more understanding than Eliot--Eliot would have sent Alice off to supervise the building of poorhouses in Limehouse or something, singing secular hymns all the way--Eliot has a dry sense of humor that manages to alleviate her horrible Victorian earnestness. Though I find her stuff pretty unreadable, excepting Middlemarch. Both Trollope and Eliot were widely read, so I fail to understand how they neglected to incorporate the lessons of Jane Austen into their work: just because a character goes against the grain, or is feisty, or meddlesome, or anything besides a stereotypical female character of the time, doesn't mean they have to be a burden that the reader must carry through to the end of the book. Actually, I have a vague feeling George Eliot didn't really like Jane Austen, either. And then what about the Brontes? They manage to handle female characters in a supple, independent fashion while giving us their sympathy all the while. Hell, even Becky Sharp was at least entertaining.

I think I'll give Barchester Towers a whirl--Harold Bloom recommends it, and I understand it's quite funny. If I fail to appreciate THAT, I suppose I will have to stick to my Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens and William Thackeray and M.E. Braddon.
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LibraryThing member DieFledermaus
(spoilers) In this Trollope novel, the first of the Palliser series, the best storyline was not the main plot of Alice Vavasor’s indecision, but the troubled marriage of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora. They were a brief sidenote in The Small House at Allington and Trollope develops their relationship further.

A third comic subplot features rich widow Mrs. Greenow being courted by broke but handsome Captain Bellfield and annoying, wealthy Mr. Cheesacre. This reminded me of the also comic love triangle plot in He Knew He Was Right with Mr. Gibson and sisters Camilla and Arabella. Unfortunately, a lot of the story was told from the point of view of Mr. Cheesacre who was extremely irritating. Mrs Greenow is Kate and Alice Vavasor’s aunt who married a rich older man - only for the money, some think. Still, she was a good wife and has been mourning a bit excessively now that he’s dead. She’s courted by the two in several humorous scenes. Both propose to her multiple times, even right after they meet her. I feel she could have had more choice if she'd looked harder - someone with less debts and suspiciousness.

Kate also plays an important role in Alice’s story. Her brother, George, and Alice had a romance before George spoiled it with his relationship with another woman. George had ambitions to be a member of Parliament, but was thwarted in his first attempt and lost all his money. Alice later became engaged, to the eminently polite and perfect John Grey. She's been putting off the wedding for a while – she isn’t too thrilled at the idea that she’ll just go and do what John does, living his quiet life. One thing she did like about George was his ambition – she thinks Parliament a worthy goal. John has no such ideas.

Modern readers can certainly see Alice’s discontent – her marriage as a loss of self. On a trip abroad, Trollope paints George as lively, interesting and sympathetic. It’s a sign of his success in character development that at first the ‘nice’ men – John and Palliser – are seen as unattractive and stifling but are later the best husbands for Alice and Glencora. No one would ever mistake Burgo Fitzgerald for a smart choice, but one can understand the high spirited, emotional Glencora’s feelings. George does try to make himself amenable to Alice at first, but eventually descends into one of Trollope’s worst characters. A lot of times, the heroine will choose the more dramatic partner over the ‘safe’ guy and it’s shown to be the right choice. However, here Trollope has both women choosing the dull option (Palliser is described as one of the dullest men around) and this is shown to be the best choice. He takes a lot of time to develop their unhappiness – Alice imagines John will be boring and thinks he’s so unemotional and controlled as to be almost dead inside, and Glencora similarly finds a want of sympathy, feeling and understanding in her husband.

Alice admits she does not want to get married – though she says she won’t marry anyone else – but finds it hard to delineate the reasons. Partly because she thinks she’s the only one sacrificing, partly because Kate and George convinced her that her life would be dull and intolerable, partly because she can hardly name a fault of his. She spends most of the book vacillating between the two which can become grating.

The Mrs. Greenow love triangle was bothersome because of Mr. Cheesacre, but it readily fit into a theme running through the other two plots – the intersection of love and money. In many of his books, Trollope provides a nuanced look at the different, often complicated relationships between the two. Mr. Cheesacre, the annoying fool, is an all-out mercenary even though he’s wealthy. He tries to propose on the first outing and considers Mrs. Greenow’s money his own. Certainly he later came to appreciate her good qualities, but was desperate to get her money away from the Captain. The captain himself was also mercenary, but because he needed it more, Mrs. Greenow was able to control him. After Kate inherits, Cheesacre suddenly pretends he’s interested in her. The anomalous situation between Alice and her father was caused by her inheritance of her mother’s money, while he was left with a – shocking – job! Alice’s relationship with John was beneficial to both, but since both were well off, money wasn’t a concern. John is willing to sacrifice some of his money to George, hoping that George will dump Alice and she can marry him. It’s clear that George needed Alice’s money for his election, but Trollope notes that he also wanted the luxury of love. He never would have proposed if she didn’t have wealth, and maybe also not if he’d needed it less, but he wanted the whole package – money, revenge against John, Alice’s good opinion and love. If he hadn’t pressed her for it – things might not have gone so horribly awry. Glencora’s fabulous wealth merely added solid stability to Palliser, whose ambitions will eventually take him to Prime Minister. But Glencora hardly thinks about her wealth, and, even though she occasionally has fantasies, she knows that Burgo would have squandered it but still wants to be with him. Her money was something of a burden – made her the target of gold diggers, she had to marry early to keep them at bay. Burgos’ feelings, it is noted, are a mix of need for money, revenge on Palliser and having someone who loved him as much as she did. Although he’d initially chosen her for her wealth, he eventually came to care about her and was depressed on losing her. He remained hung up on her, even trying the wife-stealing. Another well developed Trollope – start of another series.
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LibraryThing member arubabookwoman
I perhaps didn't wait long enough after finishing Phineas Finn before starting Can You Forgive Her?, so I was maybe "Trolloped Out", because it took me quite a while to get into this book. I limped along each evening, falling asleep after 10 or 15 pages for the first 150 to 200 pages, until it finally picked up for me.

I continue to be amazed at Trollope's enlightened attitude toward his female characters, his awareness of the rights they give up by marrying, his willingness to recognize their intellect.

I did note that I was very interested in Lady Glencora's story, which figures prominently in this book. She appears as a minor character in Phineas Finn, and had I been more aware of her back story, I might have enjoyed her more.

Good quote:

"I do not know that she was at all points a lady, but had Fate so willed it she would have been a thorough gentleman."
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LibraryThing member Intemerata
I didn't enjoy this as much as I have other Trollope novels, largely because I wanted to strangle every single one of the characters (not to mention the narrator) at one point or another.

To an extent, that's an endorsement of the writing: they're all fully formed characters, flaws and all, and none of them are either entirely sympathetic or unsympathetic. And I did, in particular, feel sympathy for the situations that both Alice and Glencora found themselves in, but Alice's vacillation and Glencora's childish wilfulness were terribly grating at times.

Not that the men were any better. John Grey, so noble and patient... and then he goes and spoils it all by saying something stupid like "If you love me, after what has passed, I have a right to demand your hand. My happiness requires it, and I have a right to expect your compliance." At least Captain Bellfield and Mr Cheesacre were supposed to be ridiculous...

All in all, I think I liked Kate best.
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
Excellent book about middle to upper class England in the 1860s. Some are rich, some are titled, others are younger sons and thus penniless, still others have worked for their money and become wealthy through industry or farming (can the earned rich and the inherited rich mix?). Some are in the House of Commons, others want to be (or don't want to be!). So many are living beyond their means, trying to keep up with their wealthy relatives.

And there is Alice Vavasor, getting old to be single. She has two prospects in marriage: her cousin George, who by primogeniture is the heir of their grandfather. Or, Mr John Grey of Nethercoats near Ely. Who will it be?

Can George forgive Alice?
Can John Grey forgive Alice?
Can her father forgive Alice?
Can Alice forgive her cousin/friend Kate?
Can Alice forgive her relative Lady Midlothian?
Can Mr Cheesacre forgive Mrs Greenow?
Can Plantagent Palliser forgive his wife, Lady Glencora?
Can the reader forgive any of them?

And the ladies aren't the only ones behaving badly.

*Mr Grey lives near Ely, and catches the train there. I have taken the train to and from Ely. When this book was written and when it takes place, my 3rdgreat grandfather was still living in Welches Dam outside Ely. He could see the cathedral every day. Also, having been an agricultural laborer his entire life, he did not live in a home like Nethercoats. Welches Dam is best known for an 1849 cholera outbreak, due to poor living condition.
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LibraryThing member pgchuis
Alice Vavasor breaks off her engagement to John Grey and becomes re-engaged to her immoral cousin George who spends much of her money on attempts to be returned to Parliament. The other main thread of the plot concerns Glencora, who has been persuaded to marry the saintly Plantagenet Palliser, rather than the worthless man she loves, and who feels guilty that she has not been able to provide him with an heir. Light relief is supplied by Aunt Greenow and her suitors, Mr Cheesacre, who cannot stop talking about his money, and the penniless but dashing Captain Bellfield.

In answer to the title question - no, I never really understood why Alice broke things off with Mr Grey, although her dealings with George made more sense in a twisted sort of way. I thought Plantagenet was an excellent character - perfect in a crisis, but obtuse in so many ways. I also enjoyed Alice's father, who was a straight and honourable man, apart from his extreme laziness. I'm not sure that Trollope was exactly saying this, but a lot might have been avoided if Alice could have stood for Parliament herself
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LibraryThing member MrsLee
Written in 1864, this is a wonderful view into the lives of the British lower aristocracy, or gentry, and how they relate to their cousins "born to the purple." A book of manners, with insight into the hearts, minds and motivations of the people of its time and place. The story centers around Alice, a woman of twenty-five, and her delicate sensibilities in regards to marriage. Since she is a woman who cannot make up her mind, and as soon as she does, she doubts her decision, there is a decided flavor of suspense.

Trollope is one of my favorite writers of his period. He takes us deep into the characters, and helps us to see them from several directions at once. He shows us not only the surface action and dialog, but the inner dialog and the objective view as well. He does this with a gentle sense of humor, seeing the ridiculous when we take ourselves too seriously.

All that being said, I'm afraid I haven't the patience for long absorbing reads any more. I ended up skimming many of the scenes which were not focused on the characters I cared about. By the end of the story, I did not care much for any of the women in it. Probably a fault of the time it was written in and what was expected of women then. I wish I knew how women received this story when it was written. Not one of these women seemed to have a lick of common sense. They were ready to throw away all they had without thought of their future on the romantic idea of helping the user men around them. I hope, I really hope that has changed, although I am afraid it is a trait of women to want to "save" men.
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LibraryThing member froxgirl
Oh noes! I loved this book, my first Trollope, and his works are like 900 pages each and overfilled with 1830's type language and he's not too fond of women. What's a reader to do? Can I forgive him?
LibraryThing member paakre
It is hard not to admire Trollope's mastery of characterization and development of class conflicts and sophisticated plots. Even though the overall story is one of several romances gone awry, the context and background of politics in England in the 1800s is so well drawn it could stand in as a history lesson. Did members of Parliament care about their constituencies? Did the upper classes govern wisely or well? What were the rights of women at the time? How did they express themselves? So many social issues are woven into the story, as well as a melodramatic villain, and an adorable but doomed lover. There are also well meaning but overreaching aunts and uncles (as well as one or two completely impotent ones) and a rich widow whose manipulations of everyone around her are very funny.

The Way We Live Now is still my favorite Trollope, or the Warden, but you cannot have a totally bad time in the hands of the master.
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LibraryThing member jmoncton
We've all seen people who can't make up their minds - who waffle back and forth on a decision, but Alice Vavasor takes waffling to a new level. And her waffling isn't about what hat to wear today, but what man to marry. Alice, having been engaged to her cousin George, breaks off the engagement when George goes through a wild period and becomes engaged to a responsible and steady country gentleman, John Grey. But worried that being the wife of a country gentleman might be too staid and boring, Alice breaks off this engagement. There is much more waffling (the book is 848 pages after all) as well as some entertaining descriptions of political elections at that time - some things never change - before the book finally comes to a close. At the end of the story, the question is posed to the reader Can You Forgive Her?. Of course all of the characters forgive Alice as she and _____ (no spoiler here!) live happily ever after. I'm not sure if I would have forgiven her flip flopping, but her indecisiveness made for an entertaining and interesting story.… (more)
LibraryThing member DavidGreene
The first in Trollope's Palliser series
LibraryThing member jmaloney17
This is the first book in the Palliser series. I really liked parts of this one, but there were other parts that really dragged. There were three main stories 1) Alice Vavosar, 2) Lady Glencora Palliser, and 3) Arabella Greenow. I liked Alice and Lady Glencora, but Arabella's storyline was a bit of a bore. It is over 800 pages in small type. I think that the books will get better as I go along. I hope they do at any rate. They are all very long books.… (more)
LibraryThing member rayette
my first Trollope since I was assigned (and didn't read) one of his books in college. Loved it. Want to read more one of these days.
LibraryThing member LARA335
At 750 pages, overly long, and sometimes repetitive - probably because it started life in serial form. The novel follows three very different heiresses. A merry widow, who chooses a handsome wastrel, confident she will be able to keep him within bounds. The delightful Lady Glencora Palliser who is pressurised by family into making a brilliant match to a politician she finds dull. And Alice, the subject of the title, torn between two men, neither of whom she wants (or needs) to marry.

Cora is naughty, and lights up the pages. But Alice seemed so humourless and reticent I really couldn't be bothered to 'forgive her' or not, and I certainly didn't understand her.

Trollope's genial intrusive narration though may make me pick up the next Palliser novel sometime in the future, in the hopes it will concentrate more on the delightfully indiscrete Cora.
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LibraryThing member hemlokgang
Audiobook.......Phew....28 hours of audio! Why would someone stick with this? Because it was wonderful! Anthony Trollope wrote this novel which is set in England in the mid 1800s. His protagonists are all women with relationship dilemmas which are fiercely controlled by the social mores of the time. Do these women need forgiveness? Can they forgive one another? Can they forgive themselves? Does the reader think they need forgiveness? Can you forgive them? Read the book and judge as you will!… (more)
LibraryThing member majkia
Trollope is so good at (mostly) gentle poking of fun at his society. This book, the beginning of the Palliser Chronicles, is especially aimed at examining the place women are stuck with in Victorian society. How marriages are arranged, how money is controlled, how the upper classes arrange things, and how disaster can so easily crush someone by putting one foot wrong.… (more)
LibraryThing member mbmackay
This is the first in Trollope's Palliser series of novels - with characters from a similar background as in the Barchester Chronicles, but this series has more of a political flavour. It is a beautiful book, with gently drawn characters who grow from the dialogue, with some help from the omnipotent author's commentary. The book is long - 800+ pages, and the fact that it was published in serial form is evident. Trollope's novels are not plot driven, although there is a reasonable plot here, there are none of the amazing plot contrivances revealed at the end that afflict so many of Dicken's novels of the same era. Trollope's books are built on the characters, and that is fine with me. I'm ready for the next in the series. (Read in e-book format, October 2009)… (more)
LibraryThing member BeyondEdenRock
I am so pleased to say that I have finally discovered why so many readers love Anthony Trollope. In fact, if it isn’t wrong to say so after reading just the one book, I am now one of them. I’d picked up one or two books over the years and they hadn’t quite worked. It wasn’t that I didn’t like them but I didn’t love them, they weren’t the right books; I had to find the right place to start, the right book at the right time at the right time, and this book was that book.

I found that I loved the way Trollope wrote, taking such trouble to introduce his characters, making me understand why he was telling their story and guiding me so carefully through it, being present without ever being intrusive.

He cared, and he made me care.

The ‘Her’ of the title is Alice Vavasor. She was engaged to Mr John Grey, who was wise, thoughtful, wealthy and handsome. He was genuinely good man, and a very fine catch. But Alice had doubts. It wasn’t that she didn’t love him; her doubts were about the life they would live together, a life that she feared she would find dreadfully dull.

Kate Vasnovour, Alice’s cousin and dearest friend, hoped that Alice would marry her brother, George. They had been engaged, George and Alice, but Alice had broken off the engagement, on account of something that George did. But Kate continued to promote the match, because she loved George, she loved Alice, and she was quite sure that they would be happy.

Alice did break her engagement to Mr Grey. She thought she was doing the right thing, that she should honour her earlier engagement, but her family were appalled.

Kate thought it wise to go away for a little while, and so she went to stay with her Aunt Greenow, in the country. Mrs Greenhow had married an very elderly, very wealthy husband, and he had died shortly afterwards, leaving her a young, wealthy and very eligible widow. Two vey different men were rivals for her hand: Mr Cheesacre, a portly but prosperous farmer, eager to show what a fine husband he would make; and Captain Bellfield, a handsome, poor, unemployed soldier, who was maybe playing things a little more cleverly. Mrs Greenhow was having a lovely time, enjoying the trappings of a grieving widow, and loving being the centre of attention.

That was the light relief, and it was wonderfully entertaining.

George proposed to Alice and, though she was still worried that she had behaved badly to Mr Grey, she accepted. Because she had decided that the best thing she could do was to try to curb George’s worst excesses, try to help him to make something of his life. George’s wanted to get into parliament, but he lacked the necessary means; Alice did have the means and she promised that she would use her fortune to support his political career. She kept her promise, but success brought out the worst in George. Alice soon realised that she had made a terrible mistake, but she wanted to do the right thing she wanted to keep her promises.

Alice retreated to the country, to stay with another cousin, Lady Glencora Palliser. Glencora was the richest heiress in England, she was young, she was pretty, she was vivacious, and she was the new wife of Plantagenet Palliser, one of the most promising young politicians in the country. But she wasn’t happy. Her family had steered her very firmly her away from the handsome, charming and dissolute Burgo Fitzgerald, and towards an eminently suitable marriage. But Glencora found Plantagenet stiff and boring, and he seemed to find her frivolous and silly. She told herself that she was still in love with Burgo, and she dreamed of running away with him.

Trollope brings together these stories, stories of three very different women, beautifully. Their situations have similarities and they have differences, and they all have to make decisions about the future, about which path they will take; decisions made difficult by conflicts between family duty, social acceptance, personal principles and their own happiness.

He managed every element of the plot, he attended to every detail. My only, minor, criticism would be that there were moments when he overplayed the comedy.

It was fascinating to watch the characters become clearer, as I spent more time with them and as circumstances showed different sides of them. The story grew, it became deeper, and I was pulled further and further in.

I loved the contrasts: the comic relief against the serious drama; the steady Alice against the high-spirited Glencora; the good men, Mr Grey and Palliser against the bad men, George Vasnavour and Burgo Fitzgerald. And though I use the words ‘good’ and ‘bad’ because I can’t find better adjectives, but Trollope was much more subtle that that; all four men were fallible human beings, with different strengths and weaknesses.

And I could forgive Alice; though I didn’t feel it was my place to judge her, because she was simply a young woman without a mother to guide her, and she tried to do the right thing but she struggled to know what the right thing was.

I was involved. I cared. Sometimes I knew what would happen, but often I was surprised. I felt so many emotions. And I knew that I would miss this world and these people when the story was over.

There were country houses, there were London streets, their were foreign tours, there was a disputed will, and in the end there would be marriage ….

And Trollope breathed life into it all, into every single thing in this book.

It’s a big book but it didn’t feel like a big book, and I’m already reading another big book, the next book in the series.
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LibraryThing member wealhtheowwylfing
This is the first novel in the Palliser series, and it's about as Victorian as you get. Sexist, classist, racist, peopled with ridiculous characters that are mere caricatures, replete with plot twists that make no sense and social mores that are laughable. Trollope would never write one sentence when he could write a chapter, and never write a chapter when he could write another 50 pages. At 850 pages of very small type, one might assume that some action takes place, or that at least one character might achieve at least two dimensionality, but one would be wrong. Nevertheless, I had a great time reading this novel (though I don't intend to read the other 5 of the series).
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