I’m moving right along in the Back to the Classics Challenge. I’ve just finished the seventh book, The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. This book falls under the category of a L O N G book. Yes, very long book, 842 pages, of which 802 pages was the story itself!
I met Anthony Trollope in January when I read two of his books (only one counted towards the challenge). Barchester Towers was the first book I reviewed in the Classics Challenge. And after reading that one and The Warden (the first in a series of 6 books in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series) I became an Anthony Trollope fan.
I found The Way We Live Now in like new condition for a dollar at a library sale in June. I doubt the original owner even opened the book. It is a Barnes and Noble Classics edition with very helpful notes which I made use of regularly.
Being that this book is so long it took me awhile to finish it. I had hoped to have it read by the end of July. And then by the end of August. But finally, a few days ago I finished it and I admit, was a little sad that it was over. From about the middle of the book until the very end I had a hard time putting it down. I would often think about the characters and the story line off and on during the day and would look forward to snatching some free moments to read. That is a sign of a good story, in my book!
The Way We Live Now, published in 1875, is the story of greed and shallowness, shady business practices, the love of money and what people are willing to do to get it. It’s the story of young men who desire to marry wealthy women, just for their money, and the story of young women who desire to marry wealthy men, even if they’re old enough to be their fathers, in order to gain wealth. The story Trollope tells of the young men of the upper class, those men with titles and money (or titles and no money) is disturbing. If he gave an accurate picture of those young men with their laziness, drunkenness, and lack of morals, then it was a very sad state of affairs. Was that really the way they lived then?
There are romances, betrayals, misunderstandings, coddling mothers, very spoiled, indulged, self centered sons, and very naive young ladies. There was one in particular, Miss Marie Melmotte, that I wanted to shake! Can you really not see what’s happening here?
But the spoiled self centered sons were the most frustrating to me, especially, Felix Carbury. To say I could not stand him is an understatement. When Felix received a taste of his “just rewards” I did a little happy dance!
Throughout the story the reader is treated to Trollope’s opinions regarding the characters; little off hand remarks in which he speaks directly to the reader. It’s as if he’s whispering in your ear some little tid-bit about the character. Very fun!
Trollope’s use of sarcasm is in full force in the book. One passage describing the bishop was especially fun. Every member of my family was subjected to my reading of it to them and even a few friends generously indulged me.
Below is a portion of the passage for your entertainment.
“Among the poor around him he was idolized, and by such clergy of his diocese as were not enthusiastic in their theology either on the one side or on the other, he was regarded as a model bishop. By the very high and the very low, — by those rather who regarded ritualism as being either heavenly or devilish, — he was looked upon as a time-server, because he would not put to sea in either of those boats. He was an unselfish man, who loved his neighbour as himself, and forgave all trespasses, and thanked God for his daily bread from his heart, and prayed heartily to be delivered from temptation. But I doubt whether he was competent to teach a creed, — or even to hold one, if it be necessary that a man should understand and define his creed before he can hold it.
… And yet it was observed of him that he never spoke of his faith, or entered into arguments with men as to the reasons on which he had based it.
… He laboured at schools, and was zealous in improving the social comforts of the poor; but he was never known to declare to man or woman that the human soul must live or die for ever according to its faith. Perhaps there was no bishop in England more loved or more useful in his diocese than the Bishop of Elmham.”
The central character who connects all the other characters in the story is Augustus Melmotte. He has a questionable history and rumors abound as to whether his wealth was acquired honestly or otherwise. As his fortunes rise and fall those connected with him are likewise impacted. He is both loved and hated, sought after and avoided depending on the current state of rumors.
The story has a very full complement of characters and some of the them are not too deeply developed. However, the reader is not left with any questions by the end, as to what became of them.
This is definitely a book for your “to be read” pile. It will not disappoint.