Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 · Books

Reading Challenge 2017: First Book Review

The first book I read for the Reading Challenge is authored by my favorite, Anthony Trollope. I actually downloaded the book to my Kindle and began reading it in December. I was looking for some fun reading and hadn’t planned to include it in the 2017 Challenge. But December is a very busy month and I didn’t make it past the first few chapters. When I saw that romance was one of the categories for the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2017 I knew this book would be perfect.

He Knew He Was Right was published in serial form from 1868-1869. It is mainly the sad, tragic story of the marriage of Emily Rowley and Louis Trevelyan. The “He” in He Knew He Was Right is Trevelyan. He knew he was right, completely convinced that he was right, and lived by his conviction that he was right … no matter what.

Louis and Emily are married about two years and have a son, also named Louis, when the trouble begins. Colonel Osborne, a man who has known Emily since she was a baby, and who is actually a few months older than her father, begins to associate with Emily. Louis is not at all happy about this and makes it clear to Emily that he wants her to have nothing to do with him. But from her perspective, Colonel Osborne is an old family friend, and how could her husband not trust her? She is much offended by his attitude!

It was, moreover, well known in London, –though not known at all to Mrs. Trevelyan, –that this ancient Lothario had before this made himself troublesome in more than one family. He was fond of intimacies with married ladies, and perhaps was not averse to the excitement of marital hostility. 

Marital hostility did occur. Louis’ jealousy consumed him bringing much suffering both to himself and Emily and it even spilled over to affect others.

I don’t want to give too much away so I’ll leave the details of Louis’s and Emily’s troubles untold and hope that your curiosity will motivate you to read it!

But while their story is being narrated there are a number of side stories going on; other couples in the novel whose romances and “wished for” romances are occurring at the same time. In fact, this book has the most romances of any Trollope novel I’ve read so far. A few of the romances could have been expanded into books of their own.

Following are the possible “couples” whose stories are told…

Nora Rowley, Emily’s younger sister, and Mr. Charles Glascock, son and heir of Lord Peterborough

Nora Rowley and Mr. Hugh Stanbury, journalist writing for “The Daily Record,” a penny newspaper

Dorothy Stanbury, sister of Hugh Stanbury, and Mr. Thomas Gibson, a “minor canon”

Dorothy Stanbury and Brooke Burgess, a clerk in London

Camilla French and Mr. Thomas Gibson

Arabella French and Mr. Thomas Gibson

Caroline Spaulding, an American, and Mr. Charles Glascock

I think I included them all!

This book is also much more than a romance! A number of other topics are explored including women’s rights, and madness (insanity). Women were completely dependent on their husbands, fathers, brothers, or other family members. They had little legal recourse if they were being mistreated. From what I read Anthony Trollope was not a proponent of women’s rights. That may be so, but he certainly portrayed the women in this book with great sympathy and compassion.

This book was less light-hearted and more serious than the other Trollope novels I’ve read so far. Not everyone lived happily ever after as is usually the case. That said, the book contained humor and sarcasm, the little jabs towards some of the characters, and the author spoke directly to the reader in a number of places; all of which makes Trollope novels such fun to read. I laughed out loud a number of times and, as usual, was always looking for someone to read a passage to!

The book left me more introspective than previous Trollope novels as I considered how the story unfolded. There were certainly consequences for actions, with the exception of one character, who, in my opinion, should have had been more severely dealt with. Nevertheless, the book was a page turner, another Trollope book worth your time and attention.

Definitely put it on your list of “to be read” books!


11 thoughts on “Reading Challenge 2017: First Book Review

  1. Great review. I am reading A Trollope title this year, my friend. You are a loyal fan, and I know he is worth any reader's time!
    Thackeray also addresses the reader, and it's very neat.


  2. I don't know about the Trollope title yet. I uploaded some to my kindle. I have a physical copy of The Warden. Do you recommend a title for the first one?
    I have only read Thackeray's most known, I believe, Vanity Fair. And oh, boy, it was loooong. I don't regret having read it, and I don't know if he addressed the reader in his other books, but in hindsight, I probably would have started with another title from him. But it's hard to say. My problem is that I want to read all these authors, and they have so many books, and SO LONG (not that that's bad, but then, we can only read so much). And when we become fans of an author, like you are of Trollope, or I am of Galdos, I want to read more of them.


  3. The Warden is the first in the Barsetshire series. It is very good but you may need to keep google handy to look up all the meanings of the various ecclesiastical terms. I even needed to look up the meaning of “warden” since it has nothing whatsoever to do with a prison! That said, it starts the series off and you are introduced to characters who show up in later books in the series. Mr. Harding, the warden, still holds the place for my most favorite Trollope character!


  4. Agreed that this book takes a much more serious tone compared to some of Trollope' other novels. That is why I loved the bits with Aunt Stanbury so much. She really helped break up the tension when I was reading it.


  5. Absolutely! At first I wasn't so sure about her but after a bit she was definitely stealing the show for me. The moments when Barty Burgess and Aunt Stanbury interacted were fun too.

    I read where Trollope felt this book was a failure because of the main character being the way he was, failing to draw readers towards him. Of course! Who would feel sympathy for his stand?

    I kept feeling how different this story would look in the 21st century. Can you imagine any woman responding like Emily did towards the end?

    Yes, this book surely caused me to do some thinking. And I am so glad I read it!

    Thanks for your thoughts!


  6. LIke David Copperfield, this novel is so great it does not even seem like it’s a thousand pages long. I read it for another challenge earlier this year. The scene that has stayed with me is Trollope’s description of Louis’ hideaway in Italy – with the broken toy in the year, representing his broken marriage, his wobbly mind, and the unhappiness of Little Louis. But also great were Aunt Stanbury, those poor sisters going after Mr. Gibson (“I will stab you!”), and immortal Priscilla Stanbury. I wish Tony had written a novel about prickly Priscilla.

    My review


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