Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Small House at Allington

The Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope

This was my Spin title, and very glad I am that it was.  After reading Savage Continent, a nice story about nice civilized people doing ordinary things and having ordinary problems was just what I wanted!  It was lovely to sink into this novel.  It's the 5th Barsetshire novel, though it's actually set in the next county over; almost none of the action takes place in Barsetshire.

The Small House at Allington is sort of a little dower house attached to the much larger manor of Allington.  It is occupied by Mrs. Dale and her two daughters Bell and Lily, who live there because their uncle owns Allington.  He is fond of the girls and, under his patronage, they are able to have a bit more social life than their straitened circumstances would otherwise allow, but they do not expect to marry wealth or anything like that.  They are thoroughly nice middle-class girls.

Bell has no particular prospects of marriage--well, they thought the local doctor might like her a couple of years ago but nothing came of it.  Lily, meanwhile, has met a rather dashing friend of her cousin's, and has become engaged.  Mr. Crosbie is a high-class sort of secretary in London and very popular.  He loves Lily (and she loves him unabashedly), but he's rather like Mr. Willoughby, always sighing for what he hasn't got whether it's money or love.  Worried that he will be trapped by poverty if he marries a penniless girl and has to live on his 'paltry' 800 a year, he drops Lily in favor of an earl's equally penniless but socially-connected daughter.  He does this knowing that Lily is the better person and that he's making a bad bargain.

Lily has a strange reaction to this.  Yes, her heart is broken, and yes, she's trying to get over it; but otherwise she has some serious problems.  Meanwhile, there are lots of other people having interesting problems too.  Bell is being pressured to marry her cousin.  John Eames, a poor young clerk, might be up-and-coming but the one thing he truly wants is the one thing he can't have. 

Although this looks like a comedy novel which will land everyone in their proper places by the end, it really isn't.  Some of the story lines just stop short; Trollope says "I know you want a happy ending, but you're not going to get it!"  Others tie up satisfactorily.  It's a darker novel than you might expect.

I'm looking forward to reading The Last Chronicle of Barset!  I really like Trollope.


7 comments:

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

He reminded me so much of Willoughby too! I just can't imagine never getting over a man who was that selfish. I can't wait to read the final book though!

Jean said...

Me too! I have it on my shelf and everything.

Brona Joy said...

Oh these books sound like just my thing! I really must read Trollope sooner rather than later.
Inspiring review - thanks :-)

Jean said...

Oh, you should. He really is way more interesting than I thought.

eclecticali said...

I've never read Trollope, but now think I should give him a try! It sounds like an intriguing book

JoAnn said...

I've only read a couple of Trollope's books, but really enjoyed them both. Am considering Chronicles of Barsetshire series as a project next year.

Jean said...

That is a great idea! I kind of wish I had done it.