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» » The Way We Live Now (Wordsworth Classics)
The Way We Live Now (Wordsworth Classics)


Anthony Trollope


The Way We Live Now (Wordsworth Classics)


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Wordsworth Editions; New Ed edition (February 5, 2004)







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The Way We Live Now (Wordsworth Classics) by Anthony Trollope

With an Introduction and Notes by Peter Merchant. Canterbury Christ Church College.

The tough-mindedness of the social satire in and its air of palpable integrity give this novel a special place in Anthony Trollope's Literary career. Trollope paints a picture as panoramic as his title promises, of the life of 1870s London, the loves of those drawn to and through the city, and the career of Augustus Melmotte. Melmotte is one of the Victorian novel's greatest and strangest creations, and is an achievement undimmed by the passage of time.

Trollope's 'Now' might, in the twenty-first century, look like some distant disenchanted 'Then', but this is still the yesterday which we must understand in order to make proper sense of our today.

This was a riveting novel, for reasons I did not expect. I gave it 4.5 stars and not 5 simply because I felt it stretched on a bit long and was quite repetitious in certain areas. Watching the cast of characters (a sorry lot of reproachable and generally dissolute people) slog through their corrupt and embarrassing problems was very interesting. I kept waiting for the ground to begin to erode beneath “The Great Man” Melmotte, or the absolutely despicable Felix Carbury, to name only two. There is one stellar exception to the dismal personalities in the book, and that is Sir Roger Carbury, who is a voice of reason in the midst of utter foolishness. I also felt rather deeply for Georgiana Longstaffe, even though her background and values were nothing hugely admirable. Definitely worth reading, and I think most readers will see parallels between the 1870s and the 21st century, since people are still living well beyond their means and deceiving themselves about it.
The late nineteenth century story of a well to do con man who out of vanity runs for political office based on his perceived wealth even though he knows absolutely nothing about government. The story chronicles all of the poor saps who are pulled into his circle and the various falls they take as a result. Of course, in typical Trollop style, there are ample humorously tragic sub-plots as well. It's a very engaging read. I really enjoyed it.
This is one of the best of Trollope's novels. It is set in the late Nineteenth Century (1870s) when things are changing and people, some at least, live differently than in earlier times.

For one thing there is Lady Carbury, widowed and trying to supplement a small income by writing novels of all things! She has a son, Sir Felix Carbury, who is the complete lout. There is not much new in his case. He has squandered his own inheritance in drinking and gambling at cards, and is the near-ruin of two women in the story. His sister Hetta is a beauty and of course in a Trollope novel is pursued by two men. Hetta's rejection of the rich and steady man against all family advice is perhaps not new, but it is something that happens more frequently in "modern" times.

The really new thing is the appearance of a modern financier, Mr. Melmotte. He uses leverage, watered stock and ponzi-like schemes to build a huge house of financial cards (think Bernie Madoff et al.). He entertains the visiting Emperor of Japan and English royalty and gets himself a seat in the House of Commons. Along the way he fleeces the old landed aristocracy represented by Mr. Longstaffe whose daughter Georgiana is particularly afflicted. Georgiana is of marriageable age but when her father must lose his house in London (due to Melmotte's scheming) Georgiana has no access to the London marriage market. She first contemplates marrying a rich Jew but family outrage puts a stop to that. Ultimately she is left with no better choice than to run off with an impoverished curate.

I won't say what becomes of Melmotte, but it's dramatic.

As an author who can develop and write wholly believable and interesting characters I rate Trollope on the top tier, along with Austen and Tolstoy. Other really excellent novels by Trollope include "Barchester Towers," "Dr. Thorne," "Can You Forgive Her," "The Eustace Diamonds," "Phineas Finn," "Phineas Redux," "The Prime Minister," and "The Three Clerks," at least these are my favorites.
Trollope's magnum opus, according to many. The Guardian included it in a list of the 100 best novels in English.
Most of Trollope's work was big, and some of it quite great. Anyway, I always find him enjoyable, if sometimes too much stuck in unwinding the knots of his plots. Those pains often spoil the last 50 to 100 pages. The master didn't master the art of brevity and omission.

The plot driver of this big novel (100 chapters!) is a financial swindle about a big American railway project and the related fundraising in London society. Trollope shows himself quite the psychologist on the subject of financial confidence tricks, and of public reactions to them. A solid amount of anti-semitism comes into play, and one wonders if Trollope writes as a faithful observer of society, or if he discloses some personal attitudes of his own.
Money worries and match making shenanigans of English aristocrats and landed gentry provide further amusement, as do politics and gambling. Hunting can never fail to happen in Trollope, but is kept a a bare minimum here.

While I enjoyed reading it at a leisurely pace, not too much in one go, I remember that I was emotionally more invested in Trollope's Barchester Series, or in the Palliser novels. Maybe that's because there isn't any really interesting person in this whole long story. Or maybe I am getting too cynical with age anyway.

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