02 November 2011

Book Review: Phineas Finn by Anthony Trollope

Phineas Finn is the second volume of the six-volume Palliser series by Anthony Trollope. Just as the  Barsetshire series is Trollope's extended depiction of life in and around the church, the Palliser series is his extended look at the political milieu at the time. I am a huge fan of the Barsetshire books, but it is still too early to say what I think of the Palliser books. I quite liked the first volume: Can You Forgive Her? (I could and I did), but overall I was much less enthusiastic about Phineas Finn. It has all the tell-tale signs of a Trollope novel: social intricacies, matrimonial machinations, and lots of talk about how much people live on per annum. Truth be told, the discussions about the incomes of various characters is probably the thing I like best about Trollope. Like a Victorian era spread sheet in narrative form. I love the details.

Yes, but what does this have to do with Casey Kasem?
And of course as with many a Trollope novel issues of income invariably also deal with issues of the plight of women and their state-forced reliance on men. I wonder if Trollope is an accidental feminist or if he really did ponder the gender inequity of his day? Although, how archaic and interesting this week to read that the Commonwealth has finally voted to change the line of royal succession. If ratified by each of the member countries the British line of succession will finally allow the crown to pass to the eldest child of the monarch regardless of gender. This would take Anne, the Princess Royal from being 10th in line to being 4th in line (after Charles, William, and Henry). Which makes me want to imitate Casey Kasem..."this week in the countdown, the Princess Royal moves up to the number four spot which brings us to our long distance dedication of the week...

Casey Kasem
In the end, Phineas Finn, was not as enjoyable for me as the Barsetshire series because of the politics. It was just old enough and foreign enough to me that I often found myself confused. After a time of trying to figure it all out I just decided that part didn't matter and I should just focus on the relationships and who makes what. Even then, I had a hard time really believing in Phineas' professed love for the woman he eventually marries. It didn't quite fit for me. I am, however, looking forward to see how it turns out in the fourth volume which is called Phineas Redux.

It you haven't read Trollope start with the first of The Warden, the first
of the Barsetshire novels.

This is the set I own.


  1. The Eustace Diamonds--my fave Palliser novel, or at least the one I return to most often.

  2. nice review thomas ,I ve a set of these I won from oxford press last year really must read them ,all the best stu

  3. I'll give the book a look, but I was excited to see the cover art...it's a Tissot! Do you have any information on how that was chosen for the cover? He is my favourite artist, but I rarely see his work.


  4. I'd recommend 'He Knew He Was Right' - one of Trollope's least turgid novels.

  5. Margaret: I look forward to it.

    Stu: I'd like to see an updated set.

    Beth: I don't know about the cover art. I saw a really big Tissot show back in the 90s. You would have been in heaven.

    Steerforth: I've seen the film version of HKHWR and I don't know how it could be such a thick book. Maybe the film leaves something out.


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