The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope

The Small House at Allington

But they were all very happy, and were sure that there was safety in their happiness. p. 640

Such a lovely, gentle book. At first, I took issue with it that almost half of September had passed before I turned the last leaf. But then I was reminded, by wise readers with whom I blog, that good books take the time required. It is bad books that ought to be rushed through.

Trollope writes with the wisdom of an omniscient narrator, able to disclose the weakness of his characters with a discerning and gentle eye. He uses a term – hobbledehoyhood – to describe the stage of a boy growing up, and while this book may have been written in 1864, I can clearly see my own beloved son just now leaving this stage at 24 years of age.

Ah, but Johnny Eames is my favorite character in all the book. He thoroughly thrashes Adolphus Crosbie at the Paddington Railway Station, and well he should for all the wrong Crosbie has done to the lovely Lily Dale. Yet he saves Earl De Guest from the attack of a bull in his very own pasture, thereby earning himself an abiding affection from the earl. It takes a lot of work to grow up, apparently, to become a man, and John is not to be rewarded with Lily’s hand in this particular book. It’s enough to make me buy the final book in the series, The Last Chronicle of Barset, to see if they do in fact get together.

I leave this novel, and my post, with favorite passages I highlighted on the way. Perhaps they will give you an idea of the charm within its pages.

~Let her who is forty call herself forty; but if she can be young in spirit at forty, let her show that she is so. (p. 27)

~Why is that girls so constantly do this–so frequently ask men who have loved them to be present at their marriages with other men? There is no triumph in it. It is done in sheer kindness and affection. They intend to offer something which shall soften and not aggravate the sorrow that they have caused. “You can’t marry me yourself,” the lady seems to say. “But the next greatest blessing which I can offer you shall be yours; you shall see me married to somebody else.” I fully appreciate the intention, but in honest truth, I doubt the eligibility of the proffered entertainment. (p. 114)

~It is very hard, that necessity of listening to a man who says nothing. (p. 140)

~The little sacrifices of society are all made by women, as are also the great sacrifices of life. A man who is good for anything is always ready for his duty, and so is a good woman always ready for a sacrifice. (p. 157)

~Last days are wretched days; and so are last moments wretched moments. It is not the fact that the parting is coming which makes these days and moments so wretched, but the feeling that something special is expected from them, which something they always fail to produce. (p. 176)

~How many of us are like the bull, turning away conquered by opposition which should be as nothing to us, and breaking our feet, and worse still, our hearts, against rocks of adamant. (p. 263)

~Love does not follow worth, and is not given to excellence; nor is it destroyed by ill-usage, nor killed by blows and mutilation. (p. 387)

And here, I give a heartfelt thanks to Audrey, JoAnn and Lisa who kindly invited me to join their read-along. It was enriched on Twitter with so many comments and exclamations of surprise, as well as tender remembrances of fond characters met in the earlier novels. I came to the party late, but it was good to be included in the festivity, and to have my first taste of Trollope. What a sweet soul he is.

Sunday Salon: Of Small Houses and Things Far Far Away

TheSmallHouseatAllington-copyI’m bound and determined to finish The Small House at Allington, book five in the Chronicles of Barsetshire, by Anthony Trollope today. Its interest to me waxes and wanes, at times most achingly slowly. I was thrilled to be invited by Audrey to join her, JoAnn and Lisa in a read along, for my favorite part of blogging these days lies in shared reads. I was also eager to discover Trollope for myself. But, this may be my first and last book of his unless the current feeling I have is suddenly thrust aside in a flash of excitement.

I’m in the mood for something darkly autumnal, actually, and when I received an email from Penguin RandomHouse audio about Far Far Away I had to pursue the trail laid out before me. Incredibly, our library had this version of the novel, and I was spared paying $55.00 for a copy of my own. Which I probably wouldn’t have done without some assurance of its worth beyond the publisher’s promise.

JoAnn is particularly fond of audio books, but it’s not something I excel at. I’ve enjoyed listening to the National Short Story nominations broadcast on the BBC during my drive to work. But they are short, approximately thirty minute segments, which don’t require a huge amount of effort on my part to stay awake. For the end result of listening to an audio book is the overwhelming desire I have to fall asleep. (Even if the voice is that of Colin Firth reading The End of The Affair which was my first gift from audible.com)

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But, Far Far Away promises to be an intriguing ghost story read by W. Morgan Sheppard who has a magnificent voice. It is a novel which has been a National Book Award finalist and an Edgar Award finalist. It is described on the publisher site as this:

‘A dark, contemporary fairy tale in the tradition of Neil Gaiman.

Jeremy Johnson Johnson hears voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next.

But Jacob can’t protect Jeremy from everything. When coltish, copper-haired Ginger Boultinghouse takes a bite of a cake so delicious it’s rumored to be bewitched, she falls in love with the first person she sees: Jeremy. In any other place, this would be a turn for the better for Jeremy, but not in Never Better, where the Finder of Occasions—whose identity and evil intentions nobody knows—is watching and waiting, waiting and watching. . . And as anyone familiar with the Brothers Grimm know, not all fairy tales have happy endings.

Veteran writer Tom McNeal has crafted a young adult novel at once grim(m) and hopeful, full of twists, and perfect for fans of contemporary fairy tales like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Holly Black’s Doll Bones. The recipient of five starred reviews, Publishers Weekly called Far Far Away “inventive and deeply poignant.”‘

So, that is what I’ll be reading/listening to next as the autumn leaves tumble and crunch on the path outside my window, beneath an ever darkening sky pulling us toward October’s end. Are you reading anything wonderfully eerie before German Lit Month begins in November?