It’s my pleasure to welcome Anthony Trollope to my site as a part of the Anthony Trollope Classics Circuit. Today Mr. Trollope is also visiting It’s All About Books with The Way We Live Now and nomadreader with thoughts on The Warden. See the schedule to see where else he’s visited this week, and if you are interested in participating, sign up for the next tour on the Ancient Greek Classics.
Phineas Finn is a young Irish law student studying in London when a family friend gives him a unique opportunity: a chance to stand for election to Parliament. Phineas Finn: The Irish Member, the second in the “Palliser” novel series by Anthony Trollope, chronicles Mr. Finn’s first five years of political development and personal growth in the high society of British politics.
Although my first Trollope experience, Can You Forgive Her? (thoughts here) left me a little bit cold, reading the second of the novels in the series has warmed me to the first novel. I’m glad to say that I enjoy Trollope, and I anticipate that at some point I’ll reread Can You Forgive Her? to get the full picture again.
Phineas Finn is a novel about personal convictions (Can a politician be honest? Can he be true to himself?). It’s also a novel about British society, especially about the integral role political thought relates to daily life from the upper class to the lower classes. And, much like the first in the Palliser series, it’s about the relationships Victorian women have with the men in their lives and with the politics from which they are shut out. Just as Can You Forgive Her? has strong women, Phineas Finn has a few strong women taking charge of their lives and opportunities. They were my favorite characters.
Phineas Finn, on the other hand, is a character I am uncertain about. He was a very approachable and personable politician, and I wanted to like him. But, as he flitted from one love interest to another, I found him a bit insufferable. I disliked his attitude towards woman, much as he tried to be liberal and progressive. In general, he was an annoying man to read about. It made me wish to be reading the inner workings of Alice Vavasor’s mind again!
I loved seeing the overlapping characters from Can You Forgive Her? Although this is called a “sequel”, it is a bit more of a parallel sequel, since few characters overlap between the novels. Yet, whenever one of the familiar persons from the first novel appeared, I felt like I was meeting a friend. Glencora Palliser is still a favorite of mine, and I look forward to reading more about the Pallisers in general. (I read summaries on the web and that got me even more excited!)
The novel has a fair amount of political discussion, and the introduction, endnotes, and character listing in the Oxford World Classics edition I own clarify the context for the uninitiated reader, like me. However, I should clarify that I didn’t reference the notes or the introduction until I finished the entire novel. In fact, I read the novel on an ereader.
Given my stress level at this time of year, I let go of any semblance of scholarly reading. I approached it as the novel that it is, and let the details (the names, the political discussions, and the unfamiliar Victorian context) wash over my head. I’m pleased to say that I didn’t like the book any less for that. For, despite the political setting, discussions and background, Phineas Finn is not about politics so much as it is about people, and that is what made me so glad I’d given Trollope another chance.
Please note that I do apologize that my Classics Circuit post is later today than anticipated. I had a home internet connection problem that needed my husband’s attention and my son came home from preschool yesterday with a nasty cough that has left him miserable and needy. It’s just one of those weeks months, apparently.