The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

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Having finished my third epic-length Anthony Trollope novel (the third in the Palliser series), I’m beginning to think I’m not really a fan of Mr. Trollope’s writing style. His novels have wonderfully constructed and carefully developed plots. The characters are well rounded and personable; I feel I know them upon finishing a novel, and therefore it’s fun to see the recurring characters throughout the series. Nevertheless, the novels all seem to miss something spectacular that makes me want to jump up and pull the next one off the shelf.

The Eustace Diamonds (published serially in 1871) concerns different characters from the previous two books in the Palliser series, although Glencora Palliser does have a few cameos in London society (from the first two novels) and Mr and Mrs Grey (from Can You Forgive Her?) appear once. One needn’t have read the first two novels to enjoy this one, as there is no connecting storyline between the three novels.

In The Eustace Diamonds, lying and scheming Lizzie Greystock manages to secure a rich, ailing husband. When he dies, she, as dowager Lady Eustace, claims the Eustace family diamonds as her own, creating a scandalous scene in London society. With her good looks, she also works on ensnaring a second husband, courting four or five eligible gentleman in her quest for social acceptance. She is careful to work everything to her favor, and as a reader, one cannot but despise her tricky ways. Matters concerning the necklace are complicated over time, adding a degree of intrigue into the situation.

Meanwhile, her cousin Frank Greystock becomes a part of the mess. For most of the novel, I liked Frank Greystock.  He was a well rounded character in that he was both likeable and he had plenty of failings. There was one particular time when I wanted to hit him, and promptly Anthony Trollope, in his signature way, gave the reader a lecture as to why we should not judge the characters in novels for doing things people do in real life. Thank you, Mr. Trollope, for dictating how I should read the novel. It was quite interesting timing given my frustrations with Frank at that particular point in the novel.

Frank Greystock’s sweetheart, the impoverished governess Lucy Morris, was a dutiful woman who I sometimes got a little frustrated with. She wasn’t a strong, opinionated Glencora Palliser, nor a selfish woman taking advantage of her situations as was Lizzie Eustace. Rather, given her disadvantaged state of life amidst the rich social scene in London, it probably was quite realistic for her to be submissive. I feel grateful once again that I am not a woman in Victorian London!

The Eustace Diamonds was a satisfying read, although it is difficult to summarize why. Everything wrapped up nicely (almost too nicely) and while I wouldn’t want to spend another 800 pages with Lizzie Eustace, the story we had was enough to feel both satisfied and not overly annoyed. I wish Lizzie Eustace good riddance!

I find myself interested in reading the next book in the series (which returns to Phineas Finn’s story in Parliament), but at the same time I feel exhausted having read Trollope’s take on Lizzie’s story. His style just is not engaging and exciting to me. I feel he’s outlined the characters, plot, and setting almost too carefully to be considered superb. And while his writing is certainly well done given how connected I feel to the characters and the London society described, I feel lectured to as I read. I suspect that Mr Trollope and I will never be best friends.

Reviewed on October 5, 2011

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  • I tried to read one of his novels maybe five years ago and had sort of the same reaction. It seemed interesting and well-written, but something didn’t engage me. I could easily put the book down and not pick it up for months. Then I’d have to reread what I’d already read, and the cycle would start all over. Eventually I gave up and sold the book to Half Price Books.

    • Amanda » I wonder which one you tried? I heard that the Barsetshire books are more fun….and I have this strange interest to FINISH the series that I own. Sigh. I probably should just move on…

  • Oh dear 🙂

    I’ve started rereading the Palliser series for the umpteenth time, and I got through ‘Can You Forgive Her?’ and ‘Phineas Finn’ in about four days each. I love Trollope’s style, his casual asides to the reader, his gentlemanly men and his panoramic view of Victorian England.

    The Barchester Chronicles are good to read as a set, but two later novels, ‘The Way We Live Now’ and ‘He Knew He Was Right’ are meatier, more demanding works. Having said that, I’m just finishing a review of ‘Phineas Finn’, and there are so many things I want to say about it…

    I suppose I just like his style a bit more than you do 😉

  • I admire your perseverance, sticking with an author through three looooong books when you aren’t exactly digging him. I feel like Trollope is an author I would like, but have never actually read anything by him! I picked up a nice Everyman’s copy of The Eustace Diamonds and I thought the first page was very funny, so I think he may have a sensibility that I would enjoy. But, I knew that this was the the third book in a series, so I have vowed to read the other ones first before I read it. I’m just very OCD that way!

    • Steph » It totally doesn’t matter if you read it before the others in the series becasue the only thing that connects the book is a character here and there that appears. LIke a cameo. The first three books don’t need to be read in order. I say, give it a try! CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? is the first of the series and it was also not a favorite for me…I wouldn’t want you to never get to the book you own by starting at the beginning of the series. Anyway, just my two cents.

  • Someone game me five Trollop’s about ten years ago, and I still haven’t read a single one! I started one once, but I only lasted a chapter or two before setting it aside and promptly forgetting it. I think I’ll continue to not read him. 🙂

  • How interesting that you like all the separate components of Trollope’s writing, but don’t love his stories themselves. I always wonder when things like that happen- what is that indefinable “something” that makes it wonderful?

    • Aarti » Yes, there is something that didn’t resonate with me. It’s too bad, because he wrote lots of books and I feel interested in reading them! I wonder if any of them will have that “special something”.

  • Well, now I’m interested in reading Trollope. Funny how a well-written but ambivalent review of book can pique one’s interest. I want to experience your sentiments for myself! Thanks:)

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