Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Eustace Diamonds: Review
The Eustace Diamonds (1873) is the third novel in Anthony Trollope's Palliser series. However, this is the first Trollope novel I've read--picked out initially for the jewel in the title to fulfill part of the What's in a Name Challenge. I didn't find that stepping into the series in mid-stream hurt my understanding of the book at all. There weren't any references to people or incidents that weren't made clear in the work itself.
According to the blurb on the back of the book, this novel "bears all the hallmarks of [Trollope's] later works, blending dark cynicism with humor and a keen perception of human nature. Following the death of her husband, Sir Florian, beautiful Lizzie Eustace mysteriously comes into possession of a hugely expensive diamond necklace. She maintains it was a gift from her husband, but the Eustace lawyers insist she give it up, and while her cousin Frank takes her side, her new lover, Lord Fawn, declares that he will only marry her if the necklace is surrendered. As gossip and scandal intensify, Lizzie's truthfulness is thrown into doubt, and, in her desire to keep the jewels, she is driven to increasingly desperate acts."
This was an interesting read. I find Trollope to be somewhere between Jane Austen and Charles Dickens for me--with Jane being the higher end of literature. Trollope's characters are well-drawn, realistic and believable. In fact he did such a good job of representing Lizzie Eustace a s a grasping, lying, cheating, social-climbing wench, that I can assure you I would have no desire to be introduced to her when out in society. I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Although I do think Lizzie is getting a bit of karma thrown her way, I would have appreciated a better resolution with respect to the diamonds. But I guess we can't have everything we want.
One other quibble...as with many novels from this time period, The Eustace Diamonds was originally printed in installments--which meant the reading public had to wait a long time to find out what happened next. I appreciate Penguin Classics desire to present the work in precisely the form that readers in the Victorian era would have received it....except that doesn't exactly work. I've got it all in one volume...so rather than having to wait weeks or longer to read the next bit, I was able to plow on through. This meant that the "reminder" passages which were intended to help the Victorian reader remember what had taken place previously really began to irritate me. Whole passages that had just appeared two or three pages ago would suddenly reappear. Minor quibble. Over all an interesting character study of how far one woman will go to hang on to what she has convinced herself is rightfully hers. Three and a half stars.