The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope
It seems to me that Anthony Trollope gets short shrift when it comes to discussions of nineteenth century literature. Everyone glowingly speaks of Thackeray, swoons over Dickens, and is impressed by Eliot, but does anyone bother to note Trollope? This man is one of the most successful and prolific authors of the Victorian era and yet few people have read him let alone recommend him.
I’d like this to stop. I just finished reading his The Eustace Diamonds—which is something of a mash-up precursor to The Woman in White, Vanity Fair, and perhaps Emma with some Dickens tossed in—and I enjoyed it immensely.
I’ll admit that I knew little of Trollope before this reading. I had heard of him and for some reason had the idea in my head that he might be Russian and a contemporary of Tolstoy. (Perhaps because they both start with “T”?) I had no sense of his books, his country, or his contemporaries, clearly. Did that matter? No! Perhaps blind is the best way to go into some things. It really increases the likelihood that you’ll discover something wholly new, even if it’s just to yourself. Context is important, but once you start reading, you swiftly know where you are.
Some of the things I’ve grown to love about Mr. Trollope whilst enjoying The Eustace Diamonds include his finely-wrought characters, his narrative style (third-person always and omniscient only when it needs to be), his seamlessly integrated and impressive legal research, and his excellent endings. (It’s plural because there are a few strands of the story he has to tie up by the end of it all.) Not only does the good guy (or girl, in this case) get a hugely deserved happy ending, but the wicked/ambiguous lead gets an equally deserved, comeuppance-filled ending. It isn’t ruin, tragedy, or catastrophe, it’s just pure schadenfreude and exactly what she deserves.
So can we start some kind of pro-Trollope/Trollope awareness movement? He absolutely does not deserve the anonymity he currently has to put up with. Stopping short of a movement, I’d recommend reading The Eustace Diamonds any day. It is not by any means fast-paced, but not one detail is superfluous and I enjoyed reading it over the course of a month or so. Please do give ole Trollope a go and feel free to let me know that I’m crazy and everyone reads Trollope all the time and it’s just my personal tragedy to have lived in a Trollope-free zone my whole life until now.
And thus I’ll just leave you with this Trollopeism: “Book love… is your pass to the greatest, the purest, and the most perfect pleasure that God has prepared for His creatures.” True dat, Trollope.