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Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope
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Can You Forgive Her?

by Anthony Trollope

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Palliser Novels (1)

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1,367None5,599 (4.06)1 / 190
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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
I loved the characters (Mrs. Greenow and Lady Glencora especially), and I also loved the witty narrative voice that sometimes reminded me of a less bitchy Austen.

Feminist, but at the same time, very hard on women for the choices that they do make. I have to admit to a bit of disappointment that Alice's reconciliation with John Grey can only come about through her defeat and subjugation. That sucks, even if it does make her happy. I mean, to answer the titular question, yes, I can forgive Alice Vavasor; the men around her are maddening and imperfect in unappealing ways. But forgiving her cousin, her father, or even forgiving John Gray for his smug condescension--well, that's another matter. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
I put off reading this for a long time because I unforgivably confused CYFH? with 'He Knew He Was Right', the mini-series version of which was utterly horrible. I knew they were different, but something just held me back. I even read Phineas Finn before this, which was a real mistake.

CYFH? does what really, really great literature does: asks very difficult questions about life, but in such a way that you don't realize they're being asked, because the thing is just so entertaining. The question, in a much less entertaining form, is not whether you can forgive Alice Vavasour for turning down the genial John Grey; it is whether you ought to or ought not to enter public life, how you ought to think about public and private life in general, and, in the end, why we put up with a world that allows the rich to get all the best things, and shunts the poor off to its margins.

Grey prefers private life, and is very rich. Palliser prefers public life, and is very rich. George prefers public life, and is very poor. Fitzgerald prefers private life, and is very poor. George and Palliser share an idealism about politics, but the realities of their private lives are different enough that (plot spoiler!) Palliser triumphs in private and public, while George loses out in both. Fitzgerald and Grey are both idealistic about private life, but the rich Grey can basically afford to be, while the poorish Fitzgerald cannot, and suffers for it.

By the twentieth century, this plot would have presented George and Fitzgerald as wonderful, kind men trodden down despite themselves by the system; Palliser and Grey would have been evil, evil, evil capitalists. But Trollope knows what should be obvious to anyone with any social conscience: poverty destroys people, and makes us worse than we could be. So George and Fitzgerald (who aren't really that poor in the grand scheme of things, as Trollope is careful to show us) suffer and become vicious; Grey and Palliser do not suffer, and become better men. Just in case you miss the point, the poor man who *does* get the lady ends up as a better person after she starts paying for all his stuff. That's how it works. Stories of virtuous, proud, upstanding impoverished men and women are nonsense.

And that's without even touching on the other side of the three marriage plots, the women, and their own follies, braveries and self-indulgences. And also without touching on Trollope's clear eyed presentation of late Victorian society: there's no need for ideological trickiness here. Everyone pushes in the direction of straight cynicism, because that's what happens when you live these kinds of lives.

One of the best nineteenth century novels I've read--imagine Pride and Prejudice with an extra marriage plot and a greater balance between the problems of men and women. ( )
1 vote stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
It seems that everyone but Alice Vavasor can forgive Alice for waffling over her engagements. (Except for her cousin George, but by the end of the book readers won't care what George thinks about anything!) But can the reader forgive her? Or is it Lady Glencora we're supposed to forgive? Or perhaps even Mrs. Greenow? All three women face similar circumstances. Each must decide which of two men to accept. Will they follow their hearts or their heads? Will they accept or reject advice? Will any choice lead to happiness, or is it just a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils?

I couldn't help comparing Alice to both Anne Elliot in Jane Austen's Persuasion and Lily Dale in Trollope's The Small House at Allington. Both Anne and Alice are motherless with fathers who have largely abdicated their parental responsibilities. Anne follows the guidance of a family friend in deciding whether to accept or reject a suitor, while Alice refuses to be guided by any but her own inclinations. Neither course of action works out well for these women. Alice is better suited for Lily Dale's life than is Lily Dale. She has money of her own and would not be a burden to other family members if she chose not to marry.

Aunt Greenow, recently widowed by a much older wealthy husband, provides comic relief. While she is the master of every situation and everyone does her bidding, she manages to make people think it's their idea to do what she wants them to do. The suspense for the reader is not in what might happen, but in how it will unfold.

Lady Glencora is my favorite of the three women. She may not know much about politics, but she understands people and she isn't easily fooled. My affinity for Lady Glencora is probably proof that I wouldn't have been cut out to be a society wife in Victorian England either.

I read this years ago but remembered very little of it. I was probably too young to appreciate it the first time around. Now I'm eagerly looking forward to discovering the pleasures ahead in the remaining books in the Palliser series. ( )
7 vote cbl_tn | Nov 30, 2013 |
This was a story of three marriages and possibly the vilest literary villain, George Vavasor. Totally devoid of a conscience, or any kind of moral scruples, George is out for no one but himself. Along the way he manages to get himself engaged to be married, twice, to his cousin Alice, one of the most confounding women in literature. Page after page, for 800+ pages she put herself down, full of regrets until I wanted to scream or at least throttle her. In between her engagements to George she was engaged to the extremely marriageable John Grey.

Making up for her shortfalls is the feisty Lady Glencora who, even though we are in the Victorian Age, is not afraid to leave her husband, a rising star in Parliament by the name of Palliser, and her fortune in order to be with the man she should have married, the ne'er do well Burgo Fitzgerald. But my favorite has got to be Aunt Arabella Greenow who married a very wealthy (and very old) man first and now that he's gone and she's rich she doesn't mind taking up with a penniless former military man over the wealthy farmer, Mr. Cheesacre.

But this is Trollope so it is all great fun. Layered between the love stories are the inklings of the political story that will be developed in the subsequent volumes, the intricacies of which are merely hinted at.

Totally delightful, just as I've come to expect from Trollope. ( )
5 vote brenzi | Nov 21, 2013 |
Trollope is so good at (mostly) gentle poking of fun at his society. This book, the beginning of the Palliser Chronicles, is especially aimed at examining the place women are stuck with in Victorian society. How marriages are arranged, how money is controlled, how the upper classes arrange things, and how disaster can so easily crush someone by putting one foot wrong. ( )
  majkia | Nov 19, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bayley, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Skilton, DavidIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, TimothyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Whether or no, she, whom you are to forgive, if you can, did or did not belong to the Upper Ten Thousand of this our English world, I am not prepared to say with any strength of affirmation.
Quotations
She wanted the little daily assurance of her supremacy in the man's feelings, the constant touch of love, half accidental half contrived, the passing glance of the eye telling perhaps of some little joke understood only between them two rather than of love, the softness of an occasional kiss given here and there when chance might bring them together, some half-pretended interest in her little doings, a nod, a wink, a shake of the head, or even a pout. It should have been given to her to feed upon such food as this daily, and then she would have forgotten Burgo Fitzgerald.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140430865, Paperback)

The first novel in Anthony Trollope's "Palliser" series, "Can You Forgive Her?" traces the fortunes of three very different women in an exploration of whether social obligations and personal happiness can ever coincide. This "Penguin Classics" edition is edited with an introduction by Stephen Wall. Alice Vavasor cannot decide whether to marry her ambitious but violent cousin George or the upright and gentlemanly John Grey - and finds herself accepting and rejecting each of them in turn. Increasingly confused about her own feelings and unable to forgive herself for such vacillation, her situation is contrasted with that of her friend Lady Glencora - forced to marry the rising politician Plantagenet Palliser in order to prevent the worthless Burgo Fitzgerald from wasting her vast fortune. In asking his readers to pardon Alice for her transgression of the Victorian moral code, Trollope created a telling and wide-ranging account of the social world of his day. In his introduction, Stephen Wall examines Trollope's skill in depicting the strengths and weaknesses of his characters, their behaviour and inner lives. This edition also includes notes and a bibliography. Anthony Trollope (1815-82) had an unhappy childhood characterised by a stark contrast between his family's high social standing and their comparative poverty. He wrote his earliest novels while working as a Post Office inspector, but did not meet with success until the publication of the first of his 'Barsetshire novels', "The Warden" (1855). As well as writing over forty novels, including such popular works as "Can You Forgive Her?" (1865), "Phineas Finn" (1869), "He Knew He Was Right" (1869) and "The Way We Live Now" (1875) Trollope is credited with introducing the postbox to England. If you enjoyed "Can You Forgive Her?", you might enjoy Henry James' "The Ambassadors", also available in "Penguin Classics".

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:47 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

CAN YOU FORGIVE HER? is the first of the six Palliser novels. In this volume Trollope examines parliamentary election and marriage, politics and privacy. He dissects the Victorian upper class. Issues and people shed their pretenses under his patient, ironic probe. But it is on women and their predicament that Trollope particularly focuses. "What should a woman do with her life?" asks Alice Vavasor. And each woman, being different and unique, has her own answer, from the uncomfortably married Lady Glencora to the coquettish Mrs. Greenow, to Alice's clear-headed cousin Kate.… (more)

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