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The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope

The Way We Live Now

by Anthony Trollope

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1,673344,286 (4.21)3 / 152
  1. 00
    Money by Émile Zola (littlegreycloud)
    littlegreycloud: Augustus Melmotte, Aristide Saccard, Bernie Madoff: plus ça change...

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English (33)  French (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
"The Way We Live Now" is a victorian novel that takes place in the 1870s. Similar to many novels of that era, it is about the changing times… but with an added twist about financial corruption. A victorian “Bernie Madoff" shows up in London flaunting his wealth and creating as much gossip and intrigue as Jay Gatsby did in Fitzgerald’s novel of New York in the 1920s.

In this novel, the villain's name is Augustus Melmotte - a sociopath with a huge ego. His life goals are to be elected to Parliament, have his daughter marry a Lord, and of course, accumulate as much wealth as possible. He is a swindler and total fraud, wooing society with his ostentatious spending, extravagant entertaining, and arrogant demands for respect and acceptance.

Amidst the smoldering financial scandal, Trollope weaves a satirical tale of London’s upper class society. While the snobby landed gentry are breaking with tradition to fuss over the crude foreigner Mr. Melmotte - hoping that will enhance their own financial situation - the young women in London are having romantic trysts and rebelling against the conventional rule of marrying an appointed suitor. As the plot unfolds, each bold move away from tradition is explained away blithely with statements like the old cliche, “Everyone is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?”, and as though their actions could not be helped, “we belong to a newer and worse sort of world.”

After reading Trollope’s "The Eustace Diamonds” several years ago, I commented in my review that I doubted I would read any other Trollope novels. Despite the amusing plot, I was appalled at the blatant anti-semitism. It was difficult to determine if Trollope himself was anti-Semitic or was merely expressing the sentiments of the elite British society. Then I decided to give him another try with what has been referred to as Trollope’s “opus” - The Way We Live Now. Unfortunately, it was more of the same… distasteful descriptions of the Jewish characters who turn out to be the villains of the novel. There were however, equally disparaging remarks about the American characters as well. Perhaps the British elite were narrow-minded, despising anyone who was not from their own ethnic background.

Trollope did excel in character development and provides the reader with an assortment of richly drawn characters. They range from traditional conservative, stoic Roger Carbury… to his spoiled, rude, over-indulged nephew Felix Carbury who spent most of his time drinking, gambling, and chasing women. There is Ruby Ruggles - the vivacious working class orphan who wants adventure. And Paul Montague who gets entangled with an unscrupulous American widow “those crazy Americans” who is rumored to have killed a man.

Perhaps if I had read "The Way We Live Now" at an earlier time in life, I would have given it the highest rating, but after a while, many of the British period novels seem redundant, and my tolerance for the excessively wordy 800 page literary composition about stuffy Brits, untrustworthy greedy Jews, and suppressed women has pretty much waned for now. ( )
  LadyLo | Sep 13, 2014 |
Read during Summer 2004

I'm not sure I would have made it through the maze of characters unless I had seen the recent miniseries. A sprawling Victorian soap opera and social commentary, heavy handed at times and it was a bit depressing to have the only morally upright character be the priggish Roger Carbury, obessed with his cousin Hetta and intensely petty about his ward's love for her. I was intrigued to see that Paul Montague, Hetta's love was made much more 'good' in the miniseries, except for one glaring change in his trip to Lowestofe with Mrs. Hurtle. The miniseries pulled out the salient points but the depth in the novel made it a good read that might have been deadly on TV. I'm still not sure I'll dig into Barchester Towers in the near future, though.
  amyem58 | Jul 14, 2014 |
The change to Victorian/Edwardian England brought about through the amoral influence of new money. Vices turn virtues - the seven deadly sins are no longer deadly, nor considered evil where selfishness rules. A very long work worth reading. It is good as a retrospective to uncover the beginning of our current poor moral environment. It was meant as a wake-up call, but obviously went unheeded. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
I have been interested in Victorian novels for most of my reading life. Early in that life, before I knew what a Victorian novel was, I fell in love with Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. The other early love of my reading life was for the novels of Charles Dickens that began with a reading of Oliver Twist that so enveloped my imagination that I brought it along in my backpack to Boy Scout Camp in the north woods of Wisconsin. Never mind that there were no merit badges to be had for reading Dickens, or any other nineteenth century author. My life-long infatuation with Bronte and Dickens and my interest in Victorian literature was continued in my teens with the discovery of the novels of Thomas Hardy, especially The Return of the Native. I fell in love with the intelligent Clym Yeobright and his difficult relations with the alluring Eustacia Vye (a love I more recently found that I shared with the fictional Holden Caulfield, perhaps the only thing I shared with him). The sensationalism of Hardy in his novel, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, the education of Pip in Dickens' Great Expectations, and others satisfied my teenage reading desires and furthered me on the road of Victorian literature. It was not until my post-college years that I would come to appreciate the intelligent novels of George Eliot and the later Dickens along with those of Anthony Trollope. It has been during more recent decades that I have included reading and rereading Middlemarch, Bleak House, and the Barsetshire novels in my traversal of Victorian literature.

Most recently I have been reading Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now, a novel written late in his career. Unlike his early novels, this was a critique of the England of his age, including a broad-based attack on Victorian class, finance, politics and culture. Set in the 1870s it tells a story of two families struggling to adapt to the changing times. The Carburys are one family with Roger Carbury, the squire of Carbury Manor, leading them both morally and financially. The other family is represented by a young Paul Montague who becomes entwined in the shady financial dealings of a confidence man named Augustus Melmotte. Financial collapse entraps all of the families in some way and provides a sense of realism as the story is based on real-life events. In some ways reminiscent of the later Dickens' social novels, Trollope's novel is presented as a more realistic slice of life, foreshadowing the turn toward naturalism near the end of the century. Most of the characters are quite unlikable and there is little incentive to sympathize with them when they are taken in by the vulgar predator Melmotte. While there is humor in The Way We Live Now, it is a sharper and darker humor than that which made Trollope's early novels such a delight to read. However, the novel retains a relevance for our own day when financial scandals are still in the headlines. ( )
  jwhenderson | May 24, 2014 |
One of the best books I've read this year, see my full review at: http://livritome.wordpress.com/2013/10/12/trollopes-the-way-we-live-now/ ( )
  gooutsideandplay | Oct 12, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anthony Trollopeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Case, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Let the reader be introduced to Lady Carbury, upon whose character and doings much will depend of whatever interest these pages may have, as she sits at her writing-table in her own room in her own house in Welbeck Street.
In the City Mr. Melmotte's name was worth any money,-though his character was perhaps worth but little.
As for Felix,—he had grovelled in the gutters as to be dirt all over. Nothing short of the prolonged sufferings of half a life coild cleanse him.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140433929, Paperback)

Trollope's 1875 tale of a great financier's fraudulent machinations in the railway business, and his daughter's ill-use at the hands of a grasping lover (for whom she steals funds in order to elope) is a classic in the literature of money and a ripping good read as well.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:13 -0400)

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"Nothing escaped the satirist's whip: politics, finance, the aristocracy, the literary world, gambling, sex, and much else. In this world of bribes and vendettas, swindling and suicide, in which heiresses are won like gambling stakes, Trollope's characters embody all the vices: Lady Carbury, a 43-year-old coquette, 'false from head to foot'; her son Felix, with the 'instincts of a horse, not approaching the higher sympathies of a dog'; and Melmotte, the colossal figure who dominates the book, a 'horrid, big, rich scoundrel ... a bloated swindler ... a vile city ruffian'."--Publisher's website.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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