Sunday, December 23, 2007

Are ye bettin' men?

The waters of Beepy's Lagoon have been a little rough lately and, sadly, the last big wave washed away my crate of books. Luckily, I had The Duke's Children tucked in a little waterproof flap under my flipper and am, therefore, not left totally bereft of books. As I imagined reading and rereading the same book for the rest of my sorry-sea existence (as wonderful as Trollope might be), a tiny ship dropped anchor and a strange little man emerged. He explained that he was in charge of the vessel and asked if he could be of assistance. It turns out that the ship was "Cap'n Ahab's BookMOBYle" and for the price of a kelp meal for her crew, I could have two books delivered to my favorite rock each week. I readily agreed.

That's 2 books a week, 8 books a month, 24 books a season, 104 books a year. Not much to some maybe but am I, bleary eyed, sleep obsessed, lazy manatee that I am, up to it? Place your bets now folks. Winners will receive a free meal of their choice come January 1, 2009.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Before I get a late night drunken phone call from a rather "puckish" character and end up with shattered eardrums and plunging self esteem, let me explain what I meant by not adoring The Duke's Children.

First of all, this book is, I believe, the fifth in a series. I've not read those that came before. Although that is not necessary to understand the action in this story, there is a lot of background in the characters' lives that I don't know. The editors have done their best to fill in the missing information with textual notes, but that's not enough for me. I'm curious, I guess. For example, I'm told that the Duke had his doubts about Mrs. Finn's motives in befriending his wife, but by the time this story starts he is over them. However there is still an underlying discomfort and I just don't understand it; it all took place in a previous novel. A minor problem, sure, most readers probably wouldn't even care, but I do. I want no secrets from my big, fat, Victorian novels.

Over that (almost), I read on and encounter more rocky ground. Like most manatees, I can't tell a Whig from a Tory and there's a lot of political babble in this novel. Lord Silverbridge, naughty son number one, is running for Parliament and his father does not approve of his political views. I am so lost that the surrounding waters could be the Gobi desert. I know it's a fault in my reading abilities, but when Trollope starts talking politics, I start thinking about whether the devil really does wear Prada.

Ditto, Major Tiptoe and horse racing.

However, when Trollope starts talking about the relationships between father and offspring, offspring and romantic partners, romantic partners and their rivals, my interest perks right back up. Silverbridge, with his father's blessing, sort of proposes Marriage (yes, I meant the capital "M") to Mabel Grex, a poor but well bred young woman. Mabel Grex is sort of in love with Frank Tregear. Frank Tregear used to love Mabel Grex (but they are both poor so tough luck to them) but now is engaged to Mary Palliser. Mary Palliser is the sister of Lord Silverbridge. Her father does not approve at all of her engagement. Oh yeah, it's the girly stuff that gets to me. All I need is an illicit affair or an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and I'll be over the moon.

That is all I have for today. But tell me what you're reading. I really want to know!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Missing Picture

When bad things happen to good Dukes

The Duke has three very naughty children. The eldest son, Lord Silverbridge, is the naughtiest. In fact, he's a bit like the George W. Bush of Trollope's time. Backed by a wealthy, politically savvy family, he finds himself elected but would rather just spend time at his club, eating fancy food and smoking fine cigars. He'd really like to know what is being debated on the floor but it's just too hard to follow along. Perhaps someone can explain it to him later.

In addition, his naughtiness extends to his friends. Under the influence of Major Tifto (hereby referred to as Major Tiptoe because it amuses me) he bets on horses and loses a great deal of money. Oh, and he owns the horses he bets on (does that make it better or worse - I can't decide.) He asks one woman to marry him because he feels he ought to and then falls in love with another.

Oh, he is a bad seed.

The younger son, Gerald, is well on his way to naughtiness as well. He has been thrown out of University (following in the footsteps of Lord S.) because he was attending a forbidden horse race and got caught. (Maybe he's George W. I can't decide.) Neither he nor his brother are too upset by this and indeed celebrate with salmon and kidneys after a long night of drinking.

A bad seed as well.

You'd think with these two as brothers, Lady Mary would have a free ride with dear old dad. But Mary is also very, very naughty. She has given her heart (but only her heart) to a penniless Joe. This Daddy Duke can not forgive. He can't think where he has gone wrong with her. Has he not impressed upon the girl that money is everything when it comes to marriage? But she insists on being true to her love and in classic Victorian style is sent off to quietly desiccate in the home of some elderly friend or relative (in this case Lady "Catnip" or Cantrip as Trollope insists on calling her.) Having been so pawned off myself when I fell for Steve back in 187-, I have the most sympathy for her. Still, a very bad seed, I think.

I am also being very naughty. Steve would have me love this book, but I am falling short of his desires.