The Small House at Allington
by Anthony Trollope
The summary of this novel, which I read first, gave away a surprising amount of the story. In all honesty I think Trollope’s novels are less about the plot than they are about the social interaction and moral development of the characters, so it didn’t really bother me.
*Slightly Spoilery Summary*
"Engaged to the ambitious and self-serving Adolphus Crosbie, Lily Dale is devastated when he jilts her for the aristocratic Lady Alexandrina. Although crushed by his faithlessness, Lily still believes she is bound to her unworthy former fiancé for life and therefore condemned to remain single after his betrayal. And when a more deserving suitor pays his addresses, she is unable to see past her feelings for Crosbie.”
The Dale women, Lily and her sister Bell and their mother, were wonderful. At their core all they want is for the others to find true happiness. They are fiercely protective of each other and their wishes. Some of my favorite scenes in the book are when they stand up for the decisions someone in their family has made, without asking any questions of each other. Lily talks to the local doctor, James Crofts, in an effort to secure happiness for her sister. Their mother talks to the girls’ uncle about a potential match but refuses to force or encourage her daughter to make the match against her will. They are strong women who refuse to betray each other for a shot at money or luxury.
I keep finding shades of Austen in all of the Trollope I read. Both authors share similar themes and styles, though Austen's work has a bit more bite. This one reminded me so much of Sense and Sensibility. Bell is like Eleanor, steady and logical. Lily is brasher and reminded me so much of Marianne. She falls in love with an unworthy man, turning down someone who would truly be a great match. Unfortunately for Lily, unlike Marianne she never quite recovers from that love.
The girls’ mother is an interesting character as well. She struggles with whether she's done right by her children, even though they love her dearly. She worries that they are possibly giving up opportunities out of a loyalty to her. It's the endless struggle of any parents, constantly asking yourself if you’re making the best choices for your kids.
The male characters in this novel are a mixed bag. Eames is a worthy man, I found myself rooting for him. The girls’ uncle is harsh and struggles to connect with them. He does love them, but that feeling is wrapped deep within his other layers of formality and stiffness. He has such a hard time conveying his feelings and his actions often come across as obligation instead of love. Crosbie is just a jerk, to put it nicely. I wanted to smack him and he deserved his fate.
Side note: We also get to see Griselda again and it’s a bit tragic to see what her life has become.
One of the books best lines comes from Lily’s mother’s reaction when her daughter is jilted by Crosbie:
“Mrs. Dale had felt in her heart that it would be well if Crosbie could be beaten until all his bones were sore.”
My only real complaint about this one was that I wanted something better for Lily. I wanted her to find love. I wanted her to realize that she deserved someone better than Crosbie. I wanted a happy ending for her because it seemed like the novel was begging for one! It’s definitely not that I think everyone needs to be married to be happy, but it felt like she gave up on pursuing any happiness in some misplaced sense of loyalty for a man that didn’t deserve her.
BOTTOM LINE: Another delightful read. It’s not my favorite of the series, but I once again enjoyed being lost in Trollope’s world of Barsetshire.
Up next on the schedule:
I’m skipping September because I will be out of the country for half of it. In October I’ll be reading the sixth and final book in the series. I hope you’ll join me!
October: The Last Chronicle of Barset
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