Last Update 8/7/22

Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope, 1858 

Third in the Barset series. This one is mostly about the love affair between the son of an impoverished member of the nobility and an illegitimate young woman raised by her uncle, the local doctor. The plot holds no surprises. As soon as we learn about the fortune accumulated by one of her mother’s relatives – who does not know her identity – we know that she is going to inherit it and thereby make the marriage not only possible but favorably viewed even by those who were previously opposed. The obsession with money and class is rarely portrayed as skillfully as in this case, however, and despite being a very long novel, it goes by with remarkable speed. 8/7/212

Reginald in Russia by Saki, 1910

Saki (H.H. Munro) wrote a second collection of sketches about a roguish character named Reginald, this time focusing on his visits to pre-revolutionary Russia. They have somewhat stronger plots than the first volume, although most are still not really stories as we use the term today. The prose is much more readable and the quick wit and inventiveness of his later work shows itself developing with these. His next book was really the effective launch of his career but these are still interesting and occasionally amusing. 7/29/22

The Bertrams by Anthony Trollope, 1858

This is not part of either of the author's two series, although it shares some minor characters in cameos. Two young men who grew up together live very different lives. One is trapped in a career as a vicar and is dominated by his mother and sisters, unable to marry. The other is brilliant but unfocused and falls in love with a beautiful woman, who declines to marry him until they have sufficient money, which she acknowledges will likely take years. Her beau has a rich uncle, but the older man believes that money is not valued unless it is earned. The young man more or less agrees and they are all friends in their misery until a series of setbacks leads to a break. The vicar meanwhile cannot marry the woman he loves for similar reasons. Everything comes out all right in the end, but I found myself disliking some of the people whom Trollope apparently thought I should admire. 7/25/22

The Vanished Legion by Donald Keyhoe, Age of Aces, 2011

Donald Keyhoe is best remembered for his UFO nonsense, but he wrote lots of pulp adventure fiction. This large volume collects all nine of his novelettes about the Vanished Legion, a group of men seriously injured during World War I who were reorganized into an elite strike force after they were officially declared dead. They thwart the evil enemy in various ways, but all of them involve major gun battles. Keyhoe was not untalented but these stories mostly feel like variations of the same theme with little new to genre fans. 7/21/22

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines by John Burke, Pocket, 1965

This is the novelization of one of my favorite movies. Burke, who has written other novelizations as well as SF and horror, does an above average job. In addition to the movie plot, which is a humorous look at an early and improbable air race, with a cast of idiosyncratic characters and strange machines. Burke adds detail that fits in well with the original material, and while the movie is still better, the book is an enjoyable experience in its own right. Most novelizations are not. 7/17/22

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, 1857

The second Barset novel has another struggle between factions of the Church of England, this one with even higher stakes. Much of the tension results from people refusing to listen to what others are saying and imposing their own prejudices and avoiding any opportunity for a simple explanation. This is, alas, endemic in our society even today. The book was almost never published because it was considered too crude. Everything turns out well in the end. The chief villain was played by Alan Rickman when it was brought to the screen and I have ordered a copy. 7/11/22

The Warden by Anthony Trollope, 1855 

First of the Barset series. I read and enjoyed this in high school, and I liked it this time as well. The conflict is around a will that splits a legacy between a charity and its administrator, a church official. A local agitator raises a question about the equity of the split, and that results in a legal battle that is eventually superseded by a moral one. No one on either side gains much in the end, and arguably most of them have lost a great deal. Trollope’s paternalism is a bit hard to swallow, but within the context of his story it is a reasonable stance to take. Good intentions do not always result in good results. 7/1/22

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