trying to see the world with my ears
This is my favorite of the Chronicles of Barsetshire. If someone had told me six months ago that I'd ever even pick up a Trollope novel, I would have needed smelling salts. After recently coming across the very clever Trollope Society web site, I thought there must be some merit to the man's works and downloaded The Warden. I enjoyed every book in the series. There's no Dickenesque social problem exposition, but clever observations on human nature, some nice Victorian prose, lots of opportunity to "read between the lines," and for a Victorian man, some protofeminist ideas (but, unfortunately, he wasn't above his era's racism). I still don't think I would "read" Trollope, but I will listen to everything Audible offers for download. (very good narration though the entire series, too)
Felix is not a five, but better than a four. I found Eliot's Middlemarsh, Daniel Deronda, and Adam Bede to be more satisfying reads all round. Like Adam Bede, Felix Holt starts with a great deal of exposition that might put off some listeners --but If you like 19th century British lit and/or social history - or even engaging characters and action in "historical fiction" this (once you are past the opening exposition), is very satisfying. I think it much stronger as a novel and more engaging than Bronte's Shirley, for ex.
If you are new to Eliot, then think Austen meets all the Bronte sisters with a touch of Dickens, and a good bit more implicit feminism.
Once I got into this novel, I couldn't put it down, but "getting into it" took some work. Like other Eliot novels, it began with a good deal of exposition and philosophical reflection, which, in this case, led to me abandoning my first two attemtps to listen. But what a reward for persevering! Eliot's description can transport you to 15th century Florence, and her prose often flows like poetry. Contemporary attempts at historical fiction (like "Pillars of the Earth") come nowhere near Eliot's prose, setting detail, pace, and characterization. Her heroine's "self-abnegation" can put off a modern reader, but in the context of the novel's setting and Eliot's own period, Romola is a feminist!
I don't always like Nadia May's narration, but her style was perfect for this novel and she read it flawlessly.
One flaw in the audio files though - There's a chunk of text missing somehere just before chapter 10 (at the start of hour 3 or 4). Eliot both foreshadows and recaps the missing events, but it was a noticeable gap in the flow of the listen.
Also - this listen will probably send you to Wikipedia to check some of the history and characters mentioned. From what I read, Eliot was faithful to the facts (which are quite exciting). I wish my prof for Renaisance History had put Romola on the reading list - I might have retained something from the course by having it fleshed out by good fiction.
I thoroughly dislike Lady Susan (the woman, not the book) from start to finish. Yet, every time I finish the book, I have to step back and give grudging admiration for this unprincipled, schemer. She got everything she wanted. Lady Susan got the much younger man she craved and got her daughter married into a family who at one time would have scorned to be associated with Lady Susan.
The more I think about the matter, the more I become convinced that the daughter and Lady Susan were executing a clever plot to accomplish their ends. The tears and lamentations of the daughter and the fury of Lady Susan were just part of the scheme, all sound and fury, signifying nothing.
This is a book one loves to hate.