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Timothy West is absolutely perfect as narrator for Doctor Thorne, one of Trollope's very best. West dexterously highlights Trollope's subtle humor and warm stories in a way the printed page cannot. It is a pleasure to listen to his performance and...it is a performance. A love story is the heart of this work but by no means is its muscle and blood. Trollope takes a mighty comic poke at lawyers, business affairs, and politicians. In addition, human frailties and tragedy are important threads woven into the fabric of this tale.
The title of the book could have been Mary Thorne after the heroine, an unusual one for the time: a girl who was born a (using the author's word) bastard, this in a era where birth, blood, rank and wealth was all. As the write up states, the hero, Frank Gresham fell in love with this unsuitable girl. One should point out that the imprudence and follies of his mother, Lady Arabella, had a great hand in reducing the family fortunes to its present state of poverty. Naturally, she had no concept she had any hand in the business and busied herself after the manner of Mrs. Bennet in making good matches for her children...and greatly to the complications of this story, in breaking up unwise ones.
Trollope stories are soap operas no less than Days of Our Lives. There are dozens of major characters who drop in and out of the story as the spotlight falls on this one then that one. The objective is that the story is to continue, after all who wants the story to stop? Not the readers of the serialized Trollope stories or the viewers of today's soaps nor do the writers, sponsors or advertisers; one more installment means one more paycheck for everybody. For instance, Days of Our Lives has been in continuous production for 60 to 75 years since the days of network radio...and Trollope continues also.
Despite many years of reading, this is my first encounter with Anthony Trollope. What a delight! The writing is a blend between Jane Austen and PG Wodehouse - briskly set in 19th century English countryside, filled with engaging and lively, and occasionally flip, characters. Timothy West's narration is perfectly in tune with the story. I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Austen and/or Wodehouse.
Trollope lovers will truly appreciate this reading of Doctor Thorne. Timothy West masterfully brings these ever-interesting characters to life, giving them a depth that highlights Trollope's acerbic comments about life in class conscious Victorian England.
The third volume in Trollope's Barchester Chronicles, is, for the most part, a typical tale of young lovers separated by the rigid class distinctions of Victorian England. Frank Gresham, whose father has mismanaged the family fortune and is on the verge of losing his beloved estate, is expected to marry for money, but he has long loved Mary Thorne, the titleless, penniless niece of the local doctor. It all turns out well for them in the end, of course, as in such novels it usually does; but it's the many sidetracks and delightful characterizations and the way these are all intertwined that make so enjoyable. The perpetually intoxicated Sir Roger Scatchard, for example, a murderer who did his time, made a fortune in the railroads, and was granted a baronetcy, and his lovable, unaffected wife, Lady Scatchard, who enjoyed life much more as a wet nurse. Lady Gresham, who would willingly marry her children to nobodies--as long as they came with enough cash to save the estate. The down-to-earth Miss Dunstable, heir to the Oil of Lebanon fortune, who knows a golddigger when she sees one and encourages Frank to go with his heart. Uber-snob Amelia DeCourcey, who persuades her cousin Augusta Gresham that it is her duty to rejct the proposal of the lawyer, Mr. Gazeby--and then promptly marries him herself. Doctor Thorne himself takes the part of the voice of reason throughout. A rather predictable plot but still an enjoyable read.
The end of this story is predictable from the beginning of this book, but getting there is so much fun. Trollope's slightly jaundiced eye is turned on the small-town aristocracy in this volume of the Barsetshire novels, and just as he dissected the ins and outs of clerical politics in Barsetshire Towers, he dissects the expectations and pretensions of the landed gentry in this volume. Frank, the hero, struggles to maintain his integrity without compromising his responsibility to his family, and Mary struggles to be true to Frank without locking him into a commitment that will destroy his social standing. Dr Thorne, Mary's uncle and guardian, must step cautiously through an obstacle course of conflicting responsibilities. And there are the wonderful supporting cast--Miss Dunstable (my favorite), Louis Scatchard, Lady Arabella Gresham, Mr Moffitt, and the rest.
I just love this book. Absolutely delightful! Masterpiece Theater should adapt this story for the screen.
I know Anthony Trollope loves to wind you up and make the situation as bad as it can possibly be before he finally gives you (and the characters) some relief, but this one takes the cake. The de Courcy family... wow. Good thing we have Miss Dunstable to take our minds off them. This book is filled with lovable characters, too, so it's a lot of fun to read. Timothy West's narration is great, as usual.
Trollope is always a good value in Audiobooks, over 20 hours of a well read story that keeps you glued to the headphones - even though you may have heard it nearly all before in other Trollope stories
.. but so what! I have now completed Trollope's entire Barchester/Barseter series (6 novels) and enjoyed them all. "Doctor Thorne" presents an interesting (and familiar to Trollope fans) story of class vs. wealth and character vs. class. The series chronicles the lives of persons in rural and small towns identified largely by ecclesiastical boundaries in mid-19th century England as it transitioned from the dominance of landed gentry to the rise of wealth and power of industrialists. If you like wholesome stories about the triumph of romance over class and cultural barriers, I highly recommend this series! The narrator, Timothy West, is superb! On to The Pallisers for me!
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