Stazjia’s Commentary

Books: The Way We Live Now

Posted on: October 14, 2008

The Way We Live Now - from the TV Series

The Way We Live Now - from the TV Series

The Way We Live Now was written by Anthony Trollope and it reads a lot like the script for a modern TV soap. Set in the 1870s, this is one of Trollope’s lesser known novels (he’s most famous for the Barchester Chronicles and The Pallisters).

It’s a satire on Victorian society, particularly the middle to upper classes. There is Melmotte, the Great Financier. Is he a swindler or an astute businessman with the Midas touch? Then there are the young men and women who are looking for a marriage partner. The men without money are only interested in young women who have a personal fortune or whose father is prepared to settle a great deal of money on them when they marry – remember, during this period, a woman usually had little or no control over her own money when she married.

There is one thoroughly decent man, Roger Carbury, although Trollope doesn’t shrink from showing his faults – minor in comparison to many of the other characters. The author’s favourite seems to be Mrs Hurtle, an American woman who comes to London in the hope of persuading her ex-fiance to renew their engagement. She is everything that English women aren’t: forthright, willing to fight for herself and to defy convention. She is also unexpectedly kind to other women when they need kindness.

The author shows how the titled men with few resources, gamble and fritter the little money they have. When they don’t have any, they issue IOUs with no idea how they can pay them.

Although a ‘classic’ Victorian novel, it is easy to read and Trollope does what all good authors should do – he makes you want to read yet another chapter to find out what happens next.

I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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