Monday, December 8, 2014

Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories, by Anthony Trollope

Staff Review by Chris Saliba

The great 19th-century master of the novel brings his considerable skills to five Christmas stories.

Anthony Trollope is a giant of 19th-century British novelists, best known for The Way We Live Now. He is also highly esteemed for his series of Barsetshire and Palliser novels that deal with pastoral and political themes. Trollope’s output was prodigious, writing some 50 novels, along with short stories and works of non-fiction.

As a novelist Trollope excelled at delineating the complexities of human relationships, especially between men and women. He is renowned for his psychologically penetrating portraits, examining human motivations. This he achieved with a plain and direct prose style. Of all 19th century writers, Trollope comes down to us as perhaps the most accessible and direct. His style doesn’t seem at all dated.

In this collection there are five relatively long Christmas stories that deal with all the usual themes found in Trollope’s longer fiction. The first and longest story, "Christmas at Thompson Hall", is a comedy gem. A couple staying abroad find themselves in a socially embarrassing situation and try to brazen it out. The story concludes with all being resolved, but only until the last minute. Trying to keep up appearances in 19th century British society leads to all kinds of complications, when telling the plain (if awkward) truth could resolve matters much more effectively.

Other stories explore romantic difficulties between young lovers. One story, "The Two Generals", tackles something unusual for Trollope: the American Civil War.

Fans of Anthony Trollope will find themselves pleased to be back with an old friend in these sympathetic and keenly observed stories. For newcomers to Trollope’s fiction, this is a welcome introduction to a 19th century master.

Christmas at Thompson Hall & Other Christmas Stories, by Anthony Trollope. Published by Penguin. ISBN: 9780143122470  $16.99

To sign up for our monthly newsletter, featuring new releases, book reviews and favourite articles from around the web, click here.