17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 24 February 2001
This is the third of the Barsetshire novels and the first to leave behind the trials and tribulations of Hiram's Hospital. Typical of Trollope's subtle humour the first literary trick of this book is the title since the Doctor himself, though not exactly a minor character, is in many ways almost an overseer of the plot rather than the true hero of the story. That honour goes to his neice Mary, whose strange origin is the event that underlies the plot. So cleverly does Trollope bring us close to Mary and her plight that he has the reader practically wishing for the death of a character so that Mary's happiness might be secured. This book contains an array of interesting characters, as you would expect from Anthony Trollope, but is a little less complex than some of the "Palliser" and other novels.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
'Dr. Thorne' is the third novel in Trollope's Barsetshire-series, and the first to steer away from Barchester city and the clergymen living there. The action is set in Greshambury, where Doctor Thorne is living with his 'niece' Mary, who is actually the illegitimate child of the doctor's deceased brother. Frank Gresham, son of the local squire, grew up with Mary and, now that he has come of age, is intent on marrying her. Frank's father however is virtually bankrupt, and to save the estate Frank is pushed on all sides marry 'money' and not some penniless orphan, however charming she may be...
Based on this simple plot Trollope tells a beautiful and captivating story. As always his main interest lies with the inner life of his characters, and he records their thoughts, feelings, changes of heart and emotions with infinite care and in great detail. Should Frank follow his heart and marry Mary? Or is that selfish and should he rather think of the reputation (and property) of his family and marry some rich heiress? And even though he has pledged himself to her, should perhaps Mary release Frank from their engagement since their marriage would only bring quarrels and financial ruin for the Gresham-family? With great affection for his characters and often subtle humour, Trollope investigates the implications and myriad aspects of each choice to be made.
'Dr. Thorne' gives one a glimpse into life 'as it was' for the landed gentry in Victorian times, and yet it is also very recognizable and relevant today (often I found myself thinking 'that's exactly how I would have felt'). I was very sorry to reach the end of this book, and afterwards immediately started in 'Framley Parsonage'!
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2006
For this, the third in the Barsetshire series after The Warden and Barchester Towers, Trollope takes us to East Barset, and the home of the eponymous Doctor Thorne. The Doctor is a kind and gentle man, good-hearted and generous, who thinks the world of his niece, Mary. She is in love with Frank, son of the impoverished local landowner, who reciprocates her love. The problem is that Mary is without a fortune, and Frank must marry money. How these difficulties are resolved forms the basis of the novel. Trollope had no time for the mysteries that often lay at the heart of Victorian fiction; he makes it clear just a few chapters in that Mary and Frank will end up happily married, and he is scornful of those writers for whom plot is more important than character - mentioning Mrs Radcliffe by name.
Doctor Thorne is a charming, witty book with much humour. One of Trollope's great strengths is his understanding of character, which leads him to create well-drawn, three-dimensional characters who have both good and bad, dark and light, in their characters. Few people in Trollope are either wholly good or wholly bad. Thus, the Doctor has to endeavour to preserve the lives of not one but two people whose deaths would benefit his niece greatly.
I felt when reading this novel that this is truly where Trollope's world fully develops. Although he wrote forty-seven novels and many other works, including the celebrated Autobiography, the quality never suffered. The reader fully lives with the characters and their milieu, and actually cares about the people, and that, finally, is what the purpose of reading should be.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I have read many of Trollope's novels, but none better than this one. Like so many of his novels, it is the story of thwarted lovers - Mary Thorne, niece of the eponymous Doctor, who has adopted her and brought her up, and Frank Gresham, son and heir of the local squire. But Frank needs to marry for money, his father having squandered most of the family estate, and Mary is poor. It seems that there is no solution to their problems, the world (especially Frank's ambitious mother, Lady Arabella) is consipiring against them, and it looks as though the lovers may have to go their separate ways. Unless, of course, something dramatic happens to turn their fortunes around.
This novel has all the qualities of Trollope at his best; humour, tension, likeable (and not so likeable) charcters, and the author's acute inisght into human beings, with all their failings. A thoroughly enjoyable read.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2013
These latest Penguin English Library editions are very well formatted with thoughtfully designed, substantial covers, quality paper and immaculately printed.
This is the third (after The Warden and Barchester Towers) and so far the best of Trollope's Barchester novels I've read.
His portrayals of the subtleties and nuances of character and the importance of, and relationship between, rank, money and marriage in the rural aristocracy (believed to be Dorsetshire) are exemplary. Trollope accurately emphasises the shades of grey in the generally fundamentally decent people of his novels, with only a few 'baddies' and 'goodies'. Doctor Thorne was Trollope's personal favourite of this excellent series.
Although I read very little fiction, Trollope's classic English novels of 150 years ago are a genuine pleasure.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 19 June 2010
The third Barchester novel sees Trollope drop some of the 'political' intrigue of the previous novels, and focuses instead on the politics of romance and the right kind of marriages. I.E. not marrying outside of your class. Trollope's characterisations are yet again fantastic. You may not like some of these characters but the compassion he shows them, means you understand them. The hero and heroine are a little wet but their resolve to live their lives as they want to gives them a lot of strength. There is also great pleasure in the incidental details, the election campaign, the struggles of the local gentry to find suitable marriages. Best of all is Trollope's voice. He apologises for a boring beginning, for contriving events to turn out the way he wants because he is the writer. Yet, the book still feels 'real'
Telling that more than 150 years after its publication, no Amazon reviewer to date has given this less than 4 stars.
In this entertaining soap opera of life amongst the Victorian upper classes, Trollope creates what is still for the most part a page turner through his detailed exploration of the thoughts and motives of characters who come alive on the page, his realistic, lively dialogues and creation of ludicrously comical situations offset by occasional scenes of real pathos.
It is interesting to learn from Ruth Rendell's introduction to the Penguin Classic version, that Trollope cared only for creating "personages impregnated with traits of character which are known.....in a picture of common life". For him, the plot was of lesser importance, merely providing a vehicle for the cast of players.
The plot is straightforward, apparently suggested by his brother: the Greshams are proud of their "ancient lineage" but the current Squire has managed his finances badly, aggravated by the extravagance of Lady Arabella, the mixed blessing of a wife from the aristocratic De Courcy family. The heir, Frank Gresham, is expected to save the situation by "marrying money" and duly sent off to court the heiress of an ointment manufacturer, but Frank has fallen in love with his childhood playmate Mary Thorne, the penniless niece of Dr. Thorne, with the added guilty secret of being the bastard daughter of his renegade deceased brother.
This is the framework for a social drama which exposes the snobbery and hypocrisy of the Victorian middle and upper classes. It was vital to have "good blood" to be accepted, but a bootmaker's daughter could marry into an aristocratic family if she brought enough money with her. Ironically, their extravagance and parasitic lifestyle made many "great" families dependent on the very lower class people whom they despised for making their money from industry or trade.
Although the characters often seem very modern in their expression of emotion, we see how the now largely neglected concepts such as honour governed their lives. Dr. Thorne knows that his niece will inherit great wealth if a certain young man dies before he is 25, but is bound both to conceal the fact, so that Mary may be loved purely for herself and to do everything in his power to keep that young man alive, thus possibly denying Mary of her route to happiness.
You may criticise Trollope for ultimately accepting the values of his society, yet it is clear that he questions them.
This third novel in the "Barchester Chronicles" is distinctive in having few clergymen as characterss, and forms a bridge between "The Warden" with its parochial focus on the lives of a small circle of people, and the later "Palliser novels" which present a more glittering world of aristocrats and public life. I find Trollope most compelling when he is describing the trials and dilemmas of ordinary people, like Septimus Harding and his little band of almsmen in "The Warden" or in this case Dr. Thorne, full of integrity, down-to-earth, but proud to a fault, scandalising foolish snobs by mixing his own medicines like a "common apothecary" and pragmatically charging a fixed fee for a visit, struggling to manage the alcoholism of his old friend Roger Scatcherd and his pathetic son Louis, or engaging in affectionate and surprisingly frank and equal exchanges with his niece Mary - although, being at heart a man of his time, he does not take her into his confidence over the truth of her social position, in its good or bad aspects.
The opening "scene-setting" chapters of this book are needlessly heavy going: Trollope apologises for them without seeing the need for a simple rewrite. The happy ending is never really in doubt, although we know Trollope is capable of occasional harsh fates for essentially good people. However, it is the development of the story outlined above that carries you through a book which you may feel a little sad to finish. I for one prefer Trollope to Jane Austen - perhaps because he had more experience of life, his characters seem more real flesh-and-blood.
on 16 January 2012
Another solid effort from Trollope, a classically good read with great characters, a strong plot, moral dilemmas, humour and slick writing.
This is the third in Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire and although one or two characters from the earlier books survive, this is mostly a new cast and familiarity with books one and two isn't necessary.
Trollope has an easy page-turning writing style and knows how to interest his readers in the action and characters. As with the previous Barsetshire books, the core here is a moral dilemma - or in this case two moral dilemmas. First, should the high-born Frank Gresham save his family by marrying for money or should he marry his childhood sweetheart, the divine but adopted and penniless Mary Thorne. The second part of the dilemma is whether Mary's guardian, Doctor Thorne, should let on that Mary might inherit an enormous fortune or should he keep quiet in case the inheritance does not happen.
All of the action then centres around these two points and the various actors - Frank's mother and father, Frank's noble relations, the de Courcey's, Frank's sisters and others all get to have their say and play a part. There are plenty of side plots that throw light on whether it is better to marry for money or love, and the value of breeding versus the value of being well brought up.
Trollope is brilliant at getting inside his characters' heads and deconstructing their thoughts and subsequent actions; and he manages to spin out the suspense whilst at the same time making it more or less clear that there will be a happy ending. He has a neat trick of stepping outside of the text and admitting that this is just a novel and that he is manipulating the characters, but still making the story believable. He doesn't go in for the long descriptions and flowery language that Dickens enjoys, and which puts so many people off that author, but he does share Dickens' very dry sense of humour and there are some neat set pieces including at least one that is a straight dig at Dickens' character Uriah Heap (Trollope seems to have a go at Dickens in each of his books).
Trollope has the same focus on the niceties of behavior that Jane Austen displays but he is better at moving his plot along and his use of language is more straightforward and natural (he was writing nearly 50 years later, and styles had moved on). On the other hand he doesn't ever break into really beautiful prose and his writing, whilst engaging, stops short of poetic.
Overall if you like a good read with a decent plot and characters and something to say about society and life this comes highly recommended.
on 20 December 2013
A very unpredictable plot. Interesting, certainly. the characters are interesting, the plot good, and the world created absorbing. Some very serious points and moving scenes as well - such as those concerning the evil of alcohol abuse.
SPOILER ALERT: Don't read the rest of this review if you don't want spoilers!
In terms of criticisms: Although Trollope sympathises with Frank and Mary and Miss Dunstable, and criticises Frank's mother and the other characters who want him to marry for money, I found it difficult to sympathise with the right people. It seemed very foolish for Frank and Mary to marry and have nothing to live on! Nor did I really think Dr Thorne sensible in causing needless worry and confusion to all by withholding the information that Mary would inherit Sir Louis Scatcherd's property - it surely only caused his niece (and everyone else!) unnecessary pain, as the Gresham family would surely have been much more amenable to the match and `persecuted' (not that it really seemed like persecution) Mary far less if they had known. I mean, he was counting on dead men's shoes (or whatever the expression), anyway in that he knew and considered in his own mind the difference it would make!
When I want to be told a story it is usually the story-teller that decides me rather than the type of story he tells. I like to be spell-bound by a master story-teller, whether his story is a comedy, a romance, an epic or detective fiction.
A story-teller I am always happy to spend time with is Anthony Trollope. In neat, well-turned prose, he details the conflicts and resolutions of characters and situations like a good-humoured commentator describing the movement of pieces in a game of chess.
Perhaps there are times when the chess pieces and their moves are not fascinating as they might be, and perhaps there are times when the commentary is not as sharp and concise as it might be. Such is the case you will find if you read "Doctor Thorne" after its preceding Barsetshire novels, "The Warden" and "Barchester Towers". Whereas they both presented cogent dilemmas, suspense and conflict, "Doctor Thorne" works only on the "Will A and B Overcome Obstacles to Their Marriage?" formula.
Nevertheless, Anthony Trollope can still keep me reading this book happily for the third or fourth time. Occasionally I yawn but often I laugh, and always I enjoy it all.