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.