This is Trollope's last complete novel, finished just seven months before his death in 1882. In it, there is a definite touch of sadness and sorrow as Trollope contemplates the life story of an `old man' who tries for love once more. The `old man' of the book is just 50, but I suppose in 1882, that really was considered too old to leave a life of confirmed bachelorhood, and to change a whole way of life.
Mr Whittlestaff was rejected by a lady love when he was 30 years old, and has since then spent his life making himself comfortable, and is fairly set in his ways. He is not short of money, and lives well but modestly. When the daughter of a friend is orphaned, he takes her in, and decides over a period of just over a year that he will endeavour to make her his wife. Mary Lawrie, while grateful to Mr Whittlestaff, is torn between her feelings of gratitude and the ideology and dream of true love.
As always with Trollope's work, this book is not full of action, with characters racing to and fro. Rather, it is an introspective analysis of feelings, emotions, motives, ways of life, characters and their personalities. We are treated to the thoughts of the characters as they move through their crises and we view, more from an insider's perspective than we are normally able to, the paths that life can take and why. This is what Trollope was so good at - the emotive characterisations and the introspective reviewing of life. His writing, even though this was his last book and much of it was dictated to his niece due to Trollope's ill health, is as sharp as ever. But there is definitely sadness inherent in this story, of Mr Whittlestaff and his second chance at love. Totally recommended.