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Rachel Ray - a ray of sunshine
on 10 February 2003
This is one of Trollope's most enjoyable books. It introduces a host of typical Trollope characters - Tappitt the brewer, Mr Comfort the vicar, Mr Prong the odious curate - and the lovelorn, innocent Rachel Ray all living in a Devon village. Her swain, the rather dashing Luke Rowan is trying, in the nicest possible way, to modernise the brewery of Bungall and Tappitt, having inherited Bungall's share. Poor Mr Tappitt is hen-pecked and bullied by his wife and daughters, and their family life provides much of the comedy in this book. The scenes involving the preparations for a party chez Tappitt are beautifully observed and very funny, as is the incident of poor Mr Tappitt's fearsome hangover after a heavy dinner with the local electors.
Rachel's pious and rather unpleasant sister is wooed by Mr Prong, for her money rather than her charm or looks (or lack of them!), and this pair form another aspect of the story. She strongly objects the Rachel and Luke getting engaged and is a cause of them temporarily breaking up.
Trollope's skill is in making his characters totally believable and in showing us that family life has not changed all that much since the 19th century. We still have daughters that nag at us for new dresses for parties. We still disapprove of our children's choice of boyfriend or girlfriend. Young people want to rebel against their parents wishes, but most often end up trying to do the right thing.
I liked this book as much as any Trollope I have read and thoroughly recommend it.