18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 25 February 2001
The Eustace Diamonds follows the declining fortunes of a beautiful but devious anti-heroine Lady Lizzie Eustace. A young widow of relatively wealthy means, Lizzie becomes entangled, or rather entangles herself in a series of legal muddles as she attempts to hold on to a fabulous necklace from her late husband's family estate. Through her scheming and deceitfulness she manages to reduce her options from many to one and alienate all her would-be friends and lovers. Anthony Trollope again employs all his considerable wit and craft in this the third of the "Palliser" novels. My personal favourite of his literary tricks occurs as he lays down the background history of Lizzie Eustace and with perfect timing, warns us against comparison with Thackeray's Becky Sharpe just at the moment I was doing so. Lizzie is not a likeable protagonist and the main story does not end as decisively as I would have liked but this is still an exceptionally enjoyable read for fans of Anthony Trollope.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Six months ago I had never read a Trollope-novel. Then - for no particular reason - I read 'The Warden' and have been addicted to Trollope ever since. I read the other five Barsetshire-novels in a row, and then immediately started on the Palliser-novels, of which this is the third (although 'The Eustace Diamonds' is only very loosely connected with the Palliser-family, Lady Glencora is the only one playing a role, and a minor one at that too).
In 'The Eustace Diamonds', Lizzie Greystock marries the wealthy but terminally ill Sir Florian Eustace, and when he dies shortly afterwards he not only leaves her an ample inheritance but - according to her claims at least - also an extremely valuable necklace. However, the Eustace family, and most of all their lawyer Mr. Camperdown, claim that the necklace is a family heirloom and as such was not Sir Florian's to give and should be returned. Before long London society is divided between 'Lizzietes' and 'anti-Lizzietes', and Lizzie goes to ever more desperate acts to keep the jewels.
Lord Fawn, Lizzie's fiancée, wants to break off their engagement because of the scandal surrounding the necklace, while Lizzie's cousin Frank Greystock (himself engaged to the governess of Lord Fawn's sisters, Lucy Morris) takes up her defence. Before they know it, they are all inextricably mixed up in the affair and have to deal with moral dillemmas: Lucy finds herself staying with the very family her fiancée Frank Greystock is attacking, Lord Fawn comes to realize Lizzie is definitely not the sort of woman he'd like to marry but is afraid is the scandal should he break off the engagement, Frank Greystock finds himself attracted to Lizzie and is in doubt whether he should give up Lucy (who is poor and cannot help his career as an MP) for Lizzie (who may be duplicitous, but is definitely also rich), ... Trollope, as usual, examines every aspect of his characters' thoughts and emotions in his 'habitual relaxed colloquium with the reader' (as John Sutherland and Stephen Gill call it in their excellent introduction).
What Trollope gives us here is a thorough examination of upper society, in which values and principles that used to be 'absolute' are rapidly changing: thruth (Lizzie lies and schemes incessantly but in spite of that remains an accepted, albeit controversial, member of society), honour (both Lord Fawn and Frank Greystock have to acknowledge to themselves that Lizzie's foremost attraction is her money). Though there is humour in the book, all in all it's a rather bleak picture Trollope paints here and there's little of the sense predominant in other Trollope-novels that, in the end, all will turn out well for the 'good' characters. In fact, Trollope shows that no one is entirely 'good' or 'bad', his characters (as we all, surely?) are a bit of both. Even Lizzie Eustace, who schemes and lies without any scrupple whatsoever, has some redeeming qualities while Lucy Morris, good and honest as she may be, quite frankly is also a bit of a bore...
The main reason why I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5, and why it isn't my personal favorite Trollope-novel, is Lizzie Eustace herself. I think Trollope intended to make her into a sort of Becky Sharp (from 'Vanity Fair') or Lady Audley (from 'Lady Audley's Secret') but - to me, that is - she falls short of both of these and fails to captivate one's imagination and dominate the entire novel as those two other ladies do so eminently.
But rest assured, a 'good' Trollope-novel is still a very good book by any standard, and reading it was definitely a very rewarding experience which has by no means lessened my appetite for more. So it's on now to 'Phineas Redux'!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
I won't deny this is a book that takes some getting through. Like all vintage Trollope, it is very long and packed full of characters and plot, and I have to confess I did give up on it for a while. But I'm glad I went back to it. Lizzie Eustace proves that you don't necessarily need a sympathetic central character to make a good story. She isn't outright evil, but she isn't someone you feel very concerned about either. That doesn't matter though as you get very drawn into how her ceaseless machinations (she lies so much she forgets what she's lied about) eventually alienates everyone around her, and how men who were once besotted with her eventually become revolted by her. Some of the other characters are even more unpleasent, such as the mercenary Mrs Carbuncle and the unspeakably self-centred and negative Lucinda Roanoke. Lucinda's "love scenes" with Griffin Tewett (the Alan B'stard of his era) can leave a very bad taste in the mouth. The Pallisers themselves wander in and out of the story to occasionally give us their narrative on what is happening, although most of this is down to the very likeable Lady Glencora, and they all act as a vital antidote to the odious characters they are observing. This is all very good absorbing stuff, although by the end of it you agree with one of Planty Palliser's friends that he's had quite enough of hearing about Lizzie Eustace!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 July 2006
Another great book by Trollope this could almost be a tale from our own age. Driven by greed and a craving for attention and status, Lizzie Eustace, 'acquires' the Eustace Diamonds, long held to be an heirloom by her late husband's estate. She clings to them, manipulates others in her quest to hold on to them and keeps some pretty poor company along the way. As usual, Trollope is extremely skillful at drawing each character and expert at helping us understand what motivates their actions and personality. Every character is flawed, as indeed all human beings are flawed, but the fascination is in seeing how these flaws determine the fate of each.
My favourite charactes are the brave but ultimately doomed Lucinda Roanoke, a woman without the ruthless emotional equipment to make a rich but unhappy marriage and Lord George, a man almost as unscrupulous as Lizzie Eustace but who sees through her pretty rapidly and cleverly avoids being sucked in by her charms.
Lizzie Eustace is cold and calculating, a gold digger with no conscience whatsoever, it's impossible to feel sorry for her and yet she fascinates. A long book but a really good read, one of his most unputdownable novels.
on 5 August 2012
As other reveiwers have noted, the heroine of this novel is not immediaitely likeable. She isn't wicked like so many heroines of the mid-Victorian Sensation novel: (Lady Audley, Mrs Haversham, Becky Sharp etc) but she is amoral. She represents those women of that time who were poorly educated, alone, not very bright and vulnerable. To her credit, she keeps her eye on the ball throughout, focussing on self-preservation (hanging on to the diamonds she firmly believes she has a right to) and finding a second husband. There is of course, no suggestion that a woman with four thousand pounds a year and a Scottish castle could live an independent and happy life. The three men she contemplates marriage with are all eqaully dubious choices, as self- interested as she is, if not downright dishonest, as in the case of Lord George.
Lizzie's reading matter is interesting. She is hooked on the Byronic hero, through her reading of Byron's Turkish Tales (the Corsair with whom she assocaites the unscrupulous Lard Gearge) and she begins Shelley's Queen Mab. The Romantics lead her astray as she hasn't the education to understand the intellectual content of Queen Mab, nor to recognise the Byronic hero as a poseur.
Trollope paints a bleak picture of choices facing a women alone, even one with an income. On the one hand, Lizzie at least has some wealth and beauty, but her counter-point in the story, poor little Lucy, has nothing, just her virtue and moral sense. She is a victim and is kept hanging about for most of the novel, dependant on others for charity, while waiting for the attention of the man who promised her marriage. No real heros here.
By contrast Lizzie Eustace is active, hesitating between suitors, trying her best to keep herself safe finacially. What should a womam do, the novel asks, in a world where so few choices are open to women? Lizzie solves the probelm by being manipulative and cunning is a low, snake-like sort of way and persuing self-interest with resolve. Her lack of brains, family support and real intelligence means she fails to make the best of her beauty, her one real resouce apart from her inherited capital. She hangs around with a set of equally dubiously moral charcaters who are unable to give her any guidance through the pitfalls of her society.
In the end, this is a bleak novel, it is funny and scathing social crtiticim. The moral centre is Lucy, if there is one. She she wins through passivity and you can't relish her choice of the vacillatiing and worldly Frank.
You can't help but wish Lizzie had a someone like Mrs Haversham to help her make the most of herself to win the richest man in London. In the end, Mr Camperdown's words about Lizzie when he realises she has beaten him (and his system) ring with hollow truth. He says that if women had their just rights, then Lizzie would make a first class lawyer. A comment both on the legal system and the options avalable for women at that time.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 14 September 2011
A wallowy winter doorstop of a book. 700 pages of trying to work out exactly who had the right to a necklace. Fabulous. Acerbic, bitter, and twisted. He's my kind of guy. Here's to the next 46 of his novels.
on 10 February 2011
Trollope at his melodramatic best. The least political of Trollope's Palliser novels, it nevertheless contains one of the best potted descriptions of old Tory values, in chapter 4, which begins `They feel among themselves that everything that is being done is bad-even though that everything is done by their party'. Lizzie Eustace is the novel's `heroine', although she is clearly the villain of the piece. Eustace is not quite a lovable rogue, but the reader is inevitably fascinated and humoured by the misfortune she gradually brings on herself. In the realm of lovers, Trollope's conclusions are (typically) predictable, although the pleasure is in getting there. The novel, nevertheless, manages to contain a considerable degree of suspense: surrounding the fate of the Eustace diamonds, which is ratcheted up significantly half way through. One disturbing feature is the apparent anti-Semitism employed in the depiction of two characters, a jeweller and parson respectively. A charitable reading suggests Trollope is conveying the views of those who observe these people, but given his willingness to occasionally appear in the text as narrator this is hard to sustain.
on 20 August 2014
Bought for my Book Club read of the month.Everyone thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I will certainly read more Trollope.
on 22 April 2015
Half way through but still very good. Trollope's insight into human character translates very easily to modern day.
on 11 April 2015