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3.1 out of 5 stars
Kept in the Dark
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 2 February 2010
I don't think I could give anything by Trollope 1 star - but boy, it is tempting here! In the end it just edges the second star by dint of the fascinating parallel between this, and the wonderful (and earlier) "He Knew He Was Right". The theme is the same - a failure to communicate which leads to serious consequences. But the interest is really only in seeing how delicate a hand it needed in the better book to get the suspense, the pathos and the sympathy in place. Here the hand is heavy and one can feel no real interest in or sympathy for the parties. Sadleir justifies it an an account of the morbid pathology of the "hero" George Western. I cannot concur!
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This is a Trollope I had never heard of so was pleased to get hold of a copy and see what I thought. General criticism of this title is that it is not one of his best. Apparently Trollope wrote this book in four months and it appeared in serial form in the Magazine Good Words between May and December 1882 and in two volumes in the same year. It was therefore the last of his novels to be published in his lifetime as he died in the December.

The heroine, Cecilia Holt, keeps a secret from her fiance, the fact that she had been engaged before and to a particularly unsavory baronet. Once she had realised the kind of man she had promised to marry, she terminated the engagement. Sir Francis Geraldine took this badly and, naturally, preferred to tell the story that it was he who had decided against marrying Cecilia. When a year or so later, Cecilia meets and falls in love with Mr Western, she keeps this story to herself. Her new fiance had also been jilted and, as this is a novel and coincidences are allowed, it was by a young lady who then went on to marry a cousin of Sir Francis. When Cecilia hears this story she finds it somewhat difficult to mention her own connection with this family and, while she decides she will tell her fiance at some time, the right occasion never arises and she marries him while keeping him in the dark.

This secret weighs heavily with her. Now we might wonder what all the fuss is about - what is wrong with breaking off an engagement? But this is not the 21st century, this is Victorian society and soon rumours about this situation arise, encouraged by Sir Francis who wishes to be revenged on the woman who threw him over. He also takes it upon himself to tell Mr Western of their aborted engagement. Not only does he wish to hurt Cecilia but he has a reason for disliking Mr Western who accused him of fraud in the past.

Mr Western is unable to forgive this deception and the fact that she has kept him In the Dark, and without listening to his wife or any explanation, he leaves her and goes to live abroad. She then finds she is with child, but does this bring him running back - no it does not. His stubbornness and intransigence is only broken by his strong willed sister who goes to see him in Dresden where he has Dark_1 fled and who tears a strip or two off him. He says he will go back if his wife asks for his forgiveness to which Lady Graham rightly replies she has no reason to and his behaviour has been wrong and unforgivable. Cheers all round at this stage from mois who was thoroughly incensed by Mr Western's pig headed attitude. He decides to go back to his wife and what does she do as soon as she sees him? She flings herself in his arms and begs his forgiveness....

It all ends well with Mr Western having the grace to admit that he has also been wrong and the couple then, presumably, live happily ever after.

The plot is very similar to He Knew he was Right, an earlier novel, but the characters in that book are much more fully drawn, Cecilia and Mr Western are lightly sketched. My feelings on reading both books was much the same however, I felt like banging heads together and telling each couple to get a grip.

Definitely not one of Trollope's best but, quite frankly, a second tier Trollope is still streets ahead of most writers and, as always, when I start reading one of his books I find myself getting more and more drawn into the lives and thoughts of the characters and then reach a stage when I literally cannot put the book down until I have finished it.
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Cecilia Holt feels herself to be a superior intelligent woman. So when she falls in love with, and becomes engaged to Sir Francis Geraldine, she believes that will make her happy. Having to accept that he is not what she thought he was, and breaking the engagement, causes her to question her own self-confidence, and to retreat from her normal society. When she then becomes engaged to another man, and does not tell him the story of her earlier engagement, she convinces herself that she is in the right. When rumours and conjecture cause them to part, the stubbornness of them both keeps the fault alive. Will it be remedied and a happy ending ensue? Thus far, this is, of course, similar territory to that visited by Trollope in He Knew He Was Right, and again covers very much the innermost thoughts, beliefs and ethical and moral considerations of the protagonists. This is classic Trollope, and is warmly welcomed by this reader at least.

The side stories of Miss Altifiorla, and that of the rascally Sir Francis Geraldine provide light relief and a contrast to the sad and introspective main story. This is a short novel; only some 220 pages in the edition I have, but it is a story that Trollope tells well, and which is well worth reading. Highly recommended.
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on 26 September 2014
This is a late work of Trollope, and it shows. (In fact his next book was to explore the idea that people should be euthanased at age 68, and he was 66 when he wrote this.) I don't think it was age getting to him but rather he had simply run out of ideas. The plot line is similar to the much better He Knew He Was Right, but this is a comedy where that was a tragedy. The reader wants to bang the characters heads together until they display some sense. Trollope's characters often display a stubbornness which is death, or almost death, to their chances of happiness, and this novel is no exception. It is short, so the matter is resolved quite quickly, but it is not the Trollope I would take to the desert island with me.
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on 20 January 2013
It's Anthony Trollope - what more is there that needs to be said? A great writer who deserves a much wider audience.
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on 8 August 2015
OK
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
How could the writer of such marvellous books as He Knew He was Right - The Barchester Chronicles etc. have written this rubbish?
Come back Georgette Heyer - all is forgiven
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