Telling that more than 150 years after its publication, no Amazon reviewer to date has given this less than 4 stars.
In this entertaining soap opera of life amongst the Victorian upper classes, Trollope creates what is still for the most part a page turner through his detailed exploration of the thoughts and motives of characters who come alive on the page, his realistic, lively dialogues and creation of ludicrously comical situations offset by occasional scenes of real pathos.
It is interesting to learn from Ruth Rendell's introduction to the Penguin Classic version, that Trollope cared only for creating "personages impregnated with traits of character which are known.....in a picture of common life". For him, the plot was of lesser importance, merely providing a vehicle for the cast of players.
The plot is straightforward, apparently suggested by his brother: the Greshams are proud of their "ancient lineage" but the current Squire has managed his finances badly, aggravated by the extravagance of Lady Arabella, the mixed blessing of a wife from the aristocratic De Courcy family. The heir, Frank Gresham, is expected to save the situation by "marrying money" and duly sent off to court the heiress of an ointment manufacturer, but Frank has fallen in love with his childhood playmate Mary Thorne, the penniless niece of Dr. Thorne, with the added guilty secret of being the bastard daughter of his renegade deceased brother.
This is the framework for a social drama which exposes the snobbery and hypocrisy of the Victorian middle and upper classes. It was vital to have "good blood" to be accepted, but a bootmaker's daughter could marry into an aristocratic family if she brought enough money with her. Ironically, their extravagance and parasitic lifestyle made many "great" families dependent on the very lower class people whom they despised for making their money from industry or trade.
Although the characters often seem very modern in their expression of emotion, we see how the now largely neglected concepts such as honour governed their lives. Dr. Thorne knows that his niece will inherit great wealth if a certain young man dies before he is 25, but is bound both to conceal the fact, so that Mary may be loved purely for herself and to do everything in his power to keep that young man alive, thus possibly denying Mary of her route to happiness.
You may criticise Trollope for ultimately accepting the values of his society, yet it is clear that he questions them.
This third novel in the "Barchester Chronicles" is distinctive in having few clergymen as characterss, and forms a bridge between "The Warden" with its parochial focus on the lives of a small circle of people, and the later "Palliser novels" which present a more glittering world of aristocrats and public life. I find Trollope most compelling when he is describing the trials and dilemmas of ordinary people, like Septimus Harding and his little band of almsmen in "The Warden" or in this case Dr. Thorne, full of integrity, down-to-earth, but proud to a fault, scandalising foolish snobs by mixing his own medicines like a "common apothecary" and pragmatically charging a fixed fee for a visit, struggling to manage the alcoholism of his old friend Roger Scatcherd and his pathetic son Louis, or engaging in affectionate and surprisingly frank and equal exchanges with his niece Mary - although, being at heart a man of his time, he does not take her into his confidence over the truth of her social position, in its good or bad aspects.
The opening "scene-setting" chapters of this book are needlessly heavy going: Trollope apologises for them without seeing the need for a simple rewrite. The happy ending is never really in doubt, although we know Trollope is capable of occasional harsh fates for essentially good people. However, it is the development of the story outlined above that carries you through a book which you may feel a little sad to finish. I for one prefer Trollope to Jane Austen - perhaps because he had more experience of life, his characters seem more real flesh-and-blood.
on 24 June 2014
It was an enthralling read with the ultimate coming of the heroine Mary Thorne as the saviour of the Squire's family and possessions.
The fact that Mary was illegitimate was held against her until she inherited her Uncle's fortune at which point she was accepted back into society, a position she had held until details of her lowly birth were discovered.
An interesting change in society's attitude to money without blood, but I was always left with the feeling that Mary would win out in the end because she deserved to, and Anthony Trollope, in an interesting aside, admitted at the start that Mary was his heroine.
Thoroughly enjoyable and I look forward to more from the same author.
on 25 March 2016
But I have seen the BBC Barchester Chronicles and read the books afterwards. This was an easy read and the ending was a foregone conclusion and flagged up well in advance. If you want a book you can just go with this is for you.
on 24 March 2016
When I first started reading Doctor Thorne I wasn't sure that I would find it easy to read, but after 2 or 3 chapters I absolutely love it! It's a definite read and read again tale! Marvellously entertaining!
on 17 October 2015
Rather more that other Trollopes I have read, this takes some getting into and verged onto the booring for the first few chapters. Glad however that I persisted. A love story with Dickension characterisations and Trollope's trademark focus on moral dilemmas.
When I want to be told a story it is usually the story-teller that decides me rather than the type of story he tells. I like to be spell-bound by a master story-teller, whether his story is a comedy, a romance, an epic or detective fiction.
A story-teller I am always happy to spend time with is Anthony Trollope. In neat, well-turned prose, he details the conflicts and resolutions of characters and situations like a good-humoured commentator describing the movement of pieces in a game of chess.
Perhaps there are times when the chess pieces and their moves are not fascinating as they might be, and perhaps there are times when the commentary is not as sharp and concise as it might be. Such is the case you will find if you read "Doctor Thorne" after its preceding Barsetshire novels, "The Warden" and "Barchester Towers". Whereas they both presented cogent dilemmas, suspense and conflict, "Doctor Thorne" works only on the "Will A and B Overcome Obstacles to Their Marriage?" formula.
Nevertheless, Anthony Trollope can still keep me reading this book happily for the third or fourth time. Occasionally I yawn but often I laugh, and always I enjoy it all.
on 6 September 2015
May be one of the best works of Trollope, even though it follows the long track of the Barchester Cronicles, it's absolutely readible alone with satisfacion....It's my second reading (first in italian language) in your language is a amazing.
on 16 January 2012
Another solid effort from Trollope, a classically good read with great characters, a strong plot, moral dilemmas, humour and slick writing.
This is the third in Trollope's Chronicles of Barsetshire and although one or two characters from the earlier books survive, this is mostly a new cast and familiarity with books one and two isn't necessary.
Trollope has an easy page-turning writing style and knows how to interest his readers in the action and characters. As with the previous Barsetshire books, the core here is a moral dilemma - or in this case two moral dilemmas. First, should the high-born Frank Gresham save his family by marrying for money or should he marry his childhood sweetheart, the divine but adopted and penniless Mary Thorne. The second part of the dilemma is whether Mary's guardian, Doctor Thorne, should let on that Mary might inherit an enormous fortune or should he keep quiet in case the inheritance does not happen.
All of the action then centres around these two points and the various actors - Frank's mother and father, Frank's noble relations, the de Courcey's, Frank's sisters and others all get to have their say and play a part. There are plenty of side plots that throw light on whether it is better to marry for money or love, and the value of breeding versus the value of being well brought up.
Trollope is brilliant at getting inside his characters' heads and deconstructing their thoughts and subsequent actions; and he manages to spin out the suspense whilst at the same time making it more or less clear that there will be a happy ending. He has a neat trick of stepping outside of the text and admitting that this is just a novel and that he is manipulating the characters, but still making the story believable. He doesn't go in for the long descriptions and flowery language that Dickens enjoys, and which puts so many people off that author, but he does share Dickens' very dry sense of humour and there are some neat set pieces including at least one that is a straight dig at Dickens' character Uriah Heap (Trollope seems to have a go at Dickens in each of his books).
Trollope has the same focus on the niceties of behavior that Jane Austen displays but he is better at moving his plot along and his use of language is more straightforward and natural (he was writing nearly 50 years later, and styles had moved on). On the other hand he doesn't ever break into really beautiful prose and his writing, whilst engaging, stops short of poetic.
Overall if you like a good read with a decent plot and characters and something to say about society and life this comes highly recommended.
(3.5 stars) The third in the Chronicles of Barsetshire, Dr. Thorne is not a satire like the mild satire of The Warden or the more pointed ecclesiastical satire of Barchester Towers. Instead, this novel is pure melodrama, the story of Mary Thorne, a girl of uncertain parentage. Mary, often in the company of the Gresham sisters, with whom she has been schooled, and is attracted to the Greshams' brother Frank.
The Greshams, of a high social level, own a dilapidated estate, and their increasing debts have left them owing many wealthy landowners and lenders. Their only hope is that Frank, who will inherit the estate, marry a wealthy woman who will solve their cash-flow problems by trading her wealth for his family's status. Frank, however, is in love with Mary. As Mary is increasingly ostracized because of her lack of high birth, she and Frank become increasingly in love. When the ailing Sir Roger Scratcherd decides to redo his will, the scene is set for a change of fortunes.
Though the earlier Barsetshire novels are highly satiric, casting wry glances at the church and its behavior, this novel is more realistic, accurately depicting the class divisions in England at the time and emphasizing their absurdities. These divisions are so ingrained in society that there is little hope for any change and even less for any recognition that they might be morally wrong. Mary Thorne is the perfect little lady, despite her lack of family "background," and she shows those more "elevated" than she that she is more a lady than they are. The novel follows standard plot lines, and there is little doubt, throughout, that the romantic complications will be resolved as the reader hopes. The good and honest characters of low birth are rewarded, and the snobs and their heirs are brought low.
Though Trollope is as good as always with his dialogue and his pointed observations, this novel lacks the punch of his earlier satires. The action and melodrama are predictable, and the ending is completely expected. Adding to the complexity of life in Barchester, this novel provides some new characters for this community (and series), and suggests new complications for future novels of the Barset Chronicles. n Mary Whipple
on 26 June 2014
AT was a masterful story teller, confident in his characters and plots. It’s like Jane Austen, only better.
Very dated theme of course, but so beautifully written, with deftness and lightness of touch and no attempt by AT to pretend this is anything other than a novel. He even discusses how he should write it with the reader!