Top positive review
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Handsome and charming and full of surprises
on 7 February 2006
The second novel in the Palliser's series, Phineas Finn follows the story of an Irish Member of the British Houses of Parliament from humble beginnings as the son of a doctor through the aristocratic and political salons of the mid-19th century.
Finn is something of a ladies man but Trollope writes him beautifully as someone who seems to blunder accidentally into good fortune and an interest in several women without the faintest trace of self-knowledge. He is unassuming, charming, deliciously shallow and, we are told, handsome to look at. Men and women alike are taken in by him.
Trollope as always slowly builds the many strands of his story from the start. But as you read on through, the narrative gathers pace until it is bowling hypnotically along with its own momentum. After the first 200 pages it becomes unputdownable as events and personalities unfold sometimes as you thought they would, and other times ending in surprise.
My favourite charcter became Lord Chiltern. He grew on me every time he appeared. He's a plain-speaking, unsophisticated man who has gained a reputation for being violent and difficult but gradually I began to wonder how much was truth and how much hearsay. He is the anti-thesis of the charming but deceptive Phineas Finn. Chiltern is disliked while Finn is admired and favoured by the same people and so Trollope makes his point that what you see isn't always what you get.