The Trollope gateway drug

Regular readers know that I am a big Trollope fan. When people ask where they should start with his novels I never know quite what to say. My first Trollope was the The Warden the first of the Barchester series, but I like all of the Church of England detail and intrigue peppered throughout those novels. The Pallisers series to me is less accessible with the amount of political detail included–although The Eustace Diamonds stands really well on its own, but then again, it is in the middle of the series and I know people usually like to start at the beginning. I have also enjoyed other good stand alones as well like Dr. Wortle’s School and Three Clerks.

And then came Rachel Ray. It might be my new favorite Trollope and I think certainly his most accessible that I have read. This would be the perfect book for someone wanting to give Anthony Trollope a try. It has a bit of the church thing, a bit of the political thing, romance, thwarted romance, nosy widows, greedy clergy, curmudgeons, and the virtuous. And, of course, lots of talk about how much money everyone makes. That is always my favorite part of any Trollope novel.

Rachel Ray is as goodhearted as a human can be with a loving but weak widowed mother and an overly pious widowed sister. And then Luke Rowan comes along, handsome, with a comfortable income and great future prospects…but is he all that he seems? YES, of course he is. You know from the start what is going to happen, but you don’t know how it will happen or how complicated things will get before they work themselves out. I really did find this to be a delightful page turner.

Something needs to be said, however, about the level of anti-Semitic content in Rachel Ray. Much Victorian literature is antisemitic to a certain degree, in fact there is much English fiction well into the 1950s that has flashes of antisemitism. Usually in Trollope it pops up here or there in passing without being an actual part of the story line. In Rachel Ray it is, however, part of the story. A candidate for Parliament is considered completely inappropriate for office based on the fact that he is Jewish, and much is made of that fact. And it isn’t like Trollope includes it to make a critique of antisemitism, because all of the heroes in the book are the ones advocating against electing a Jew to Parliament. Given how progressive Trollope is on other ways, I choose to believe that if Anthony Trollope were alive today, he wouldn’t be antisemitic and write such stupid scenes. Why do people have to be assholes? Sigh. Have I mentioned recently how much I hate Donald Trump? Big sigh.

Anyhoo. I loved Rachel Ray.

14 thoughts on “The Trollope gateway drug

  1. BookerTalk August 29, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    I’m slowly working my way through Trollope but hadn’t heard of this one. Something to add to the list I think.


  2. Ruthiella August 29, 2017 / 4:49 pm

    I too started with the Warden (and never looked back. I love Mr. Harding, one of my all time favorite fictional characters).

    I haven’t read Rachel Ray, but He Knew He Was Right is also a good Trollope standalone (and free of antisemitism as I recall and it actually has a bit of a feminist slant). But while it has humorous parts (Aunt Stansbury is so wonderful!) and romance, it also has tragedy. But I think it would also be a good starting point for a reader interested in testing the Trollopian waters and they don’t mind some heavy drama.


    • Thomas September 10, 2017 / 11:52 am

      I think a lot of Trollope has a feminist slant. Rachel Ray included.


  3. travellinpenguin August 29, 2017 / 8:05 pm

    Yes, hmmm, Trump. Me too. Had not heard of this book. I need something different to my regular stuff to read. I like the sound of another time period. Need my head out of 2017. This might be the go…Trollope.


    • Thomas September 10, 2017 / 11:52 am

      Trollope is an amazing antidote to modern times.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Liz Dexter August 30, 2017 / 3:30 am

    This sounds like a great one although antisemitism is never good and lets Trollope down. I stated with The Warden too and I need to get back into the Barchesters … a good reminder to me to do so.


  5. Michelle Ann August 30, 2017 / 5:02 am

    I have not read this, but it may be that at that time Jews were banned from Parliament, (as were women, Catholics and non-conformists at various times), so it would be a bar whether you were anti-Semitic or not. Disreali, who came from a Jewish family, not only got into Parliament, but was elected Prime Minister. However, he only achieved this because his father had had a temporary falling out with the Jewish faith, and had his baby son christened into the Church of England, which made him eligible for Parliament.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thomas September 10, 2017 / 11:54 am

      I know it all needs to be considered in context. But so jarring to modern ears.


  6. Richard September 4, 2017 / 5:40 am

    Like Ruthiella, I started with The Warden and haven’t looked back. I love Trollope. I especially love the Barchester and Palliser series, but I think Orley Farm and The Way We Live Now are great standalone novels. I haven’t read Rachel Ray or He Knew He Was Right, but they are on the list.


    • Thomas September 10, 2017 / 11:56 am

      In general I prefer the Bachester series to the Palliser series. A few of the Ps get a little bogged down political positions and machinations that I don’t entirely understand.


      • Thomas September 10, 2017 / 12:19 pm

        I just realized that my comment replicated information already contained in the blog post itself.


  7. ninevoices September 9, 2017 / 4:00 am

    I expect I have bored on before about Timothy West’s brilliant reading of Trollope – he’s done all the Palliser novels, the Barchester series, Dr Wortle’s School and The Way we Live Now – they are the perfect accompaniment to the ironing pile!

    Trollope’s digs at Jews remain a disappointment, but I suppose we can’t expect him to be altogether perfect! I did think that Jim Carter’s portrayal of Mr Brehgert in the 2001 television of the Way We Live Now was masterful; here the Jewish banker has all the attributes of a gentleman so beloved by Trollope and to be infinitely superior morally to most of the other characters in the novel.


    • Thomas September 10, 2017 / 11:58 am

      You can talk about Timothy West’s Trollope anytime. I think he is brilliant and particularly so doing Trollope. There is no other better Trollope character name than Sir Gregory Grogram as spoken by Timothy West.


  8. Karen K. September 18, 2017 / 8:56 am

    I loved Rachel Ray also, and I completely agree, the anti-Semitism is jarring — I do hate to be disappointed in my beloved author. I read The Prime Minister this year and there are a lot of digs against a character who is thought to be Jewish, though I don’t even know if it’s ever even confirmed or just assumed.

    And Rachel Ray is a perfect gateway to Trollope. The term “gateway drug” in conjunction with Trollope makes me smile. It is an excellent addiction.


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