Review: The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope

by Stephen Tall on May 18, 2015

trollope pmThe Prime Minister, Anthony Trollope

A reluctant Prime Minister, Plantaganet Palliser, is called upon to lead a Liberal/Tory coalition ministry, a mission he accepts with great reluctance and performs with distaste. Meanwhile, the loving, eligible Emily Wharton is successfully wooed by an on-the-make adventurer, Ferdinand Lopez, and has to come to terms with the ramifications of her disastrous marriage.

Trollope brilliantly interweaves these ‘political’ and ‘social’ elements. The chary PM — in spite of the exhuberant machinations of his wife, Lady Glen — finds peace once her efforts are exhausted by gradually reconciling himself to his office. The wronged wife finds happiness, at the last, by accepting that her mistake can be forgiven by others (in particular her childhood sweetheart, Arthur Fletcher) and, through them, by herself.

Trollope’s genius is in treating all his character creations with sympathy, while lightly, usually ironically, under-cutting any pretensions to which they and wider society cling. While he has bigger things to say about power — as exercised by politicians in the public sphere, or by men in the private sphere — at heart his stories are deeply personal, both human and humane.

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