The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

The third in the series of novels known as the Palliser Novels, as they recount the doings of the Palliser family and associated characters.

I really like Anthony Trollope’s style. He famously wrote avidly and steadily, putting in 2,500 words before breakfast. As he says in his autobiography:

“It was my practice to be at my table every morning at 5.30 A.M.; and it was also my practice to allow myself no mercy. An old groom, whose business it was to call me, and to whom I paid £5 a year extra for the duty, allowed himself no mercy. During all those years at Waltham Cross he was never once late with the coffee which it was his duty to bring me. I do not know that I ought not to feel that I owe more to him than to any one else for the success I have had. By beginning at that hour I could complete my literary work before I dressed for breakfast.”

This book, like the others in the series I have so far read (‘Can You Forgive Her?’ and ‘Phineas Finn’), is essentially about class, money and society in Victorian England. But the reason I enjoy his style so much is that it rattles along. He doesn’t really go in for lengthy descriptions but focuses on the characters and motivations of the people he writes about.

The plot concerns, unsurprisingly, some hugely valuable diamonds which form part of the estate of the Eustace family. They fall into the hands of a scheming and unscrupulous, but beautiful, woman, who marries Sir Florian Eustace just before he dies very young. There are sub plots, of course, and much humour in the writing. But the main theme, as I understood the book, is the damage that wealth can do to the happiness and contentment of those who crave it. Which is a theme as relevant today, in the age of instant gratification, as it was when Trollope wrote the book.


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