Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite by Anthony Trollope
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
If you've read every Austen book and finished off Gaskell as well, if you've watched up all of Downton Abbey and polished off Upstairs, Downstairs too, and yet you still want more uptight British aristocracy drama from the Victorian/Edwardian era, Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite by Anthony Trollope is just what you're looking for!
This book is all about the social mores of the times, mid 19th century rural England. Watching these characters act and live by these intricate and sometimes convoluted rules of behavior can be frustrating for the modern reader. In this respect, Trollope excels himself, exceeding all expectation for a trying read indeed!
If you've read Sense and Sensibility, the plot of Sir Harry Hotspur Of Humblethwaite will feel very similar to that of the Marianne Dashwood storyline. The good girl wants the bad boy and there's nothing that can be said by her rational, thoughtful friends to dissuade her, because they are rational and thoughtful, thus too cold to understand true love. Kids will be kids, as the saying goes. You can lead a girl to Colonel Brandon, but she'll drink up Willoughby until she bursts!
None of the above truly mars this novel. What makes this a less-than-stellar read is the author's fourth wall breaking and use of exposition in place of storytelling: Dear reader, let me tell you about the feelings of these characters rather than showing you. Again, different eras, differing tastes. I'm not saying Trollope couldn't do it, but he didn't...for the most part. Don't get me wrong, there are some quality dramatic scenes that play out in a satisfying way, which save the book from being an utter drudge read.
However, this was not a pleasure. It was mostly mechanical and dull in many places, while the ending is rushed and melodramatic. I could still recommend this to those who REALLY go in for the Austen/Downton kind of thing, but only them.
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