1:33 pm Jul. 19, 2012
For ten days, we'll be suggesting some of our favorite audiobooks for the summer, in a series of articles brought to you by our partner, Audible.com.
Audible.com is promoting a special offer to download one of our selections or a selection of your own for free, plus a free 30-day trial membership.
Click the link at the bottom of this post for details. Previously: Bossypants.
Can You Forgive Her? (Unabridged)
By Anthony Trollope
Narrated by Simon Vance
When Anthony Trollope's novel, Can You Forgive Her, was still coming out in newspaper serials in 1864 and 1865, the notoriously raucous magazine Punch suggested an alternate title: Can You Stand Her?
The "her" is a young gentlewoman named Alice Vavasor, who is engaged to John Gray, a gentleman of academic inclinations and "sober habits" who lives in an undesirable, far location and has little truck with Victorian London society.
But she jilts him, an unforgivable crime, especially for a young woman with no prospect of her own fortune and who is getting on in years; and she further compounds the social wreckage of her decision by taking up with her cousin, the adventurer George Vavasor, who is himself without means except for the prospect of an inheritance which has become jeopardized by his poor treatment of his grandfather over the years.
Punch was right: I like Alice, but her decision, despite giving the book its title, is not what's chiefly interesting about it. It's the entire humorous tableau of Victorian London's upper-class folkways, and the other characters, especially Glencora M'Cluskey, the young heiress who spurns her irresponsible, gambling lover to marry a stick-in-the-mud M.P.
If you've read any Victorian fiction of a didactic or romantic nature you'll be pleasantly surprised reading Trollope, whose prose is always fun but whose ideas are strictly quotidian, circumscribed by observations about manners and with little false moral seriousness. His accounting of characters' motives is almost always practical.
The motives and decisions of women are central in the book, whether despite or because of the gender of the author. Women in Trollope suffer the unfair strictures of a newly puritanical social setting, but at the same time, they are not victims—they are people doing the best they can for themselves under the circumstances.
The reading of Simon Vance is not particularly novel or dramatic. But he sounds like the person in class whom you're waiting to take his turn to read, because he does it beautifully, and without making himself a distraction.