The first book in the political Palliser series, the novel deals with parliamentary politics, while concurrently devoting its pages to much more intricate issues. Presenting three parallel stories, the parliamentary novel draws its attention to three contrasting young women, who are beset with arduous decisions concerning courtship and marriage. Additionally, the novel covers topics including women in conventional society and their discernment, while illustrating the tentative stages of marriage with all the attributes of sacrifice, compromise and temptation. The central plot of the novel begins with the introduction of Alice Vavasor, who after a rocky engagement and break up with her reckless cousin George, presently engages herself to the respectable, yet bland countryman John Grey. However, Alice fails to commit to her fiancé, and while on a trip to Switzerland with her cousin Kate, who is also George’s sister, she gives in to her cousin’s persuasion and jilts John and renews her engagement to George. Subsequently, his true nature begins to surface and once again Alice is overcome by indecisiveness. Still, John refuses to give up on the perverse young woman and continues with his determined pursuit of Alice’s alternating affection. Trollope’s novel additionally revolves around two other subplots concerning the similarly complicated love lives of Mrs. Greenow, a widow, and Glencora Palliser, a woman trapped inside a passionless marriage and left yearning for true love. Offering a front row seat overlooking the gender, political and social conventions of the time, Trollope’s piece presents a colorful array of female characters, who are not only put up against the conventions of society, but must also oppose their inner self as they are torn between desire and duty. Apart from successfully portraying the English political scene of the time, Trollope also explores the social scene of Victorian England, and fortifies the apparent transgression present throughout the novel. Furthermore, the novel presents a vivid depiction of vacillation expressed through the inconsistent actions of the different female characters. A literary piece certain to absorb with its realistic characters, comical delineations, and empathetic private tumults, Trollope’s classic offers a powerful insight into politics and the lives of women during the Victorian era.
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