2007: 76.  Phineas Finn

Phineas Finn, Anthony Trollope

Finally, a commuting book that has gone successfully! I have totally cheated and deserted the last two commuting books, Ship of Fools (“P” Shelf) and The All True Adventures of Lidie Newton (“S” Shelf), one because it was hardcover and too heavy, and the other because it was deadly dull.  I haven’t quite labeled them book failures quite yet - I have visions of returning to them in other fora than my bus rides - but I was pretty glad to find something that would keep my attention as I travel to and fro.

Actually, at first I was afraid Phineas Finn  would be another bust.  It is both heavy (at 698 pages in my Everyman’s Library paperback edition), and, since I inadvertently read the introduction, which gave the whole plot away, I feared it might be dull.  I was wrong!  This book, which is the second of Trollope’s famous parliamentary Pallisers series, was a darn good read, if one that required a bit more from me than, say, the collected works of P.D. James.

It concerns Phineas Finn, a young Irishman who is starting to make his way as a lawyer when a parliamentary seat falls in his lap.  To the worry of his family and friends, who fear it will be the ruin of him (since Parliament doesn’t pay, and he’s not independently wealthy), Finn grabs the ring and goes for it.  He spends a few years (and the course of the book) in Parliament, and we watch his fortunes.  It is an interesting story, because Finn is a perfectly nice and attractive young man, trying his best, and yet he doesn’t deserve and isn’t really able to handle what he gets.  He reminds me, god help me, of Dan Quayle, though Finn is probably brighter (and Quayle probably deserved his Senate seat* more than Finn deserved to be an M.P.).  If you can bear the bits on Parliamentary wrangling, there is an interesting and insightful story of a young man who gets more than he deserves, and who is somewhat of a cad towards women (if inadvertently), but who you sort of can’t help rooting for.  When, in the end, he does a foolish, but honorable thing, you feel like Finn has done alright.  I don’t know if its because the books are so long, but Trollope creates characters who seem real - foibles and all - and in the end, I was sad to see Phineas go.  And I haven’t even talked about all the other, perhaps more interesting characters - Lady Laura, Violet, Mr. Kennedy, Lord Chiltern.   I will have to read the rest of the series - I find myself quite looking forward to Phineas Redux.

*I cannot comment on the vice-presidency.  I doubt DQ deserved it, but then, who does?

Recommended for: People who like dipping into long and leisurely Victorian novels; people who like politics; people who like reading about interesting characters with realistic motives (so, people who like reading, right?).

Date/Place Completed:  5/30/07; D.C.

Categories:  Fiction; Commuting Book

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017