What a delicious book, reading Dr Thorne is like sinking into a warm bath. The narrative style is so comforting- it’s like being told a story by your hilariously witty and occasionally catty uncle.
It’s a gentle story- a funny cast of characters in quaint rural society. The local squire’s son, Frank Gresham falls in love with Mary Thorne, niece of the eponymous doctor. Mary is charming and lovely but of mysterious birth. They wish to marry. Dr Thorne adores his niece and tries to navigate their way through the social minefield and obstacles to happiness.
This has all the hallmarks you could want of Ye Olden day drama- spirited girls, deathbed wills, haughty aristocracy. Some of the characters are total pastiches constructed for sheer comedy value: Mr Moffat, the wettest blanket known to man, or the snobbish De Courcy cousins. Politics, alcoholism and snobbery run rife through the novel.
Trollope has slightly gone out of fashion and I can see why. It’s easy to forget his subtle charm at the thought of ploughing through 600 pages on an archaic society where women still have dowries and not that much happens. So what though? It’s a lovely comedy of manners and his sly put downs are timeless.
Read: On a Sunday night when you need an Jane Austen style fix.