Tuesday, 13 June 2000

Anthony Hope: Quisanté (1900)

Edition: Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1920
Review number: 526

Anthony Hope is of course best known for the massively famous Prisoner of Zenda. He also wrote other thrillers, but did not confine himself to the genre: Quisanté is an enjoyable political novel modelled on Anthony Trolloppe.

Alexander Quisanté is an outsider in nineteenth century British society, aspiring to be a gentleman without the manners of a gentleman. MP for Henstead, he can sometimes exhibit a mesmeric genius and at others repellent crassness. The charming May Gaston is the darling of society, and she falls for the genius, convincing himself that the crassness could be moulded out of his nature. The novel is essentially the story of their marriage, the defaults she suffers as he becomes more and more influential politically. He does not even realise what is happening; the good and bad sides of his personality being so much two sides of the same coin than he has little understanding of the way in which he affects others at his worst.

Compared to, say, Phineas Finn, Quisanté is a light read, with the same strengths and weaknesses of Hope's great thriller. There are too few convincing characters in the novel - and the central Quisanté is not always of their number. Most of the time, however, he is both believable and interesting, and his relationship with May is strong enough to carry the whole novel.

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