Tuesday, 8 August 2000

Anthony Trollope: The Eustace Diamonds (1873)

Edition: Oxford Text Archive, 1993
Review number: 566

The third novel in the Palliser series is probably the least political of all of them. It shares characters and the background of London society with the rest of them, but little else.

The novel is dominated by the amoral Lizzie Eustace, whom Trollope keeps on insisting is the heroine. The gentle, submissive and not very bright Lucy Morris fits the stereotypical part of nineteenth century novel heroine better, but Trollope gives her a much more subordinate role. Lizzie is effectively an adventuress, who has made a rich marriage. When her husband dies, she keeps the famous Eustace family diamonds, inventing a story that he had given these heirlooms to her.

The family rather naturally attempts to regain the jewels, but it looks as though Lizzie will manage to keep hold of them, until they are stolen. By this point, she has become really tired of the diamonds; her original lie was only prompted by a kind of instinctive acquisitiveness, but it has got her into all kinds of unwelcome difficulties.

Her character is the main unconventionality in the novel, which is predominantly not particularly unusual. Trollope is always entertaining, but not as challenging as the best of his contemporaries.

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