Sunday, May 26, 2024

Joanna Trollope

Joanna Trollope's The Choir has long been a favorite of mine, but back when I first read it, the public library I had access to did not have many books by Trollope, and the other one I read by her (was it The Men and the Girls? I don't really remember) I didn't like, so I never went on to find her other books.

A few days ago, while I was wandering the aisle of my current public library, I found a bunch of books by Joanna Trollope, and took out The Rector's Wife, thinking it probably was in conversation with Orwell's A Clergyman's Daughter, and it kind of is. (Trollope, being the great-grand-niece of Anthony Trollope, is almost certainly up on her English novels.) 

Orwell's book, you'll remember, was a weirdly constructed episodic look at a few years in the life of the daughter of an impoverished clergyman, who Orwell posited was as stunted and miserable as she was because she was terrified of sex. 

Trollope's book is a look at about a year in the life of the wife of an impoverished clergyman -- a rector, who looks after 12 parishes for nine thousand pounds a year. This is 9000 pounds in 1988 pounds, and I have no idea how much that would be in 2024 dollars*. There is very little love remaining between the rector and his wife; and due to the social norms of their parish, she has not been allowed to have a job, outside of doing the work a rector's wife is expected to do. Basically, the story is about how the rector's wife breaks free from this parish and this loveless marriage, and how her kids grow up.

I've read a couple more of her novels since then, including a re-read of The Choir, which is excellent. They are hit and miss -- some of them are very good, and others not so much. There's almost always a romance happening as part of the novel, but -- like Angela Thirkell and D. E. Stevenson -- they are books about people in a community, and what happens during a given period of time. If you like Thirkell and Stevenson, you'll probably like (some) of these.

Start with The Choir!

*Having done the math, that would be around $15,000 in 1988 dollars, and so about $40,000 in 2024 money. Lower class money, especially since the rector and his wife have 3 kids.


Dame Eleanor Hull said...

J. Trollope is hit-or-miss for me, too. Some I like quite well, others not so much. I don't remember The Choir in particular, so as a general observation, the big problem about the rector's salary is that a rector cannot live a lower-class lifestyle, so somehow they have to manage a middle-class life on that sort of money, or be terribly declasse.

delagar said...

That's a good point!

Anonymous said...

I like The Choir - I think I read it after seeing a TV adaptation years and years ago. Lots of lovely architecture and singing in that.

Please keep your fingers crossed for us, my eldest is finally having top surgery tomorrow. The weather tonight (currently 5pm in New Zealand )is very windy and rainy, so we are hoping for no slips on the road through the range of hills we have to cross to get to the city where the surgery.

I’m going to look up the Rector’s Wife on Amazon, might be a good way to pass the time during the operation.


delagar said...

Definitely fingers crossed! We only had to drive half a mile from the surgery center, because I'd rented a hotel room for the first few days of his recovery. (I didn't want to drive the 50 miles home.) That was rough enough.

If your kid is like mine, there will be a couple weeks of recovery, much of which they'll sleep through (or my kid did) due to the pain meds. And then clear sailing! Keep the wrap on, though, that's important. It's like an elastic bandage that you wrap around the upper chest area. They'll tell you!

My kid has been like 100% happier since.

delagar said...

Send me an update after the surgery! Let me know how your kid is doing.

Anonymous said...

All went well with the trip and the surgery, Safely home yesterday at lunchtime. pretty slleepy but otherwise feeling well. He was so anxious that something would happen to prevent it that i don’t think it has quite sunk in that it is finally done.

thanks for your good wishes :-)

delagar said...

I'm so glad it went well!