The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Phineas in Review: How Did I Not Point This One Out?

I don't know how I did this, but I don't appear to have highlighted a very fine review (on Goodreads) of Phineas at Bay by Douglas Gerlach:
It's not an uncommon lament of fans of Anthony Trollope: "what shall we do after we've read all of his novels?" This even so, despite the Victorian author's output of 47 novels; more than the fictional output of Dickens, Eliot, and Thackeray combined.

Fortunately, Trollopians can add one more novel to their "to-read" lists, the frolicking just-published sequel Phineas at Bay by John F. Wirenius.

Phineas at Bay revisits the life of Phineas Finn, one of Trollope's most charming characters and the main character of two of the "Palliser" novels, the eponymous Phineas Finn and its sequel Phineas Redux.

In Wirenius's book, set 20 years after the events of Phineas Redux, the Anglo-Irish love-struck politico has settled into a comfortable life with his wife, the still-steadfast former Madame Max. He takes on cases as a barrister in London and still represents Tankerville as a Member of Parliament for the Liberal party.

A chance assignment to represent a Welsh miner in court, however, pits Finn against the forces of a changing industrial society, awakening past alliances both good and bad, and ultimately disturbing the politics of the two-party system. Challenges on the home front require Finn's honor-bound attention, as well, drawing him into a life-threatening imbroglio.

To the sure enjoyment of many readers, familiar characters from the Palliser novels appear in Phineas at Bay, such as a still-unreformed Sir Felix Carbury, a still-scheming Lady Eustace, a still-grieving Duke of Omnium, a still-odious Quintus Slide, and a still-boorish Lord Fawn. Part of the fun of the book comes from the inclusion of Trollope's characters and locations from outside the Palliser series, such as a number of friends from Barsetshire.

There are new faces in the book, too. Several of the cast are the offspring of Trollope's characters who have now grown to adulthood. Some clearly take after their parents, while others struggle to break out of the familial mold.

Obviously, Phineas at Bay will appeal to the growing league of Trollopians, who will take delight in discovering one answer to the question "what happens next?" raised in the final pages of the Phineas diptych. To the author's credit, the book also stands on its own for readers seeking drama, romance, social justice, and political maneuvering set in 19th century England.
Pleasing a discerning, no nonsense reader is a nice experience. I'm honored.

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