The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope.

The Eustace Diamonds marked my most happy and triumphant return to Anthony Trollope after over a year of dead ends. I have loved Trollope ever since I read He Knew He Was Right in January 2012 (I'm really due a re-read of that) but when I finished Can You Forgive Her? in March 2015 and then went on to Phineas Finn the next month it all came to a shuddering halt. It took a year to finally read Phineas Finn, and in that time I also tried The Landleaguers (still no signs of finishing that one). It seemed as though I'd fallen out of love with Trollope yet I was still determined to read his Palliser Series. Sensibly (I think) I decided to battle through Phineas Finn last month at whatever cost, then begin The Eustace Diamonds to see if the fun really truly was all over. I can happily say it is not: The Eustace Diamonds is the Trollope I know and love.

The Eustace Diamonds is the third novel of Anthony Trollope's Palliser or Parliamentary novels (following Phineas Finn) and was first serialised from 1871 - 1873. In this Trollope tells the story of Lizzie Eustace, the anti-hero, Trollope's Becky Sharp if you will. The novel begins with one of Trollope's best opening lines,
It was admitted by all her friends, and also by her enemies,—who were in truth the more numerous and active body of the two—that Lizzie Greystock had done very well with herself. We will tell the story of Lizzie Greystock from the beginning, but we will not dwell over it at great length, as we might do if we loved her.
Lizzie Greystock soon marries Sir Florian Eustace, who rather abruptly dies (we're only into the second of eighty chapters here), and she is left with her son very very well-off indeed and in possession of what are known as 'the Eustace diamonds' - a necklace worth some ten thousand pounds (approaching £500,000 in today's terms I believe). Understandably she wants to keep the diamonds, but are they her diamonds to keep? That is indeed the question. Mr. Camperdown, the Eustace family's solicitor, argues that they are not - they belong to the family as an heirloom, Sir Florian had no right to give them as a gift, and they must be returned immediately. Lizzie argues that they were a gift from her late husband and thus they do belong to her. Like the avaricious magpie she is, whatever the case she refuses to relinquish them and spends much of her time lying her way out of tight spots. To help her case, and to give her some firmer social standing, she seeks a husband, torn between Lord Fawn (who grows increasingly anxious about the diamonds) and Frank Greystock (who is already engaged to Lucy Morris, but that's no matter for Lizzie). Meanwhile, for fear Mr. Camperdown or the Eustace family will remove her diamonds she decides not to keep them safe at the bank but to keep them in her possession in an iron box. The one night the box is stolen and things become distinctly muddy for Lizzie Eustace and we quickly enter The Moonstone territory. 

This is an incredible read - Lizzie is foul but oh, so compelling! She is one of Trollope's finest creations (though let it be said I do still miss Lady Glencora), vivid, exciting, horrible and manipulative, one of the biggest and greatest liars in literature. I loved The Eustace Diamonds and looked forward to reading it every day. It's one of Trollope's longer novels (my Penguin edition had just shy of 800 pages) but it absolutely flies by. It's now one of my favourite Trollopes, and one of my favourite all time books. That said, I can't say I'm very much looking forward to the next in the series, Phineas Redux, having rather suffered Phineas Finn enough already. But I have heard it's much better and I aim to start it in a few weeks.

*******
Further reading

Comments

  1. After finishing The Barsetshire Chronicles at the end of last year, I'm beginning to miss Trollope. But I'm a little hesitant to jump into The Pallisers.. have heard others with the same reaction to Phineas Finn. So glad The Eustace Diamonds is better and I certainly understand your reluctance to return to Phineas. Good luck! I'll probably start on his autobiography soon, then perhaps a stand alone novel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved his autobiography - I think you're in for a treat! :)

      Decided to start the second Phineas over the weekend or I'll just end up putting it off and putting it off then suddenly another year will have passed!

      Delete
  2. you're reprovoking my interest in Trollope. i really liked "the Moonstone", and now, needs must, will have to procure "Eustace". Someday i hope to master "Palliser"; i suppose i should write up a schedule or list, but history has demonstrated that i have honored plans by ignoring them, so most likely will continue serendipitously... tx for the informative post...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moonstone was fantastic, wasn't it? I must return to Collins.

      I hope you enjoy Eustace Diamonds when you get to it - remarkable book. Can't believe how long it was, it seemed to go by so fast!

      Delete
  3. A long novel that flies by certainly must be good! I can't wait to finish up my Barsetshire Chronicles and start on this series. I'm glad to hear that you stalled on Trollope and then started to enjoy him again; that's where I'm at. I'll have to give him more attention when I'm out of Faery Land once again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes do - The Last Chronicle is absolutely worth it, I think :)

      Delete
  4. I bought the entire Palliser series but heard that the Barsetshire Chronicles were better. So I read The Warden. That was my first Trollope ever. It looks like I have lots of great books in front of me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved The Warden so much, Septimus Harding is one of my favourite all-time characters! Yes, you do have a lot of good stuff in front of you :)

      Delete
  5. I read The Eustace Diamonds at random several years ago, not realizing it was part of a series. I loved it and it inspired my current blogger ID. I am planning to read the rest of the Palliser novels this year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope to read them all this year too - I've been saying that for years but I do think I'll do it this time! :)

      Delete
  6. Anthony Trollope is my favorite author and I like your review of Eustace Diamonds which I have not read yet. I suggest as first books of his to read, The Barsetshire Chronicles, starting with The Warden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Warden is one of my favourites - I often suggest that one as a good first Trollope :)

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts of the Month