Orley Farm by Anthony Trollope

This month I’ve managed to read two books by Anthony Trollope, Rachel Ray and Orley Farm. It’s the bicentennial of Trollope’s birth and I thought I would read 2 for that reason. Karen@ Books and Chocolate has been hosting the celebration.

I read Orley Farm because it was chosen by Philip Henscher in the Guardian article which asked ‘famous’ people to name their favourite Trollope book. I can’t say that I agree with the choice, although I enjoyed Orley Farm it’s definitely not my favourite, not even close.

I read the book on my Kindle and the storyline was sooo sloooow that I didn’t begin to enjoy it until I reached 40%. I have no idea how many pages Orley Farm has but it’s a chunkster and a half so that was probably about 400 pages which I trudged through before enjoyment.

Of course it was first published in serial form in 1862 and for that reason there’s quite a lot of repetition as Trollope reminds his readers of what occurred in the previous magazine and I’m sure he was being paid by the word so it was in his best interest to make it wordy, the bane of Victorian literature.

But as I said I did end up enjoying it, as is often the case with Trollope the storyline is mainly about a will.

Lady Mason had been young when she married the much older Sir Joseph Mason who had a family by his first wife. Lady Mason wanted her young son to inherit Orley Farm but Sir Joseph had promised it to his eldest son Joseph and refused to change his mind about it. Lady Mason is outraged by what she sees as the unfairness of it and is determined to look to her son’s best interests so she decides to forge a codicil to the original will, making Orley Farm over to her and her small son Lucius.

The will is contested by Joseph Mason but he loses the case. However 20 years on Lucius has decided that he wants to study agriculture and needs land for his experiments, so he evicts the tenant of Orley Farm Mr Dockwrath, much to his fury. Dockwrath remembers the original court case and goes to see Joseph Mason in the hope that he can persuade him to go to court again as he believes he has evidence of dodgy dealings.

This book is about the law in England and how unfair it can be (though that’s possibly the same everywhere.) Trollope seemed to want a complete overhaul of the system but that has never happened as the things he was complaining about are still problems. There is one firm of lawyers who have been hired to defend Lady Mason and they are famous for getting guilty people off the hook, to the detriment of the innocent party, everybody knows who is guilty but the smart arguments of the lawyers, Chaffanbrass and Aram, run rings around a jury. I suspect that everybody can name those lawyers nowadays who are well known for defending criminals. In Scotland that used to be Joe Beltrami; when it was reported that he was the defender in any court case everybody would immediately say – Guilty, but they usually got off.

Apart from that there are also a few love stories going on. Trollope was obviously against marriages where the young woman had been moulded by a much older man, groomed from childhood. The relationship between Felix Graham and Mary Snow is one such but the same must have been true of the marriage between Sir Joseph Mason and his second wife.

So in the end there are several interesting themes but it was in need of editing.

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