The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope – The Classics Club and Back to the Classics Challenge

 The Way We Live Now cover

The Way We Live Know by Anthony Trollope was first published in 1875 but some aspects of the tale and the characters are so recognisable nowadays. As with most of Trollope’s books it’s a real chunkster but if you have the time – as I have – then you’ll probably find that you manage to read it fairly quickly as it’s a real page-turner.

Lady Carbury is a widow with a son and daughter who are more or less out in the world, or they would be if her son Felix had any gumption, sadly he chooses to spend his time at his club gambling and drinking, and his mother has to write history pot-boilers which are dubious factually to try to make some money to keep body and soul together for her and her daughter. Even so, Lady Carbury just can’t say no to her son when he wants money for gambling, and she gives it to him despite needing the money to pay the household bills, and having to deny her daughter a fair chance in life.

Felix needs to marry a wealthy young woman and with this in mind an invitation to Madame Melmotte’s ball is needed. The Melmottes have arrived in London only recently but they’re reputed to be fabulously wealthy, having made lots of money in France. Lady Carbury wants their daughter Marie for her son. There are rumours though that all might not be as it seems in the Melmotte household. In Paris Mr Melmotte is regarded as a swindler and his business dealings aren’t orthodox. He’s described as being purse-proud and a bully. Melmotte likes to talk about how wealthy he is and throws money around to entertain royalty, but he’s definitely up to no good.

Melmotte is so like the so-called tycoon Robert Maxwell who bought companies just to plunder their pension funds, and he also reminded me of ‘the Donald’. Human beings don’t ever change I suppose and there are only so many different types. This was a great read which I read for the Classics Club. I love Trollope’s writing so I can’t understand why it has taken me so long to get around to reading this one, I suspect that I thought it might not be good pandemic reading – but it was.

I also read this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge which is hosted by Karen K at Books and Chocolate.

Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy – Classics Club spin #28 and Back to the Classics Challenge

 Maid in Waiting cover

I got Maid in Waiting by John Galsworthy in the Classics Club spin number 28, it’s the seventh book in the Forsyte Saga which should really be called the Forsyte Chronicles, and it continues with some of the characters from the previous book and features the Charwell family (pronounced Cherrell). They’re not nearly as well off as the Forsytes as they’ve mainly opted to become church minsters in slum districts, joined the army or become academics.

While Herbert Cherrell, an academic was on an expedition in Bolivia he had had to shoot a muleteer, he got into that position because he had taken to flogging the muleteers for continuing to ill-treat the mules despite his complaints about it. As you can imagine they didn’t take well to being flogged. There’s a possibility that he’ll be extradited to stand trial in Bolivia and at this danger to one of their own, his very clannish family is incensed and set out to pull strings – or in the case of the women to ‘vamp’ men they think might be able to help.

Meanwhile another of them, Diana, is in trouble. Her husband who has been in a private mental hospital for some years suddenly appears back home, claiming to be fine. But he had been violent to her in the past and she’s terrified of him. Again the family comes to her aid. Mental health is quite a theme, was it hereditary or did his experiences during World War 1 turn his mind?

I really enjoyed this one which is quite topical, humans never really change. The Cherrells, some of whom seem very decent, do however have a sense of entitlement and strangely a feeling that they are being held up to higher standards than others simply because of their connections. They see having friends and relatives in high places as a bit of a disadvantage!

It ended a bit abruptly for my liking and I hope that the next one in this trilogy which is called Flowering Wilderness, features Dinny Cherrell as I became quite fond of her, she’s the young mainstay of the family.
I also read this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 which is hosted by KAren K at Books and Chocolate.

On The Beach by Nevil Shute

On the Beach cover

On The Beach by Nevil Shute was first published in 1957 and probably you’ve all read it already, but I hadn’t even seen the film (two have been made) and I had no idea what it was about.

Of course it’s about the end of the world – as we know it, and that came as a bit of a shock to me, in fact I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading it, but I bashed on anyway and although it’s well written as you would expect of something written by Shute, I did find it a bit of a downer, especially given all the sabre-rattling that’s going on in the world today – and in every direction I look there seem to be unstable leaders.

The story is of course based in Australia where Shute moved to from England. It’s set mainly in and around Melbourne, there’s been a short but catastrophic war culminating in nuclear weapons being used and particularly a cobalt bomb which was designed to cause the maximum nuclear fallout over a large area.

At the beginning of the book most of the inhabitants of Earth are already dead from radiation sickness and the residents of Australia are waiting on the contaminated air to reach them. Everything is running out, people are using horse-power again as there is very little petrol for cars, but most people haven’t really come to terms with the fact that they only have months to live, people are in denial and still make plans for the future. I liked most of the characters and their actions seemed to me to be believable.

On a personal note, I was still at primary school and it was the height of the Cold War when I realised that in the event of a nuclear war the area that I lived in would be first in line for a nuclear strike as I lived close to the nuclear submarine base on the west coast of Scotland, in fact my dad worked there. It didn’t worry me for long though as I thought that it would be an advantage to ‘go’ in a flash so to speak. On The Beach just made me think that I was absolutely right about that.

I read this one for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2017.