Can You Forgive Her? is the first in The Palliser Series and I thought it was about time that I got around to reading them, especially as the Angela Thirkell books which I’ve been enjoying recently are very loosely based on the series, although a few generations later.
I had seen a comment from another blogger that the book should have been called Can You Stand Her? and I can see what they mean, but in the preface it says that it could have been called Can She Forgive Herself?
Alice Vavasor is a young woman with a very complicated love life and as her mother died within a year of her marriage to Alice’s father it means that Alice has no older female to guide her in these things. Her cousin Kate Vavasor is keen for Alice to become engaged to Kate’s brother George and George is happy to go along with the idea because it means he would get his hands on Alice’s money.
However Alice broke the engagement because of George’s bad behaviour and subsequently became engaged to John Grey a gentleman who has a small country house, called Nethercoates, in Cambridgeshire. Alice finds the area unlovely and fears that she won’t enjoy life amongst people that she doesn’t know and thinks she will miss the bustle of London, even although she rarely goes into society there.
It has to be said that John Grey could be described as being a decent but boring man and Alice believes that, in modern parlance he’s not that into her. But she’s entirely wrong about that, it’s just that John Grey is a very buttoned-up sort of chap who isn’t very good at showing his feelings.
Inevitably Alice changes her mind yet again and cousin George comes back on the scene, aided and abetted by his sister Kate.
Anyway, that’s the gist of the story but it’s a very long book in two parts, each of over 400 pages in length. So there’s a lot more to it and at times it veers off to Yarmouth where Aunt Morrow, who is a very merry, rich widow and, despite her husband being dead only four months, is setting her cap at various men. She’s a really unlikeable character. Presumably she is in the book to add some humour but I felt it did get in the way of the story and in fact in the introduction which I always read last it did suggest that readers should skip those bits entirely.
But the most interesting character is Lady Glencora and I can see that her husband Plantagenet Palliser is going to be driven to distraction by her and a good thing too.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of the series.