Phineas Finn is the second of Anthony Trollope's six Palliser novels. While each is a story within itself, together the volumes comprise a large, coherent composition that captures the fashions, slang, manners, and politics of two decades. Beginning with this segment of the Palliser novels, Trollope painted an unrivaled portrait of Parliamentary political society in the high Victorian period. Trollope's understanding of the institutions of mid-Victorian England and the unobtrusive irony which informs his sympathetic vision of human fallibility is a hallmark of these stories.
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"This gracefully written work is perfectly read by Whitfield, who successfully evokes the Victorian era." (Booklist)
My intro to Trollope's Phineas Finn was through the 1970s TV series, The Pallisers, since watched on video and more recently DVD. The Phineas in Trollope's Palliser series is a mite more macho and naughty - his indecision as to which lovely lady to pursue to promote his political career versus his longing for the lovely pure Mary back home are well drawn by Trollope and one sympathises for his predicament in an era where, without inherited wealth and position within society, aspirations towards political power were hard to realise. The audio book has added a complexity to the character, but at the same time, with the deftness of touch which characterises Trollope's novels, where the human condition and foibles are exposed, but with gentle irony. If the sight of those close printed Trollope novels has put you off, in case of boredom, then try this audio book - it bowls along and takes you with it, effortlessly - I was sorry when it finished.
"not a good first"
If this had been my first Trollope novel, I probably would not have stuck with the read, but overall I liked it. The description of Parliamentary action many be too detailed for some readers, but as a Canadian with a similar system, reading such a portrait set in the period when Canada's own parliament was working for nation status was interesting.
The occasional "recaps" of plot betray that the novel originally appeared as a serial, and I found that bit annoying.
If you're new to Trollope, I'd recommend that you start with one of the Barset Chronicles rather than Phinneas.
"A Political Scamp"
I want to second an opinion expressed in another review. Phineas Finn is not a good introduction to Trollope; read Doctor Thorne or The Little House at Allington first. This is not to detract from this excellent book, it just not the place to start with Trollope. Robert Whitfield turns in a splendid performance as narrator.
Phineas Finn liked women and women liked him. His philosophy could be best stated in the words of that 60's song,"If you can't be with the one you love, then love the one you're with". Restated: maybe a woman, in particular one Miss Mary Flood Jones, the girl back home, out of sight is a woman out of mind. Mr. Finn was a man of flexible principles and attachments. Clever, quick witted and handsome, he was scamp. I like him. He was a happy scamp, even a well meaning scamp. There were no mean bones in his body.
If you like inside politics, this is the book. He was a shooting star, flashing across the night sky suddenly appearing to be remarked upon then as suddenly gone. Elected to parliament without opposition at age twenty-five, the naive young man quickly finds himself at the center of political maneuvers and schemes. Then, suddenly, it was over but there is still the matter of the girl back home.
"Best Reader I've ever heard--So-so story"
In the end the principal enjoyment in listening to Phineas Finn for me was the excellent narrator, Robert Whitfield. He is able to convey, by changing his tone and accent, a character's gender, age and class in a single line; he switches back and forth without missing a beat. It's an astonishing performance and for the first time I actually searched and added to my wish list other books based on narrator.
*Spoiler alert from this point on.*
The novel itself is enjoyable, very funny sometimes, but really very slight. I wanted to like it;I was actually named for a character in a Trollope novel, believe it or not. But I came to feel that the hero's character is not the best drawn one in the book. That would be Violet, who is merely the third most important character. When Phineas chooses a wife, I had no sympathy with his "noble" decision at all, since he takes the one-dimensional girl back home. There's an episodic quality similar to dramatic television, with stuff just happening to fill pages, and the end coming just because it's time for the book to end. I'll note that in the sequel Phineas Redux Trollope kills off the dull wife on page 3 and brings Finn back to London for another go-around.
Great book, very good voice, good recording quality.
"Politics, values, and love vie for our attention"
While I wouldn't call this a riveting tale, I appreciated the insights into the political life -- the compromises to one's values, the outsized importance of rank and the role of money in British society. Through the book we witness Phineas growing into his mature self, struggling to hold onto his self-respect in a world where going along with the leaders of your faction is what matters and what delivers rewards both pecuniary and social.
Trollope's treatment of women was, as usual, sensitive to their powerlessness in British society and their need to take great care in everything they did so as not to sully their reputation and ruin their lives. A very tough world for women!
For the first time ever, I must criticize the narration. Usually this narrator handles accents expertly (how he keeps 30+ Dickens characters distinct is a miracle!) but I was disappointed in his narration of the Scottish and Irish accents. Not up to his usual standards. This was recorded 15 years ago, however.
Trollope is so lovely and this narrator is fabulous. It started slow but I ended up slowing down toward the end to savor it
This is one of the best Palliser novels.
(spoiler) Madame Max is one of Trollope's best characters, and one of his most modern women in a sea of bland victorian heroines, like that tedious blank slate poor Finny marries.
Everything was fine, crisp, clear and lovely, until he started voicing Lady Glencora Palliser. Then it became obvious that he hasn't read the other books, because he makes her sound snobbish and 40 years old, when she is probably only in her twenties, and every book shows her to be wonderfully undignified and a little outrageous. Hard to take if you have seen Susan Hampshire's dead on and utterly charming performance in the BBC Palliser series.
"Good classic stuff"
I'm slowly listening my way through Trollope's novels, and having a great time doing so. I enjoyed the narration for this one, the narrator does a great job with the accents. There are occasional little jumps here and there in the audio, but they don't stop you listening to the book. I chose this version since the other unabridged one on offer had warnings that the last section of the book didn't download. This one is fine, and a really enjoyable listen.
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