first published in 1869
I picked up this book having no idea what to expect, not really knowing what it was about, and ending my reading with a big smile on my face saying (out loud, no less) "Oh, how lovely!"
*** The Plot ***
It is the 1860s. Our hero, Phineas Finn, is an Irishman living in England studying to be a barrister (aka lawyer). He is very interested in political life and finds himself, through a series of interesting circumstances, elected to the House of Commons. Once there, he begins to socialize with the wealthy and powerful men and women of the day and his life changes drastically.
The novel follows his experiences in Parliament and in society for the next several years.
*** My Opinion ***
From the plot summary you may think this book is rather boring, but it really isn't! It is "old-fashioned" in language and tone, but it is fun and lovely as well. This book has it all - politics, romance, drama - all the things classic literature does so well. I loved it!
The book is written as if someone were telling you the story of Phineas Finn, but the narrator also has inside information from time to time. The narrator talks to the reader, interjecting opinions here and there, often refering to Phineas as "our hero". In other places the narrator speculates about the motives of other characters as if to clue the reader in or give some extra information. This made the book very easy to read, very "personable".
The character of Phineas is unique. He is a genuinely likable fellow but there is nothing outstanding about him. His greatest gift is his amiability, the ease with which people come to like him and wish the best for him. It is only the narrator who makes him into a "hero", I think, and only the narrator who makes us interested in him.
My only complaint is that sometimes there was too much information about the inner workings of parliament for my liking, but those were easy to skim through and they didn't detract from the story. Actually, they usually helped the story along, but they were still a bit boring to me.
*** Miscellany ***
~ This is the 8th book I've read for the 1% Well Read Challenge that ends on 2/28/09. I have one short story and half of a book to go, then I'll be finished the challenge.
~ As with most books written during this time period, racism is inherent in the social system. It is not blatant but it IS assumed. There was one use of the N word but that was the only direct reference to racism.
~ After I finished the book I did a bit of digging around and found the following:
- This is the 4th of 6 books in the PALLISER NOVELS series. The books were originally serialized. Most characters in this book appear in earlier and later books as well. However, I read this book not knowing that is was part of a series and had no trouble understanding any of it. It could easily be a stand-alone novel.
- After learning that, I looked up the following book, PHINEAS REDUX, on Amazon. In the review section they gave the entire plot away - I'm ticked!!! Part of the fun of reading this book was having no idea how things would turn out in the end. Now, even though I really wanted to read the next book, I likely won't.
- The PALLISER NOVELS are alluded to in ANNA KARENINA.
- The books were made into a TV series by the BBC in the 1970s.
~ I decided to read this book for no other reason than the title. It was part of the list of books for the 1% Well Read Challenge and the name Phineas reminded me of Phileas Fogg from AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS. That's my whole reason right there.
*** Your Thoughts? ***
I've never seen another blogger's review of this book, have you? Have you read it? Heard of it? Let me know!