Can You Forgive Her? Review

It has been too long since I made time to read, but I finally made time, and it was so good to get back in the swing of things. Can You Forgive Her? by Anthony Trollope, is a novel which was written in 1864, when the U.S. was right in the thick of the Civil War. But this book was set in England and includes no reference to the war whatsoever. That alone was interesting—the same hoopskirts, the same point in time that we have all studied in detail…a very different experience. 

I first discovered Anthony Trollope by watching the Julian Fellowes-directed Doctor Thorne, which was based on Trollope’s book by the same name, on Prime. Fellowes would cozily appear before each episode began to tell us about his love for Trollope and his characters. I had a hunch, given my love of Fellowes’s Downton Abbey, that any novelist whom he liked, I would like also.

As I was looking for a Trollope book to start, I was first intrigued by the title, which seemed very tongue-in-cheek and a little daring. I would describe Trollope’s overall tone as just that, with added ingredients of compassion and a sweet, bouncy narrative form. He starts out the book breaking the fourth wall by babbling something along the lines of: “The thing for which I am going to ask you to forgive her had not yet taken place…” It made me smile immediately. Every once in a while, he breaks the wall to have a little chat with the reader. “I for one am inclined to forgive her… In any event, you must forgive her before the end of this narrative…”

The story follows Alice Vavasor, a young lady who is engaged at the start of the book but can’t really decide whom she wants to marry for various reasons. I don’t want to try to capture Alice here because Trollope draws her as being exquisitely complex. We get so deeply into her head and learn all about her introspection, strength, morality, goodness, insecurities, and stubbornness. Going to that level of understanding a woman felt very modern; you completely forget that it was written during the Victorian Era. There was almost nothing he had to say about women that would make modern readers cringe because Trollope both loves women and never forgets the most important part of writing fiction: to remember the humanity of all. Alice reminds me, more than any character I have ever read, of myself, but it occurred to me that a lot of women might feel the same because Trollope just gets women. He has a way of conveying with clarity the creatures that they are—exquisite and nuanced—so perfectly onto the page that you are shocked to reflect they are not real characters.

This is saying a lot for a book written in 1864 when this level of psychological understanding and exploration was somewhat less than ubiquitous. But psychology seems to be where Trollope shines most in this book. He understands women, he understands how they interact with men, and he understands men. Character after character is portrayed honestly, but always with a dash of compassion, of understanding, in the way of seeing through their eyes—even the villains.

Everyone in Alice’s life gets some airtime. Trollope is meticulous to explore each of his characters’ personalities and motivations in details. Particularly interesting was the marriage of Plantagenet Palliser and Lady Glencora. Trollope explores the unhappiness of Glencora, Alice’s cousin, who is a young wife who was forced into marriage with a man she doesn’t love. He frankly (and scandalously for the time period) explores the possibility of Glencora leaving her husband for another man, and then sensitively fights hard for the marriage. The Palliser couple forms the link for the succeeding Palliser series, apparently. (I am not sure whether I will read the rest because they appear to have an emphasis on political rather than romantic storylines, but I have ordered another book from a different series.)

Another character with a lot of airtime is Alice’s cousin, George, the true villain in the story who even commits violence against a woman, a scene which Trollope doesn’t shy away from putting right on the pages (again, unusual for the time). That being said, even George’s motivations are explored sensitively, and not without a certain measure of sympathy, even if Trollope does have very clear notions of the way things should be and of how people should behave.

Other female characters are Alice’s wealthy aunt and her cousin, Kate, whose lives and personalities are explored in detail along with Alice’s and Glencora’s. Because of this, the book actually felt in some respects like modern women’s fiction. Somehow, I have to imagine that this level of attention to women was ground-breaking in the 1860s. But Trollope does it with a respect for social conventions also that would have made it more palatable to the Victorian reader than if he had tried something more revolutionary.

But the men are not given short shrift either. I particularly liked the character of John Grey, who is a very strong character who made for a romantic plot that moved the story along.

There were some parts that were a bit boring, usually dealing with George’s financial matters, that I did skim over. I would recommend doing that because those parts have the potential to bog the reader down. All in all, however, I really enjoyed the book and feel like I discovered a new author to stand alongside my favorite English historical authors.

Southern Rain Anniversary Q&A

Today is the third anniversary of the publication of Southern Rain on Amazon KDP. The process has been rewarding, humbling, fun, and, on the beginning, terrifying. To celebrate, I decided to do a Q&A based off questions that I have received about the Torn Asunder Series from readers over the past three years. Obviously, there are some spoilers because this is a deep dive into details of the story. Because I would like to say thank you for all of those who have loved the series, I decided to record my responses to these questions. But please bear with me and excuse the many “um’s” and pauses because I recorded them off-the-cuff. I hope you enjoy it!

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Persuasion Review

Persuasion (Netflix, 2022) Review

A while back, upon learning that a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was in the works by Netflix, I posted about that, other Persuasion adaptations, and the fabulous book itself. I was hopeful about the adaptation because I felt there was still some of the essence of the novel that was left on the table for a filmmaker to explore.

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What Genre Am I?

My first series was a time-slip contemporary/historical with romantic elements. My next novel was sort of a niche Southern fiction/small town/humor with romantic elements. I think some of my initial audience was drawn to the immersive Civil War themes of the Torn Asunder Series, with some happening to fall in love with the modern characters along the way.

There is no question that, for marketing purposes, it would have been great for my next project to sort of resemble my previous series in some tangible way, in order to build on the following in that direction. I was aware of that and actually made the conscious decision not to do that.

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New Persuasion Film

I subscribe to the fabulous Jane Austen’s World and was excited to see a new post today about a new Netflix adaptation of Persuasion, which is in the works. Here is the link:

I read Persuasion when I was in college, and it has a special place in my heart. Published after Jane Austen’s death, I think the novel is likely her finest. It is grown up, quiet, and compelling. I have trouble saying Persuasion is my favorite because I have all these periphery favorites as well. The 1995 Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorite movies of all time. Pride and Prejudice was my first Austen and is truly extraordinary. I also adore the 1996 adaptation of Emma with Kate Beckinsale. But I did feel Persuasion was special enough to be labelled my “favorite” when I read it about a decade ago, so I will stick with that.

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Some Thoughts on A Separate Peace

I was in a bookstore while on a weekend shopping trip. The title had been stuck in my head all day, just kind of rotating around nonchalantly, meaninglessly, as phrases do. A Separate Peace. I’ve never known anything about the book, but the title has always seemed to me singularly beautiful. The kind of title you wish you had thought of first. Shimmering with meaning. With significance. I have no idea how it came into my mind.

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Thank God for Mississippi – Official Playlist

Ahead of the release of TGFM, I am also sharing my Spotify playlist. This includes songs that went into the creative process somehow, songs that were mentioned in the book, and songs that just generally represented the book, all of which I listened to during the drafting stage. Hope you enjoy!

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Q&A: Thank God for Mississippi

Hi Readers! I am excited to share the official Q&A for Thank God for Mississippi with you! I always open these to readers and anyone with an interest. We have some great questions, and I categorized them by topic. Starting off, there are questions about the writer (moi!), followed by questions about TGFM itself, which lead into questions about small town and Southern life, Southern literature in general—and then we bring it back to the book. The questions were very wide-ranging this time, but I think they’re all pertinent and related. Enjoy!

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Public Service Announcement – Alex Rider Series has been adapted for TV!!!

I don’t know if you are familiar with the Alex Rider books, or if the popularity of the series was a phenomenon limited to my age group. I remember the series being the star of our school book fairs, starting roughly around 2002 when I would have been in the 5th grade. As millions of children across the world remember the Harry Potter Series as being the stories of their childhood that made them readers, so I remember the Alex Rider Series. I had always been a reader, but looking back, these are the books that made me a passionate reader.

Continue reading Public Service Announcement – Alex Rider Series has been adapted for TV!!!