The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Anthony Trollope’s novels read fast. Way faster than Eliot or Dickens. For the nineteenth century, they’re almost like Elmore Leonard in their sparseness. Having finished Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw we can now suggest that Anthony picked up that clear fast prose style from his mother. Frances Trollope’s The Life and Adventures of Jonathan Jefferson Whitlaw: Or Scenes on the Mississippi reads like a crime novel. But it plays like an opera. About a third of the way into the book we started thinking that it was too bad nobody pitched the story to Verdi. He would have loved it. Whitlaw turns out to be as rotten as the Duke of Mantua. There’s a scuttling semi-magical crone for the mezzo role. There’s a martyred missionary, his devoted sister (lyric soprano) and a chorus of German good guys. It would have been wonderful. It still could be. All it needs is a big swashbuckling composer and a librettist other than the piously revered but incompetent novelist who tackled the Margaret Garner task and failed utterly.
The Hervieu illustrations? Mon Dieu! Sensatonelles! Teriffiants!