Can You Forgive Her? is the first novel in Anthony Trollope's Palliser series. Three women each have two very different suitors: one exciting but poor, the other financially secure but dull.
Click here to see the rest of this review
The bulk of the novel focuses on 24-year-old Alice Vavasor (to whom the title refers). Alice, a relatively poor upper-class woman in Victorian England, breaks off her engagement to her cousin George because he is too wild and accepts a marriage proposal from John Grey, a talented but unambitious gentleman. However, her close friend (and George's sister) Kate persuades Alice to transfer her affections back to George.
Then there is middle-aged rich widow Mrs. Greenow, the aunt of Alice and Kate. Her suitors are the well-off farmer Cheeseacres and disreputable but dashing Captain Bellfield.
Finally, there is fabulously wealthy, young, beautiful heiress Lady Glencora M'Cluskie. She has become enamoured of the utterly irresponsible Burgo Fitzgerald, but her stern guardians pressure her into marrying Plantagenet Palliser, the heir to a dukedom and an earnest, hardworking politician.
George, eager to better himself, borrows money from Alice to run for Parliament a second time. John Grey hasn't given up, and with the assistance of Alice's father, secretly supplies the money himself. While George ruins himself, John becomes acquainted with Palliser and decides to run for Parliament himself, much to the delight of Alice, who is finally persuaded to become his wife.
The more mature and strong-willed Mrs. Greenow decides in favour of Captain Bellfield, judging that she can control his more extravagant tendencies and weaknesses.
Lady Glencora decides to run away with Burgo, but Palliser puts his political dreams on hold and whisks his wife away from danger. On an extended tour of the Continent, she comes to like her husband and becomes pregnant.
Best part of story, including ending:
This, in my opinion, is the weakest of the Palliser novels. With the exception of Lady Glencora and, to a lesser extent, Mrs. Greenow, the characters are generally not particularly likable, especially Alice Vavasor.
Best scene in story:
While on the Continental tour, Lady Glencora encounters Burgo losing his money at a casino. She persuades her husband to do something (financially) for her former love.
Opinion about the main character:
Alice is rather annoying, switching back and forth between her suitors like that.