Phineas Finn is the second novel in Anthony Trollope's Palliser series, following Can You Forgive Her?
Phineas Finn is an amiable, very handsome and especially lucky man. Despite being the utterly dependent son of a moderately prosperous Irish doctor, extraordinarily favorable circumstances enable him to win election to the British Parliament (an accomplishment that eluded Trollope in real life).
In London, he makes friends easily, and despite getting off to a rocky start, soon is well respected in political circles. He becomes particularly close to Lady Laura Standish, the daughter of a wealthy and powerful politician; she makes him her protege. He considers asking for her hand in marriage, despite the wide gulf between them. Lady Laura, however, chooses ambition over emotion and marries the extremely rich but dour Robert Kennedy instead.
When Phineas soon loses his heart to heiress Violet Effingham, another suitor, Lady Laura's savage brother Lord Chiltern, insists on a duel (despite them being close friends). Phineas is slightly wounded, and in the end, Violet chooses Chiltern, though not without some trepidation.
Just when it seems that Phineas must lose his seat in the next election, he rescues Robert Kennedy from two would-be robbers one night. Kennedy sees to it that Phineas is elected for a pocket borough he controls. Lady Laura, desperately unhappy with her marriage and unable to suppress the love she feels for Phineas, flees, first back to her father and later to the Continent, to escape her husband.
Phineas, having come under the influence of radical politician Joshua Monk, decides to give up his seat because he can't support his party's stand on an important issue. Madame Max Goesler, the beautiful young widow of a rich banker, becomes enamored of him and offers to marry him, but in the end, he decides to return to Ireland and marry his neglected girlfriend. A well-paying sinecure is arranged for him by his friends. (However, he resurfaces in a later Palliser novel: Phineas Redux.)
Best part of story, including ending:
Phineas is a very charming character who, despite getting himself into some ridiculous situations, is genuinely nice.
Best scene in story:
When Madame Max reveals her feelings for Phineas, he lets her down very gently and delicately.
Opinion about the main character:
You can't help but like Phineas, despite his somewhat fickle heart.