Mary's Library

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Not-Trollope Book of the Week

I have just finished reading Mrs Oliphant’s THE DOCTOR’S FAMILY (1863.) I am reading all six Carlingford novels to gain some context for MISS MARJORIBANKS, which my Not-Trollope group is reading for April.

TDF is unusual in that the heroine, Nettie, is obnoxiously domineering but the narrative voice, and apparently Mrs Oliphant herself, seem unaware of this. Nettie is, like so many other protagonists in Carlingford novels, new in town, along with her sister, the wife of the doctor’s lazy and alcoholic brother.

When his brother, and then the wife, three children, and sister-in-law show up on Dr Rider’s doorstep he is disgusted, anxious about having to support these people, annoyed with his brother for not telling him he was married, and annoyed with Nettie for bringing this plague of family members to Carlingford to disrupt the doctor’s life.

The doctor is fighting a battle of duty vs disgust with his worthless brother and longing to be rid of the less than appealing people in his family. Nettie has given up her personal life entirely to take care of her ungrateful sister and her unlikable children, and she too faces a conflict between this duty and the need to create a life of her own.

I am about to move on to the next book in the series, SALEM CHAPEL (1863.)


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