The first book in Anthony Trollope's Palliser series, this novel is definitely up to his usual high standard. Trollope’s dry, amusing style portrays Victorian England very clearly, allowing us an insight into its murky politics. Although this is one of Trollope’s Parliamentary novels it is concerned more with the politics of love and the demands of society. Throughout, Trollope brilliantly evokes the power of society on the individual, conveying their despair, their motivations, and their anguish almost without effort but with a depth matched by few authors.
The story centres around Alice Vavasor who is torn between two men and Lady Glencora Palliser, Alice's cousin who has in a similar predicament. The novel's third subplot, involving Alice's aunt's choice between somewhat unsuitable suitors, provides a comic, yet still subtly touching, foil to the two main stories. Trollope examines a marriage in its first tentative stages with all of the self-sacrifice, compromise and reluctant devotion that this entails.