Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Way We Live Now--the television series

Last year at around this time, I was reading Anthony Trollope's The Way We Live Now for a group read, which I eventually wrote up for Escape Into Life. I enjoyed the book, but not perhaps as much as my friends did, or as even I had enjoyed Trollope in the past. There was something maybe a little outsized about his great villain Augustus Melmotte that did not entirely appeal to me. I mean, he isn't supposed to be appealing, but he seemed to be a bit of a cartoon. And actually this was true of several of the other characters to a lesser degree.

It's very rarely that I find a film rendition of a book actually adds anything to the experience, although I may enjoy reliving it if I liked it enough in written form. But the BBC version of this book was something of a revelation to me, especially in the characters of Augustus Melmotte, as played by David Suchet, his daughter Marie, played by Shirley Henderson, and Sir Felix Carbury as played by Matthew Mcfayden. The rest of the cast was excellent as well, but these three were dealing with some fairly one dimensional characters and all three actors gave them life and fleshed them out considerably, without straying from Trollope's vision of them.

Or perhaps a different way to say it is that they lent them their charisma. Sir Felix is a big, highly indulged baby throughout the book, but McFayden reminds us that there are and always have been such men and gives us some hint of how their charms work. Shirley Henderson is a life force in a tiny package and her scenes with Suchet as her father are marvelous to watch. And Suchet is incredible. As with Sir Felix, we are reminded that such self-made monsters do and perhaps have always existed, and Melmotte's philosophy of life and business remind us very much of the way we live now. One of the amazing things about his range is that he has come out with a whole different register for his voice, which if you know him only with Poirot's light and airy voice, will shock you in its near Kissingerlike depths.

The 200th anniversary of Trollope's birth was last Friday. It would be a good time to read a little Trollope in tribute. But I think you will honor him just as much if you watch and enjoy this series. 


  1. I had seen this delightful series, so I was excited to read your book review! Glad you found this, too.

  2. Yes, you might even have been the one who told me about the television production, Kathleen. I'm very glad to have seen it.