Book Review: Miss Mackenzie

At the insistence of a few friends, I can no longer say I’ve never read an Anthony Trollope novel!

Miss Mackenzie was first published by Trollope in 1865. Margaret Mackenzie has spent her whole life in isolation. Taken from school at age 16, she first nursed her dying father and then her ill brother Walter. After his death, Margaret finds herself at age 36 both free to discover herself and with the income required to do something about it! She moves to Littlebath (a fictional town based on Bath) and begins to determine if she will be a sinner in the crowd of Miss Todd or a saint following the teachings of Mr. Stumfold, a prominent pastor in the place.

Several proposals by various potential lovers later, Margaret finds her fortune in crisis. At this point her true character begins to shine through as she navigates the waters of both the legal and social systems of the time. And that’s all I can tell you without spoiling this delightful book. From here on, read my thoughts at your own risk 🙂

I greatly enjoyed this novel. In many places it’s downright silly and I laughed greatly. Trollope does a good job of creating characters. They are very complex – no one is fully good or fully bad, with the possible exception of Margaret. Her innocent sweetness is her leading trait, though the others are all a blend of high values and baser motivations – especially the suitors after her money.

I appreciated this unique take on the coming-of-age genre. Although Margaret is 36, her story closely parallels a teen experiencing the world for the first time. The fact that she isn’t a teen plus she has a fortune at her disposal adds a layer of complexity to her attempts to figure out who she is in the world. She can get away with doing more than a teen ever would, such as relocating to Littlebath and taking rooms as a single woman. And yet she has to do the same learning as any young woman about who is trustworthy, who only wants her money, and who will make her happy in the end.

I love Margaret’s relationship with John. I love her firmness in her love for him, despite the many roadblocks thrown in her way. I appreciate how she handles Lady Ball – she is not rude or untruthful, simply firm. I believe the trial with Lady Ball shaped Margaret’s understanding. I was however about to pull my hair out by the end. Just get married already! If Clara Mackenzie hadn’t gotten involved, I wonder if it would ever have happened. All the firmness in the relationship belongs to Margaret; I personally find John Ball a rather weak man. Hopefully in the time after the novel Margaret is able to shape his character a little!

I think you ladies have convinced me – Trollope is well worth reading. I’ll add more later in the year once I whittle down my stack a bit.

This is my 3rd read for this year’s Back to the Classic Challenge, in the Romance Category.


2 thoughts on “Book Review: Miss Mackenzie

  1. Welcome to the Trollope Fan Club! I’ve not read this title but it sounds like one not to be missed. Every single one I’ve read is not to be missed! I chose a Trollope title, He Knew He Was Right, for the Romance Category as well. I think you can fit just about any Trollope book into any category (with few exceptions!) in the Back to the Classics Challenge! I have 3 of his novels planned for this year’s Challenge!

    So glad you enjoyed your first taste of Trollope!

  2. Cool that you started with a less frequently read Trollope instead of The Warden or Barchester Towers. As usual with me and a Trollope novel, I tolerated the romance and enjoyed the other characters like the lawyer Mr. Slow and the subtly named suitors Handcock, Rubb, and Ball. Tony didn’t get over funny names until the late 1860s. Though Trollope signals what ultimately is going to happen, he tosses in unexpected developments (I won’t say “surprises” – I think Trollope saw surprises as unworthy and tricky) keeps us readers in agreeable suspense. I’m not a re-reader, but this one I’d re-read.

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