Castle Richmond (1960), one of Trollope’s standalone novels, is the story of two families―the Fitzgeralds of Castle Richmond of the title and the Desmonds of Desmond Court, set in the backdrop of the Irish famine. The story opens with Owen Fizgerald, a cousin of the Castle Richmond Fitzgeralds, falling in love with young Clara Desmond, then only sixteen. She accepts his love but has to give him up, for her family, particularly her mother, sees Owen as an unsuitable match since Clara herself is penniless and Owen has neither much money, not a title. Time passes and Clara meets the Fitzgerald heir Herbert who also falls in love with her and is keen to marry her, this suit having Lady Desmond’s wholehearted approval. But something mysterious is afoot in the background, for a couple of blackmailers are targeting Herbert’s father, Sir Thomas, and trouble lies ahead for the Fitzgeralds. What happens when circumstances change and difficulties arise, how do the characters react, how do the problems they face shape them as people―this is what the rest of the story deals with.

The book really has three storylines proceeding side by side―the rival suits of the Fitzgerald cousins for Lady Clara Desmond’s hand, the blackmail angle (with the secret behind it and its consequences for all the characters), and the famine―and they deal with a range of themes―love, wealth and inheritance, poverty, and religion among them. The famine itself provides a kind of backdrop in which the characters’ personal stories are unfolding. None of them are affected by it directly, they being mostly of the upper echelons of society, but they, particularly Herbert and to an extent Clara are working to help the victims, and in the process realise that their own sufferings may be almost nothing compared to what those directly affected by the famine are facing―no work, no money, barely a roof over their head for some, and unpalatable yellow meal, that too in not very sufficient quantities to keep their body and soul together. Religion too is a theme running in the background, the protestant and Roman catholic branches (particularly the clergy) having their differences and much mistrust but this line of the story provides humour to the plot rather than any ground for serious discord.  

This was not among Trollope’s most popular novels but I quite enjoyed reading it. The characters, are very real people, ones whose situations and dilemmas one can relate to, and whom one can sympathise with; most have shades of grey but one can understand their reasons for acting as they do, and doesn’t dislike them for it. The plotlines too held my attention throughout and while not as engrossing as some of his other works (like Orley Farm), I was interested to see how things will turn out for in Trollope’s world, unlike Dickens’, everything doesn’t always turn out “storybook”.

(Review originally written in 2017)


10 thoughts on “Book Review: Castle Richmond (1860) by Anthony Trollope

  1. I have never heard about this book of Trollope’s. My 1st introduction to him has been The Warden (quite liked it), but then I continued on to Barchester Towers, Which I didn’t really liked – DNF’ed it even. I guess I was not in the mood of reading about church politics then. Ever since, I’ve been searching for Trollope’s book which is more to my taste. You’ve come to the rescue, Mallika! 😉 Will put this on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Barchester is quite good fun so I would recommend you try it again when in the mood. I hope you enjoy Castle Richmond. I’d also recommend Orley Farm, also a standalone and very gripping.


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