Is there a Victorian novelist who handles love triangles as well as Trollope, with the exception perhaps of Henry James?
The Claverings is Trollope at his finest. With his usual skill, he presents us with characters who are all flawed and therefore human, led by greed, power, rank, status, and sheer narcissism; at the same time, however, Trollope is a skillful writer, able to dig deep into the psychological makeup of his characters to provide compelling reasons for their actions, and also elicit a sympathy for even the most grotesque deeds.
Harry Clavering finds himself in an awkward position: two years ago, he was jilted by his first love, Julia Brabazon, so that she could make a more financially advantageous marriage to Lord Ongar. When Julia returns—as Lady Ongar, after the death of her much older (and horribly unjust) husband—Harry has already pledged himself to another woman, Florence Burton. The one who got away returns, then, and sets The Claverings into motion, a novel with a cast of characters as diverse as a Russian spy, a belligerent and lowly curate, and a captain whose answer to matters of the heart is almost always extortion. To give any more away would spoil the meticulous structure of the novel, where Trollope reveals things and always remains in command of his reader.The Claverings may well be the best place to begin with Trollope; sadly, however, it also seems to be one of the most under-read of his novels.