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He Knew He Was Right Book and Miniseries Review

31 Aug

The Book

He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope, was published in 1869. It is one of the more popular of his many, many novels. It tells of the destruction of a once happy marriage, due to the husband, Louis Trevelyan’s jealousy, and his wife, Emily’s stubbornness. Louis does not like Emily to spend so much time with her godfather, Colonel Osborne, a ladies’ man who has some rumored scandals in his past. Although he does not suspect that she has been unfaithful, he thinks that it will give him a bad reputation as a husband. Emily, in turn, insists that she has done nothing wrong and so instead of acquiescing, she obstinately defies Louis just to prove him wrong. Both keep insisting that they are right until things keep spiraling further and further out of control. Like Trollope’s other works, there are about a million side characters and subplots as well, including a love triangle involving Emily’s sister, Nora.

I actually read this a few months ago but am only getting around to a review now to fill up time until my Jane Eyre DVD arrives! This was my fourth Trollope novel.I have not really cared for any of them, sadly. The Warden and Barchester Towers were okay, but I really hated The Way We Live Now. I like Trollope’s writing well enough, but I always have a  hard time because most of his characters are so unlikeable. Trollope himself was not fond of He Knew He Was Right because Louis Trevelyan was so unsympathetic. I have to agree. It’s not good if I like the subplots better than the main plot of a novel! I could not sympathize with Emily either. Yes, she was technically more “right” in the beginning than Louis, but the situation got out of hand largely due to her obstinacy as well as Louis’s. The two really needed to have a frank discussion without constantly blaming the other for everything. I do not hesitate in saying this will be my last Trollope novel, since I do not own any others.

My Rating: 4/10

He Knew He Was Right, the miniseries, aired on BBC in 2004 and was scripted by the (in)famous Andrew Davies. It stars Oliver Dimsdale as Louis Trevelyan, Laura Frasier as Emily, and many well-known British actors such as Bill Nighy as Colonel Osborne, Anna Massey as Aunt Stansbury, and Christina Cole as Nora. Andrew Davies also adapted Trollope’s The Way We Live Now, and as you probably know from my earlier review, I was NOT a fan of that adaptation in any way. Since I did not care for this book very much, I did not have high hopes for this miniseries.

So, what did I think? It was actually not as bad as I thought it could be. That was, I believe, mostly due to my low expectations. The acting was good all around and it was faithful to the novel for the most part. I have mixed feelings about one big change to this adaptation, however. Namely- Emily Trevelyan. Davies paints her as MUCH more sympathetic than the book character, where she is nearly as much to blame as Louis for their failed marriage. Here, she is almost completely innocent and seems genuinely ignorant and confused about why Louis is originally upset. Louis in the miniseries actually believes that she and Osborne are having an affair for some reason, which never crossed his mind in the book. Emily in the series is a blameless victim, and can honestly be called “right” in the situation. I suppose Davies wanted to make at least one likeable lead and so altered things to make Louis entirely the villain and Emily only a victim, trying to do the right thing. I am torn about this change because while it does make for easier viewing, having someone to root for in the main plotline, the fact remains that it is not true to the book. I was unable to fully enjoy the miniseries for that reason because I just kept thinking “That’s not how it’s supposed to be!” Silly and too purist of me? Maybe. But that’s how I feel.

My Rating: 6/10

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