When I originally reviewed Happy Returns, I remarked that I thought it would be easier to keep track of its many characters if you had read the series from the beginning. That certainly proved to be the case when I revisited the novel this time. I provided an adequate summary in my original review, so I’ll use this post to write about my observations second time around.
I didn’t mention that much of the point of view of this novel is from Eric Swan, whom we met way back when he was a school friend of Tony Morland’s and used to infuriate Philip Winter, then his schoolmaster, by looking at him through his glasses. (I believe this was in Summer Half.) Swan is now working for Philip, and at thirty, has not found the woman for him. However, he is immediately struck by Grace Grantly.
Much of the novel concerns whether the engagement of Clarissa Graham and Charles Belton will actually end in marriage, but I was also interested in the growing friendship between the older Lady Lufton and her very nice tenant, Mr. Macfayden. Lady Lufton was exceedingly irritating in the preceding book because of her helplessness after her husband’s death, but in this one a few choice words from a friend make her pull herself together. This takes some of the pressure off the burdened young Lord Lufton, her son. He has been attracted to Clarissa, but another instance of rudeness toward Charles breaks the spell. Unfortunately, he also notices Grace Grantly.
I enjoyed this novel in its context within the series much more than I did as a stand-alone. I knew most of the characters already, although I sometimes wish I had drawn up tables for each character when I read the first book and continued with it as I went on.
I haven’t commented on this before, but I also enjoy the references to Trollope’s Palliser and Barsetshire series. I have probably missed some, but I am noticing them more often because lately I’ve been reading the Palliser series.