Buried Treasure

John Mortimer on Anthony Trollope's 'Orley Farm'
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The Independent Culture

Anthony Trollope was one of the greatest storytellers; his women characters are far more real than those of Dickens, who tend to be angels or harridans. He took an amused, humane look at the world and yet his novels are rarely taught or included in lists of "greatest books".

In Orley Farm, (Oxford, £7.99), which he thought his best work, Lady Mason forges the will of her unpleasant husband to be fair to their priggish son. The book poses the question of whether, in some cases, a crime may do justice. Her trial fails to discover the truth, but she loses the love of a decent man. The book is full of mercilessly written lawyers and Lady Mason is entirely believable. Trollope may not have had Dickens's gift for comedy or theatrical effects but Orley Farm should be in everyone's list. It's 1,000 times better than Lord of the Rings.

John Mortimer's 'Where There's a Will' is published this week by Viking

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