The first of Anthony Trollope's six "Palliser" novels focuses on the matrimonial prospects of three Victorian ladies. Alice Vavasor is torn between her Byronic cousin George, whose wild ardor contrasts sharply with her honest but unexciting admirer, John Grey. Lady Glencora McCluskie, heiress to a Scottish industrial fortune, is wife to Plantagenet Palliser, heir to the Duke of Omnium. But theirs is an arranged marriage, and Glencora grows increasingly infatuated with the rakish Burgo Fitzgerald. And the Widow Greenow is obliged to choose between two suitors, the dependable Mr. Cheeseacre and the dashing Captain Bellfield.
Can You Forgive Her? also offers a delicious satire of parliamentary politics. Populated by a cast of politicians and place-hunters, the story explores the tensions between reform and tradition as well as the interplay between money, authority, and politics. The 1864 novel remains remarkably contemporary in its portrait of a society in which wealth and influence outpace wisdom and integrity in the pursuit of power.