Lucia Costanzo

Lucia Costanzo

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a civil servant working in Westminster… a modern day equivalent of The Three Clerks.

Are you a member of the Society?

Yes, and also on the Committee. I’ve been a member eight or nine years now and especially enjoy the seminar groups.

Are you a Trollope fan?

I love Trollope’s novels and other writings, many of which stand up to regular re-reading. I also find his life fascinating: he was such an influential Victorian in many ways and chronicled many aspects of the age in his novels from elections and fox-hunting – to job interviews and railway catering. I first discovered him as I progressed by way through the Victorian novelists.

Why is he relevant today?

Trollope was, in my view, one of the first authors to focus on the psychological make-up of his characters… and why they do what they do. Many novelists that followed are influenced by him. In fact I think the English-language novel today would be very different without Trollope. He also wrote about institutions such as the church, Government and the Civil Service… these bodies still exist.

What might put people off?

Many of his novels are rather long by the standards of today, but I urge readers new to Trollope to give them a go. A particular favourite of mine is one of his later novels Dr Wortle’s School which is very short, immensely readable and contains several typical Trollopian elements. The scenes set in America are very atmospheric, giving a glimpse of what the Wild West must have really been like. He was such a prolific author too… but don’t feel overwhelmed! Many new readers start with the Barchester and Palliser series, which are firm favourites. Other good novels to start with include The American Senator (with the scheming Arabella Trefoil and her quest for the right sort of husband); Lady Anna (good on class); and Miss Mackenzie, a personal favourite, which features a thirty-something spinster’s love life. And then The Way We Live Now is one of the greatest “state of the nation” novels of all time, featuring a Victorian version of Robert Maxwell. It is long… at about 1,500 pages, but hard to put down.

Do you think there are any ‘typical’ Trollope fans? If so, what are they like?

I think Trollope’s style and sight into character are more meaningful for slightly older readers… say 35 plus. Other than that, we are a mixed group: men and women in roughly equal numbers from all over the world, especially the UK, Ireland, Australia and the US … and also in more unexpected places such as Japan.

Who do you think the Society should target as a way of increasing awareness and enjoyment of his works?

I think that the internet and social media are excellent ways of increasing awareness… after all you are reading this right now! We have some very lively groups on Facebook which read and discuss Trollope’s work. We also have a new newsletter Everybody’s Business which anyone can sign up for.

Have you attended any seminars or events?

Yes, I attend seminar groups in Cambridge, London and occasionally Oxford. These are an excellent way of meeting like-minded people over a glass of wine or cup of tea and having a lively discussion about Trollope’s work. I really enjoy the annual lecture and can’t wait to hear Frederik Van Damm this year as I wasn’t able to attend the Trollope bicentenary conference in Leuven last year.  I have enjoyed the varied events of dinners and visits too.

Which format of books, TV shows, radio adaptations do you enjoy most?

My personal library of Trollope novels contains a variety of editions including the Trollope Society, the Folio Society and Oxford World’s Classics (both the small hardbacks and the more recent critical paperbacks with their excellent introductions). I am not really a collector – more a reader – and look for convenience and readability in books. I also have a kindle and have downloaded as much Trollope as I can… excellent for holidays. I rather enjoyed the recent Doctor Thorne adaptation and have bought the DVD too. I also enjoy audio versions of the novels and love the Audible format. I have an older version of the BBC adaptation of the Barchester Chronicles on my smartphone, which I often dig into whilst working out at the gym.

Do you read Trollopiana?

The articles are very insightful and are a useful resource to go back to. I like the format as it fits into a handbag… so convenient for tube journeys.

First published June 2016

Main photo: Lucia Costanzo at the reading of Lady Anna: All at Sea, Royal Opera House, London in 2014