Reading simultaneously Elizabeth George’s police procedural The Punishment She Deserves and Anthony Trollope’s The Duke’s Children is a strange experience. Trollope’s world of good manners, complex honor codes, extreme punctiliousness, and a profound sense of dignity that doesn’t depend on wealth is dead and gone.
In The Punishment She Deserves George depicts the world of casual and meaningless debasement where the word dignity isn’t used even as a joke. Her young characters dumbly and repetitively drink themselves into a stupor to have bad drunken sex. Her middle-aged characters drink and drug themselves without even the justification of wanting to hook up. There are no human relationships and no contact of any profoundness. And a murder of a clergyman almost goes unsolved because nobody has been to church and so nobody is capable of noticing an appalling disruption in a service.
But the really funny part is that both Trollope and George wrote about the exact same subject. Both novels depict parents who can’t accept that their children are human beings. Trollope’s Duke is at least trying to not be a total brute to his adult children. George’s characters are not even trying.
So it’s an entirely different world. But it also isn’t.