I must confess that it was hard to put this book down; but once I actually did, I realized, with some sadness, that there was not as much to like about it as I had originally thought.
The writing itself is truly wonderful: where it is witty, you laugh out loud, and the lovely phrasing evokes effectively the atmosphere of an English village that is resisting suburban sprawl. (The local post-mistress is Mrs. Norris reincarnated.)
Oddly enough, however, I found the main characters not fully convincing, especially Archie. He seems to display classic symptoms of bi-polar syndrome at times: He is very kind and sensitive one moment--the next he is morally obtuse.
Liza, on the other hand, begins the novel by seeming mature and well-balanced, becomes dissatisfied with her life, gains some additional confidence, then completely crashes when her affair with a silly twit sputters out.
Marina seems charming and convincing until she allows her son-in-law to jump into bed with her; but surely she is far too sophisticated for this to be an unguarded acceptance. She must realize she is ruining her relationship with a family whom she has come to respect and love. Although she is generally kind and generous, this selfish act makes me think that no one but Austen's Mary Crawford (whom she so strongly resembles) might admire her.
Jane Austen herself, of course, is mentioned in the novel (or at least her tomb is); and while I suspect that she is not quite rolling beneath it as a result of The Passionate Man, she may have at least raised an ironical eyebrow.
For the humor and irony--the "exterior" qualifies--of Austen's works are reflected clearly in The Passionate Man; but Ms. Trollope's novel does seem to lack the inner foundation of Austen's novels, where her heroes and heroines' growing clarity in understanding both themselves and basic right and wrong is central. Mary Crawford didn't understand this.
Nor, apparently, does Archie; and one wonders what awaits him and his family in Scotland.