Remember how much I loved Framley Parsonage? Well, I loved The Small House at Allington EVEN MORE. Anthony Trollope is currently my king of cozy literature.
The first chapter gives us a description of the Great House and Small House at Allington (because if there is a Small House, there must also be a Great House). These two houses enjoy all the charming irregularity of Tudor architecture. Once you have gotten over your sadness and rage that you do not own these houses for yourself, you get into the story.
Lily and Bell Dale are sisters who live with their widowed mother in the Small House. Their uncle, the squire, lives in the Great House. Relations between the two houses are somewhat strained, due to the fact that the squire doesn't entirely approve of his brother's widow. Still, the squire would really like it if Bell, the older sister, would marry his nephew and heir, Bernard. Bell, however, has ideas of her own and refuses to agree to this scheme, further damaging the relationship between the two houses. Lily, however, is the main object of this drama. She becomes engaged to a very fashionable young clerk named William Crosbie. Unfortunately, Crosbie is a bit of a dickhead. Another young man of the neighborhood, John Eames is also in love with Lily.
How it turns out is somewhat less than satisfactory. Trollope himself described Lily as a "prig," and I had the urge to smack her a few times. Still, Crosbie is well punished for being a dickhead, so that's something. I can only hope that the loose ends are tied up in the final book of the series, The Last Chronicle of Barset.
Trollope sticks to his familiar themes: the foolishness of young men, the acerbity of some highbred ladies, Victorian social mores. There is rather less about the church and politics in this novel than in his other Barchester books. It works well as a stand-alone, so don't be afraid to read it if you haven't read the earlier books in the series. While it features some of the characters from the earlier books, most notably Griselda Grantly and the de Courcy family from Doctor Thorne. (Dr. Harding also has a cameo, if only so that Trollope could demonstrate to his fans that the old man was alive and well.) You can certainly enjoy The Small House without knowing their full histories.