BBC Radio 7, 11-26 January 2010
The sequence of novels was written when Trollope was at the height of his powers. The characters are immediately recognisable and their stories are as gripping and as relevant as they were when they were first written, between 1864 and 1880.The central family is the Palliser dynasty, led by Platagenet Palliser (Ben Miles), heir to the Duke of Onmium (Robert Lang). He marries the feisty Glencora (Sophie Thompson), who has been in love with the reckless Burgo Fitzgerald.The theme of dutiful marriage versus the temptations of passionate love runs through the novels. Glencora grows to love Plantaganet, in her own way, but never fully recovers from her first love. The Pallisers also follows the fortunes of Phineas Finn (Conleth Hill), a young Irish barrister who wins a seat in Parliament, which introduces him to a London life full of temptations for a man of his attractions. Several society ladies swoon at his feet but he seems destined to be pipped at the post as a potential husband.
Cherry Cookson's production dated from an era in BBC classic serials where inclusiveness took precedence over plot; it was more important to try and adapt as much of the source-texts as possible, so that listeners could understand how (and why) texts like The Pallisers had retained their popularity over the last century or so. If it took twelve parts to tell the story, then so be it. The same mentality once prevailed on television, as well as radio; when The Pallisers was adapted in 1972, it took twenty-six episodes to tell the story (as long as The Forsyte Saga, five years previously).
In truth, however, the experience of listening to The Pallisers for me, resembled that of eating rock-cakes as a child. They were certainly filling, but rather devoid of flavour. Maybe it's better to sample the petits fours of a three- or four-part adaptation, rather than gorging oneself for twelve hours.