Anna is the wife of the Rev. Peter Bouverie, a rural dean
of five small parishes. Peter’s hopes for a promotion and resulting pay
raise have been denied. The family will have to continue to
penny-pinch. Their youngest child, 10-year-old Flora, is being bullied
at school. Anna decides to take a job to make money for Flora to
transfer to a parochial school. In 1990s’ Britain, a rector’s wife
working outside the home creates a scandal. The menial character of the
job — Anna is stocking shelves in a grocery store — makes matters worse.
Peter is humiliated and furious with Anna. Their teenage son and various parishioners also don’t approve. Anna finds some support from the archdeacon who got the job Peter wanted, but her contact with him adds a complication. She meets his brother and falls in love.
How Trollope resolves Anna’s dilemma is contrived, but The Rector’s Wife is otherwise solid. Anna is a sympathetic character who proves herself strong and genuine. Despite her surname’s obvious suggestion of Madame Bovary, Anna is anything but tragic.
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