Last night I finished the last thirty pages of Anthony Trollope’s The Warden, glanced at my cat and wondered aloud why I waited until now to pick up a Trollope novel. I loved this book and I’m reading to jump head first into reading ALL THE TROLLOPE!
This slim novel, under 300 pages, is the first novel of the six volume Chronicle of Barsetshire series. The plot concerns Mr Harding, a warm-hearted, fairly naive, music-adoring warden of the Hiram’s Hospital almshouse for elderly men. He has twelve elderly men, former farmers and laborers, who reside at the hospital. One day a well-meaning doctor, Mr Bold (who happens to be the love interest of Mr Harding’s youngest daughter) questions the generous income of Mr Harding. Due to the increase in value of the property and a poorly worded will, Mr Harding has been make a hefty salary while his charges — while well-cared for — see no increase in the money they receive. The fall out leads to several characters wrestling with difference between what is legal and what is moral. This is a novel that praises the value of doing right by your conscience.
The tone of this novel is unlike Victorian novel I’ve read. I would classify it as a Victorian Barbara Pym novel with a male protagonist. Each character is vividly unique and the dialogue is engaging. This book certainly has a heavy dose of wit and shrewd society skewering, but without cynicism. I especially enjoyed the brief jab at Charles Dickens as Mr Popular Sentiment. It was hilarious and spot on.
I gave this novel four stars on GoodReads only because it took me a bit to get into the pace of the novel and I hear that out of the series The Warden is the weakest. I enjoyed reading The Warden and I know I will adore Barchester Towers, the next book in the series and the April read for the Chronicles of Barsetshire readalong.