Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Chronicles

I am woefully behind in the Chronicles of Barsetshire readalong I am co-hosting with Avid Reader’s Musings. This book was supposed to be completed in April and here it is, nearly the end of May, and I’m just now finishing. *sigh*

Truthfully, I don’t mind completing this novel past the deadline, Barchester Towerswas an utter joy to read and I am so glad I slowed down to savor each and every word. In this novel, second in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series, Eleanor Bold is widowed and has a young baby. The bishop dies. Mr Harding still yearns for the wardenship of Hiram’s hospital. Dr Grantly is still very much a type A person and archdeacon. All is very Barsetshire in Barsetshire.

Enter the new bishop, Bishop Proudie, his controlling wife, and his slimy chaplain Mr. Slope. Bishop Proudie isn’t running the show; his wife and Mr Slope are in control until the two have a conflict of power which heightens the plot. An aside on Bishop Proudie — he reminded me of the henpecked banker, Mr. Merdle, in Little Dorrit; low and behold, Bishop Proudie enjoys reading the latest serialization of Little Dorrit in the novel. Anyhoo, there is contention over who should be warden of Hiram’s and, later in the novel, who should become Dean of Barsetshire.

The drama is not focused solely on church power, that would have made the plot too easy. Rather, Eleanor Bold and her money complicate matters. Mr Slope decides he should marry Mrs Bold for her money and proceeds to act like a douche. Meanwhile, a fallen from grace family — the Stanhopes — seek to lure Mrs Bold in to marrying the ne’er-do-well, hopelessly in debt son, Bertie. Ah, but Eleanor’s heart belongs to another! Sprinkle into this mix dances, parties, misinterpretations, a slutty invalid, letters taken out of context, and matchmaking to rival that of Jane Austen’s Emma.

If you love Jane Austen and/or Charles Dickens you will adore Barchester Towers. It has the wit, marriage proposals, dance politics, and affability of Jane Austen’s work, but with the length, cast of characters, and social commentary of the best of Charles Dickens.

Needless to say, I am over the moon with love for Anthony Trollope. I’m so glad he was prolific and I have plenty of his works to read. Next year marks the bicentenary of his birth and I certainly plan on reading more of his novels. Also, I just learned that Barchester Towers was a BBC mini-series in the early 80s with Alan Rickman as Obidiah Slope. This girl has already placed a hold on the DVD at the public library.

I have to catch up with a few more reads and the then it is on to book #3, Doctor Thorne!

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5 comments

  1. Oh how I wish the BBC had completed the Barchester Chronicles as they did with the Palliser series. Signora Madeline Vesey Neroni is an unforgettable character, on her couch with her jewels and her past. I listened to the first two books on CD last year during my extreme commute, Trollope is perfect for listening to! Wish I had gotten more of the Barsetshires on CD before they were overtaken by MP3, my car doesnt have an MP3 thingy.

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