Friday, August 7, 2015

#6Barsets: Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage


Our #6Barsets Project is proving to be the most enjoyable reading experience I've had in years. Not only have I discovered a new favorite author, I love chatting about books with friends as we read. And I've even managed to stay on schedule through the first four novels! Unfortunately, I have been less conscientious when it comes to following through with blog posts.

Before reading Trollope, I had a vague notion that he was comparable to Dickens. After reading Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage, I believe his stories and writing style are actually closer to Jane Austen.

** There are no spoilers for either novel in this post. **


Doctor Thorne can be summed up in a single sentence, a quote which appears repeatedly throughout the novel:
He must marry money!
Money and blood. Blood and money. Nothing is more important in measuring social status and worth during this time period - especially to the family of young Frank Gresham as they struggle financially to maintain their estate and standing in the community.

Problems arise when Frank falls in love with Mary Thorne - penniless, of questionable parentage, and being raised by her uncle, our hero, Doctor Thorne.

I won't say more, but this is a a plot truly worthy of Jane Austen herself.

Doctor Thorne gets a solid 5 star rating from me and will appear on my year-end list of favorites. In fact, I've added it to my list of all-time favorites, too.

On July 1, I moved on to Book 4 of The Barsetshire Chronicles...


In Framley Parsonage, Trollope returns once again to ecclesiastical matters... with a healthy dose of love and marriage, money and status, and, of course, social convention. This was enough to cement my view that Trollope is much more like Austen than Dickens

Framley Parsonage  tells the story of Mark Robarts,  "a young clergyman with ambitions beyond his small country parish of Framley. In a naive attempt to mix in influential circles, he makes a financial deal with the disreputable local Member of Parliament, but is instead brought to the brink of shame and ruin."

Politics plays a more prominent role here than in the previous novels and I got bogged down with the details a couple of times. Perhaps this does not bode well for the Palliser series, as I understand it is more focused on government and less on the church.

As a result, my rating "plummeted" to 4 stars. However, it is still among the best books I've read this year.

Both novels were read/listen combinations. I listen in the car and on my walks, then switch to an ebook to read in the evening. I love this approach to long classics and refer to it as total immersion. Simon Vance is my narrator of choice for British Literature and his performance in these novels was, as always, outstanding.

Up next for September and October is  The Small House at Allington, a novel former Prime Minister John Major declared to be his favorite book of all time. I can't wait to get started.

21 comments:

  1. I have been having trouble lately with leaving comments here but know I have been reading your posts! I think I asked you once which Trollope I should start with but I have forgotten your answer. Sorry!

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    1. Care - Sorry you've been having trouble commenting. The Warden is the first of this series, but may not be the best place to start with Trollope. I loved Barchester Towers, the second book, and think it would be wonderful even without reading the first.

      Monica recently reviewed Miss Mackenzie, one of Trollope's stand-alone novels. It sounds pretty good to me:
      http://monicasbookishlife.blogspot.com/2015/06/miss-mackenzie-by-anthony-trollope.html

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  2. Thank you for the no-spoiler alert. I'm not as far into F.P. as I'd like to be but I vow to stay on schedule. And I agree about the read/listen combo (and Mr. Vance)! Thank you again for introducing me to that!

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    1. Audrey - The read/listen combo works really well for nonfiction, too! I'm working on The Oregon Trail now, then maybe one more before it's time for the next Trollope :)

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  3. P.S. I am hearing that there are some great characters (women characters, esp.!) in the Palliser series so I'm hopeful...the politics would bog me down too.

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    1. Audrey - I'm glad... and relieved, too ;-)

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  4. I'm working my way through the Pallisers (and there are some politics, depending on the book) and I really should try and download the audios from the library so I can get through them faster. I think Doctor Thorne is my favorite of the Barsets (tied with Barchester Towers). I just love Miss Dunstable!

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    1. So do I... and she's making a return visit in F.P.!!

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    2. Karen - Glad to have your input on the Pallisers! I can't decide whether I loved Barchester Towers or Doctor Thorne more, so I guess I'll have to call it a tie, too. Miss Dunstable is a great character - so glad we saw more of her in FP. I hope she makes another appearance in the series!

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    3. Audrey - Miss Dunstable is amazing... can't wait for your reaction to FP!

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  5. I also found that my reading of this series was a super experience.

    I agree about Dickens and Austen. Trollope is so much more like Austen. He seems to have been greatly influenced by her. He seems a little more nuanced but he did have her work to build on.


    As much as I like Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage as I look back on the series I liked the first two books better. Similarly I found that the last two books got better.

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  6. I don't think I've ever seen these books before. From the comments, they seem to be very popular.

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  7. I don't think I've ever seen these books before. From the comments, they seem to be very popular.

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  8. So glad you're enjoying Trollope! I hadn't thought to compare him to Jane Austen, but I think you are right. I've read The Small House at Allington (as a stand-alone), and really liked it. Trollope had quite a sense of humor!

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  9. I set out to read the Barsetshire novels a while back, but didn't finish. I remember that I read and loved Dr. Thorne, but I can't remember if I have read Framley Parsonage or not. I really need to get back to these books because I enjoyed them so much. I know I have not read The Small House at Allingham.

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  10. I feel as though I should read these but I don't think I can!

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  11. I'm so shallow that I'm always drawn to the covers of these books. :) I just love them. Sounds like Trollope is a great match for you -- and YES on Simon Vance!

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  12. My only issue with Trollope are the jaunts he takes into the arcane world of ecclesiastical law and politics that are long forgotten. I love his moral dilemma stories, which are timeless and so always relevant and interesting. I love his narrative tone too.

    Love the covers together--such a great and fitting image for this series.

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  13. I have to make Trollope my next classic!

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  14. I think one of my favorite parts about Trollope is how much money everyone has. I could read about that stuff for days.

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Thank you for taking the time to comment. These conversations are my favorite part of blogging. Please check back, I almost always respond to comments!

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