Friday, March 13, 2015

#6Barsets Project:The Warden


Check my twitter stream, audible app, or kindle homepage this week and it is immediately obvious that I have Trollope on the brain. Along with Audrey and a few others, I am slowly making my way through the six novels comprising the Barchester Chronicles.

The first leg of this journey, The Warden, was completed at the end of January and I now find myself totally engrossed in Barchester Towers. As I have been extremely lax when it comes to timely book reviews (please don't remind me about Sister Carrie!), I never did share my thoughts on The Warden.

The Warden was actually a reread for me. The first encounter occurred ten or fifteen years ago, and my initial thought this time was to wonder whether it was even the same book. Why didn't I enjoy it as much back then?

I won't go into plot details, but the goodreads summary provides a concise overview and hints at a theme for the entire series:
The first of Trollope’s popular Barsetshire novels, set in the fictional cathedral town of Barchester, The Warden centers on the honorable cleric Septimus Harding, one of Trollope’s most memorable characters. When Harding is accused of mismanaging church funds, his predicament lays bare the complexities of the Victorian world and of nineteenth-century provincial life. And, as Louis Auchincloss observes in his Introduction, “The theme of The Warden presents the kind of social problem that always fascinated Trollope: the inevitable clash of ancient privilege with modern social awareness.
Again, I smiled at character names which rival Dickens (Mrs. Goodenough, Abel Handy, John Bold, Sir Abraham Haphazard), and just plain enjoyed a good story.

This time through, I was struck by the impression that Trollope himself must have been good-natured with a sense of humor. I especially enjoyed the chapter entitled "The Warden's Tea Party". In discussing the party itself, Trollope says:
"The party went off as such parties do. There were fat old ladies, in fine silk dresses, and slim young ladies, in gauzy muslin frocks; old gentlemen stood up with their backs up the empty fire-place, looking by no means so comfortable as they would have done in their own arm-chairs at home; and young gentlemen, rather stiff about the neck, clustered near the door, not as yet sufficiently in courage to attack the muslin frocks, who awaited the battle, drawn up in a semicircular array." 29%
And of the party conversation:
"It is indeed a matter of thankfulness that neither the historian nor the novelist hears all that is said by their heroes or heroines, or how would three volumes or twenty suffice! In the present case so little of this sort have I overheard, that I live in hopes of finishing my work within 300 pages, and of completing that pleasant task - a novel in one volume..." 30%
A Trollope biography is definitely in order! I have acquired a copy of Victoria Glendinning's book and plan to read it slowly over the course of this year.

The Warden is very short (just over 200 pages) and Trollope seems to be laying the groundwork or setting the stage. Of course we are meant to love Mr. Harding, but have I been predisposed to think more kindly of the Archdeacon Dr. Grantly, too?

On to the main event... I am positively loving Barchester Towers.


16 comments:

  1. I'm not familiar with this series - glad you're enjoying it!

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    1. Kathy - So far the second book is even better than the first.

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  2. You have me wanting to rethink Trollope. I read half of The Eustace Diamonds for grad school and after reading the other sensationalist Victorian novels assigned (Lady Audley's Secret, Moonstone, Our Mutual Friend, etc) I just couldn't get interested. Plus it is HUGE! But I can manage 200 pages and you have piqued my attention!

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    1. Trish - The Warden doesn't seem to be a favorite of most Trollope fans, but it is short. Barchester Towers is excellent so far!

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  3. Are you do predisposed?! From what I've read, one of Trollope's skills was finding the good as well as the not-so-good in his characters... so you are the truest of true Trollopians!

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    1. Audrey - I was surprised to find myself feeling so sympathetic toward Dr. Grantly.

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  4. It sounds like you are having a great time with these books. They sound really interesting. I like the theme: “The theme of The Warden presents the kind of social problem that always fascinated Trollope: the inevitable clash of ancient privilege with modern social awareness."

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    1. Pat - I must say I am enjoying these books more than I expected to.

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  5. I was thinking well this sounds entertaining but there's no way I can fit in a massive Trollope book right now. But then I get to the just over 200 pages part. Yay! I think even I can manage that. This is going on my TBR as my first Trollope. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Katherine - The Warden is not my favorite Trollope, but it is definitely the shortest;-)

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  6. I think I read Trollope back in the dark ages (undergrad days) and didn't like him. Now I'm wondering if I just read the wrong book.

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    1. Beth F - I never attempted Trollope in college, but am truly enjoying him now. Barchester Towers is wonderful... much better than The Warden!

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  7. I don't think I've heard of this series before, but I'm glad you are enjoying it.

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    1. Vicki - With six books on the schedule, I'll be spending a lot of time with Mr. Trollope this year :)

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  8. So I was one year off. I hosted a read along of all six books with another blogger last year. I didn't like The Warden, but I loved Doctor Thorne! Have fun!

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    1. Melissa - I regretted missing your readalong all last year! (actually feeling the same way about The Forsyte Saga this year). The Warden was better the second time through, but it's still not as good as Barchester Towers. Now you've got me curious about Doctor Thorne.... I think that's coming up next.

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