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.