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.