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Barchester Towers – Barchester Chronicles 2 - Anthony Trollope - 1857

"Barchester Towers", Trollope's most popular novel, is the second of the six "Chronicles of Barsetshire." "The Chronicles" follow the intrigues of ambition and love in the cathedral town of Barchester. Trollope was of course interested in the Church, that pillar of Victorian society - in its susceptibility to corruption, hypocrisy, and blinkered conservatism - but the Barsetshire novels are no more 'ecclesiastical' than his Palliser novels are 'political'. It is the behaviour of the individuals within a power structure that interests him. In this novel, Trollope continues the story of Mr Harding and his daughter Eleanor, adding to his cast of characters that oily symbol of progress Mr Slope, the hen-pecked Dr Proudie, and the amiable and breezy Stanhope family. The central questions of this moral comedy - who will be warden? Who will be dean? Who will marry Eleanor? - are skilfully handled with that subtlety of ironic observation that has won Trollope such a wide and appreciative readership.
I can see why this is the most popular of his books because there are so many characters in it. However, I think it is very hard to decide. I think my favourite is Doctor Thorne .

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This is probably the most well-known of the Chronicles of Barsetshire, featuring as it does some of Trollope's most vivid characters. Long before I read any of the books i was aware Archdeacon Grantly, who was expected to become Bishop, of Dr Proudie who was actually appointed to the post (parachuted in, I think we would say nowadays) the overbearing Mrs Proudie and her ally, the Bishop's chaplain Mr Slope.

Much as I enjoyed the machinations of the various clergy folk it was difficult for me, being of an evangelical persuasion, to find my sympathies firmly in the camp of the High Church clergy.

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I have just started reading this novel having recently read The Warden by the same author. I have attempted this book before but was not then aware that it was one of a series. Having read the first of the novels before this, the second, I am glad to say that I am getting on much better. It really does follow on from The Warden with, I suspect, a break of a few years. I have already come across some much loved characters from the previous novel and I am sure that I am going to love this book as much as I did the last.

 

Again I have not read previous comments concerning this book as I do not wish to spoil it in any way but will look forward to reading the views of other readers at the end.

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I am about half way through this book and once again find my self marveling at the brilliance of Anthony Trollope. As with The Warden this novel is peopled by a few well-drawn characters, some very likeable, some not so much so but each playing a well-defined role within the story. Again the novel is told in a rather humurous way but stll manages to deal with some fairly solid issues concerning not only the time in which the books were written but still very much of interest in today's world.

 

I love the way that Trollope deals with the foibles of human nature. Even the unlikeable characters have a charm because their thinking is always explained and although the reader may not like their reasoning they can in a way understand it. I also love the way that he contstantly refers to himself as the author and talks to you as the reader. He almost makes you feel as if you are "in it together" so to speak! Everthing is explained virtually as he goes along and at times he knowingly gives away parts of the plot in advance. I suspect that he is having a bit of a laugh at other writers of the time. Trollope himself comes across as a very clever forward thinking man but has an ability of almost snearing at others. This may be a bit strong but I can think of no better to describe his writing.

 

The more that I read of Trollope the more that I wish that I had the oppotunity to study him properly. I am sure that there are many hidden depths to his writing that are passing me by and although his novels are very entertaining I am sure that he was still trying to "make his point" to his readers of the time!

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I finished this book this morning having thoroughly enjoyed each page! I cannot believe that I have waited until my fifties to start reading Anthony Trollope. I think I may have to break my own rule this time and read two books by the same author back to back as I really want to stay with the folk of Barcetshire a little longer.

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