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The Barchester Novels

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Anthony Trollope - The Barchester Novels

 

Claire 26th September 2006 01:28 PM

The Barchester Novels

 

Who else has read any of these?

 

I reread The Warden over the summer and enjoyed it just as much as the first time.

 

I liked the fact that the characters were so varied and rounded. Many of them had a touch of the ridiculous about them, but managed to remain likable and plausible, rather than turning into caricatures. I enjoyed the dilemma in the middle of the plot as well - that it wasn't a simple case of "goodies and baddies", and there was some reason and sense on the part of most of the protagonists. I also thought the love story at the centre of it was lightly handled with just the right touch of sentimentality.

 

I also reread Barchester Towers - another great novel. Mr Slope, The Bishop and Mrs Proudie are wonderfully funny in their political manoueverings - and another sweet love story too.

 

Does anyone else think there is a touch of Jane Austen in Trollopes dry observations on the silliness of some of his characters?

 

Haven't read any further in the series yet, but I'm looking forward to doing so, though I'm not sure how much time I'll have for reading once term starts (and Rebecca is next on my list) As someone about to start training for the Church of England, I do hope Trollopes observations about the clergy are not too accurate!!

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Phoebus 26th September 2006 05:46 PM

I read The Warden in my early twenties and adored it. Very amusing with lovable characters. I think it was the Penguin edition that I read but the illustrations were fantastic and as good as Phiz.

 

I was intending on rereading it this year (the first book that I would have ever reread) followed by the others in the series. I wouldn't mind buying a nice boxset of hardback editions.

 

Everyman or something, but Everyman are in the process of changing their covers so it's a little difficult to be sure of buying the covers with the same style when you're buying on the internet.

 

Any suggestions?

 

Incidentally, I went to school with one of Trollope's relatives. His father was a vicar !

 

Phoebus

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yorkshire rose 26th September 2006 09:47 PM

I loved these. Trollope is so humane, you can tell he loves his characters -even the awful ones. I heard Alan Plater tell a funny story about them years ago: he was giving an after dinner speech at the General Synod. Someone asked him what he was currently working on. He said 'A programme about corruption and nepotism in the Church of England' - gasps and worried faces all around. Then he said he was dramatising Barchester Towers for the BBC - sighs of relief from assembled clerics....

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woofwoof 27th September 2006 04:55 PM

I've been working through these for years. So far I've read the first four. I enjoyed "The Warden" very much, but "Barchester Towers" is even better. In this second book, Trollope introduces a whole range of interesting characters - The Bishop, Mrs Proudie, Mr Slope, of course and the Stanhopes. It's fascinating the way that the book starts with Mrs Proudie/Mr Slope as the powers behind the puppet Bishop in their battle with the Archdeacon, the ex-warden (forgotten his name) and the old church establishment. Then of course that coalition falls apart as Mr Slope is drawn in all directions by his conflicting loyalties and ambitions. There are some real gems eg the first conversation between the Bishop's party and the Archdeacon where the Bishop hardly says a word: "the Bishop believes, and I agree with him...". Also when young Stanhope gets chatting to the Bishop at a tea party ("I suppose it must be busy work being a bishop"). Also that wonderful line at the end: "there was one lesson that the Bishop had learned very well and that was never to disagree with his wife again"! One aspect of the story that struck me is the way that Mr Bold dies and leaves all his money to his wife (the warden's daughter). However his sister clearly has inherited nothing from their father - all the money obviously went to her brother who has now left it all to his widow. She has no option but to live with her brother's widow. It seems that whereas Mrs Bold has numerous suitors (being a rich widow), Miss Bold has none (being penniless). Miss Bold is not mentioned in the two later books.

 

One criticism I do have is that Trollope really doesn't know how to tell a story. The pompous, verbose narrator is too strong a presence in these first two books and poohpoohs the idea of keeping people in suspense about the direction of the plot. In fact halfway through the book he openly tells the reader that such and such a person is not going to marry someone. The ending is also a little bit weak.

 

After the glories of Barchester Towers, one inevitably feels let down by Dr Thorne - a bit like reading Agnes Grey after Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. It's a good enough little story but is odd in that none of the characters in the first two books appears at all. It's also fairly obvious from about chapter 3 what is to happen. It does however introduce one of Trollope's memorable characters, namely the outspoken oil of lebanon heiress, Miss Dunstable. (No doubt when the book came out Miss D would have appeared to be very outspoken indeed whereas this is a little bit lost on us now). Framley Parsonage is also adequate as novels go. It does have the advantage over Dr Thorne that some of the characters have appeared in the previous novels - e.g. the Bishop and his wife, the archdeacon and his wife make an albeit brief appearance. Also, the plot is a little too similar to the one in Dr Thorne.

 

Still to come: The small house at Allington and the last chronicle of Barsetshire.

 

Sorry to keep going on about screen adaptations but I have to say that the BBC's production of the Barchester Chronicles (early 1980s) is absolutely magnificent. The casting was spot on - Geraldine McEwan as the Bishop's wife, Mrs Bouquet's husband as the Bishop, Susan Hampshire as the countess, Alan Rickman as Mr Slope, Donald Pleasance as the warden, and of course the star of the show: Nigel Hawthorne as the Archdeacon. Whenever anyone mentions the archdeacon at our church, I always think of Nigel Hawthorne pompously flapping about...

 

Found this after starting the individual threads on the different books. But I think this is a great thread to discuss the chronicles as a whole.

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I'm new here and found this site when searching for matters Trollopian. Is it me, or is he somewhat unpopular these days? To tell the truth I struggled to read The Warden when at university (years ago) but I'm now on The Small House at Allington (having worked my way through the Barchester novels to this point) and find myself a convert. I don't think I appreciated his wit on first acqaintance, rather being put off by his verbosity (oh dear - is it contagious?).

 

I realise this thread is quite old but wondered if anyone else has been enjoying Trollope since the last post.

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I'm new here and found this site when searching for matters Trollopian. Is it me, or is he somewhat unpopular these days?

Welcome powderblue.

 

Wasn't it John Major's love of him that put everyone off !

 

 

Phoebus

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I'm new here and found this site when searching for matters Trollopian. Is it me, or is he somewhat unpopular these days?
Welcome Powderblue. I possess all except Doctor Thorne but have read to read any. There is a Trollope website, if you haven't come across it before : Anthony Trollope Society I hadn't noticed that he was particularly unpopular, his books seem to be easy to find.

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I have visited the Anthony Trollope website thanks. What I really meant was that there wasn't much about Trollope himself if you search for him rather than his books. I was interested in doing some background reading and when I wanted to buy the biography by Victoria Glendinning I found I could only get a second hand copy (which is fine). There doesn't seem to be anything current, which suggests AT is not in vogue at present.

 

Wasn't aware that John Major was a fan!

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Wasn't aware that John Major was a fan!
Me neither. Maybe that's why we could appreciate it just like that. ;)

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I'm a big fan of the Barchester novels and have just started the fourth in the series, Framley Parsonage, but I agree that the narrating techniques are a bit annoying.To have the author continually poking his head from behind the curtain to remind us he's there or puzzling about the methods he's contemplating (such as the epistolary chapter towards the end of Doctor Thorne) rather puts me off. I try to ignore it for the most part, however, since the books are very entertaining otherwise.

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I have just started Dr Thorne, the third in the Barsetshire series, having recently read the first two. I am loving them and am actually enjoying Trollope's "verbosity" as I think a previous reader described his story-telling. Having read the previous comments regarding the books talked about in this thread I would have to agree with many of them but not the dislike of Trollope's narration.

 

Like other readers I was a bit disappointed to start Dr Thorne to find none of the previously loved cast of the first two books. I had hoped for at least some of them to appear in the third novel and although vague references have been made to the Cathedral community of Barchester it has only been in passing. By the comments of others I find that I am not going to find much more mention of the "Barchester cast" in any of the next books. I have to own to being a bit put out about that but as Trollope has again set the scene for another good story and set of characters in the first couple of chapters of Dr Thorne I have every intention of continuing with the series.

 

A previous reader suggested that the writing style of Trollope reminded them a little of Jane Austen in his drawing of the more silly of his characters. I would agree with that observation. Although neither writer quite goes "over the top" the reader is left in doubt of just how "daft" certain characters are!

 

I am looking forward to the rest of the series very much.

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Having just finished Framley Parsonage, the fourth of the novels, I can honestly say that I am learning to love the books more and more as I go along and would probably favour this novel above them all so far. Previous characters appear in this novel although in fairly small doses but just enough to enable the reader to feel that they are contiually seeing a bigger and bigger picture.

 

A previous reader stated that they were a little disappointed by the plot of Framley Parsonage and found it a little similar to that of Dr Thorne. Although there are similar elements to part of the story the characters shine through in their own indiviual ways. I especially loved Lady Lufton and had to admire her ability to adapt when necessary. At the beginning of the novel she seems to be rather set in her ways but by the end she proves herself to be a very strong, loving and kind person.

 

I love Trollope's ability to offer the reader "grey areas". Although Sowerby is obviously a rogue and uses Mark Robarts horribly at the end of the book he does try to put things right to a certain extent and feels remorse for the position in which he has caused Mark to be placed. Although I hated him through most of the book by the end I felt a lttle sorry for him. I am learning that Trollope is not always as black and white as he may at first seem.

 

I am looking forward to my next Barchester instalment!

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I am now nearly a quarter of the way through "The Small House at Allington" and am beginning to love another set of characters. My picture of the lives of those living within a rural county at the time of the novels is growing ever larger and although there are similarities from book to book Trollope always introduces a new element to the new story enabling the reader to build on previous knowledge of the world portrayed.

 

In this novel we are not only intoduced to those working within The Civil Service as clerks and such like but are also taken within the walls of a "lodging house". From book to book of this series the reader is able to see more and more of the society of the county and to piece together the levels within it. In each novel there is a power struggle of some sort. We are also able to see the changes taking place within the society with the introduction and acceptance of " new money" as some of the long-term families with histories within the area begin to suffer financially.

 

As with others in this series, while reading it, I wonder if this, book five of the series, will prove to be my favourite!

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I finished The last few pages of The Small House at Allington this morning and was very sorry to do so. Having got so far through the series I feel that I might as well continue through to the end now and so have read the first few pages of The Last Chronicle of Barset in which we are welcomed into the home of John Walker. Although the Walker family are new to us the Crawley's, the family which is under discussion at the beginning of the novel, are not having played their part within the story of Framley Parsonage.

 

Although The Crawley's played a fairly small part in Framley Parsonage because I have come across them before I feel part of The last Chronicle of Barset from virtually the first page. Once again although this is a new story there is a wonderful feeling of continuity from book to book. The only time that I have felt a little disappointed while reading this series was at the beginning of Dr Thorne when I realised that the characters that had taken part in the first two novels were not going to appear again.

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Cherrypie, your enthusiasm and enjoyment of the Barsetshire novels has reminded me how very fond I am of the stories, the characters and their quiet corner of England. Thank you so much for all your reviews and comments.  It is always good to find someone else who likes being immersed in their world. You have made me want to re-read some of them and  I will start the Last Chronicle tonight  and, although I may not be able to keep up with your fast reading, it will be good to have someone to comment with. 

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The BBC has been broadcasting dramatisations of the whole series on Radio 4 since the start of the year - one book at a time at irregular intervals, in about three episodes each on Sunday afternoons. They start Framley Parsonage next Sunday (Aug 31st), repeated I think, on the following Friday evening.

Unfortunately the previous books are not available on iPlayer

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Thank you for the advice regarding the radio shows Meg. Unfortunately as we have been away I have been unable to catch any of them yet.

 

I finished The Last Chronicle of Barset last night and was very sorry to do so. The book has been a bit of a hotch-potch of stories told around the main one concerning the Crawley family and again parts of some of the stories have felt a little like duplication but with different characters. Again this has not really mattered as the beautiful way in which the stories have been written and the continuatin of the telling of the ups and downs of much loved characters have been the joy of the books for me.

 

As the books have progressed I have felt a little of a change of atmosphere within the books. In all of them there have been elements of farce as well as some very touching little tableaux along the way but I have felt that Trollope's depiction of some characters has softened towards the end of the series, almost as if he did not want any characters to be completely disliked by the end.

 

I have loved each book in this series and would be unable to pick a favourite. Part of the joy of the books is the way in which the reader comes to know the characters over time and the fact that characters from previous books pop up from time to time, sometimes just within the conversations of newer characters, giving the reader a feeling of being part of the community. I suspect that Anthony Trollope was a very clever man and if it were possible to go back in time I can imagine nothing better than to be able to sit down with him and have a "good old natter". I can not remember when I have loved a group of books so much. For me they have bern a real breath of fresh air.

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At my real life book club last week we discussed perhaps doing one of the Barchester Novels for a read. Does it matter if you read them in order, and if not, which would you recommend? Thanks!

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They really are best read in order although if you only intend reading one then some of the later books could be read as stand alone novels. The first two especially follow on.

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They are all connected, and I think that to get the best of them they should be read in order. Fortunately the first of the series, The Warden, is also the best to read as a stand alone novel, or as a first experience of Barchester life.

Here is s short thread on The Warden to give you an idea of what to expect

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They are all connected, and I think that to get the best of them they should be read in order. Fortunately the first of the series, The Warden, is also the best to read as a stand alone novel, or as a first experience of Barchester life.

Here is s short thread on The Warden to give you an idea of what to expect

 

Thanks Meg, this is really helpful. :)

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