Monday, August 24, 2015

Chronicles of Barsetshire

When I was a smart-aleck college student, waiting for an English Lit lecture to start, me and another guy had fun teasing a fellow student who had said she had read all six Palliser novels. “You musta had copious free time.” “Were you laid up with something Victorian, like a wasting disease?” “Brain fever, indubitably.” “Poor boyfriend, prolly swore off dating readers.” Making females roll their eyes – a typical male bonding ritual.

Anyway, be happy to know that I have mentally apologized since those bygone days. Especially for the reason that I have read all six novels of the Chronicles of Barsetshire since early May. I didn’t set out to read all of them in a summer. But because Trollope is such a pleasure to read, it just ended up that way.

Click on the title to go to the full review.

The Warden (1855). Very short, writing is about concise as Tony ever gets. Meek and mild-mannered Rev. Harding gets dragged through the wringer, too mindful of the world’s fickle opinions. But what else could he do to salve his own conscience?

Barchester Towers (1857). Rev. Slope and Mrs. Proudie deserve each other, but I started to feel for Obadiah by the end. Critics of Trollope always scold the writer for never letting the reader forget she’s reading a novel. I must confess that self-referential tendency did get in my face in this novel. So did the lame Arabin – Elly falls for him, affection is like lightening: who knows where it will strike? This was balanced by the heartless Stanhopes – Trollope had their number, for sure.

Dr. Thorne (1858). The very slow start takes a lot of toleration, I was wondering if the novel was going to have any kind of story at all. And to complain about Trollopian funny names – the medico named Dr. Fillgrave – seems a quibble in the face of this marvelous novel peopled with believable characters like Sir Roger Scatcherd, one of literature’s best high-functioning alcoholics and nobody’s fool Martha Dunstable, the richest woman in England.

Framley Parsonage (1861). All I gotta say is that anybody in the bondage of debt and its attendant money worries – i.e., all of us – will feel for Mark Robarts’ troubles. The Lucy and romance angle is made bearable by the very plausible Lady Lufton. Griselda Grantley starts getting creepy in this one.

The Small House at Allington (1864). Fantastic. Crosbie jilts Lily to marry a countess. And, son, does Crosbie ever pay. Another small-minded, tiny-souled guy an over-sympathetic reader will feel sorry for. John Eames also rose in my estimation by the end of the book, though he would act against his own best interests.

TheLast Chronicle of Barset (1867). Written as a weekly serial so it’s repetitious when we reading gluttons break off 70-page chunks and relish them down. But wonderful. Crawley and Lily both fall into ruts in their thinking, giving me to wonder how prone we oursevles are to rigid thinking without even knowing it.

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