This sixth book in the Barchester Chronicles provides a satisfying, yet bittersweet, ending to the series. The main plot focuses on the unfortunate Reverend Josiah Crawley, an impoverished man of unbending integrity and crippling pride who is, to everyone’s shock, accused of stealing a cheque. Familiar faces abound in the subplots, which include the courtship of disgraced Grace Crawley by Archdeacon Grantly’s widowed son, the romantic tribulations of Johnny Eames and Lily Dale (main characters from the previous book, The Small House at Allington), hen-pecked Bishop Proudie and his dreadful wife’s involvement in the Crawley affair, and the latter years of dear old Septimus Harding, protagonist of the first book in the series, The Warden. Overall, the tone of the book is more serious and less witty than the reader might expect and the stories are somewhat less engaging than could be hoped, but any author that can bring tears to my eyes twice in one book must be doing something right.
A note for readers new to the series: Those with the time and inclination to read the whole series and the patience to endure its lower-quality third and fourth books will be well rewarded. However, for less perfectionist readers, I feel that it is entirely reasonable to skip the third and fourth books altogether. And for readers even less ambitious, the first two books would suffice (the second book, Barchester Towers, is actually my favourite of the entire series). Readers new to Trollope and hesitant to invest time and energy will be glad to learn that the first book, The Warden, is not only the shortest in the series, but gives a very good indication of what they are in for if they continue.
[Why I read it: it concludes the Barchester Chronicles series, which I started six months ago.]
With good humour, skill, and psychological insight, Trollope tells a twisted tale of love and loss that centers around passionate Lily Dale and her more sensible sister, Bell; social climber Adolphus Crosbie; John Eames, the quintessential boy-man; and a collection of other characters who inspire love, disgust and pity by turns. Though the preceding two books in the series were disappointing, I feel that in this fifth novel Trollope captures once again the unique voice and perspective that made me fall in love with the Barchester Chronicles. Fingers crossed that the sixth and final book in the series will be similarly inspired.
[Why I read it: I am reading my way through the Chronicles of Barsetshire, having started with The Warden a few months ago. Strangely, my library contained all the books in the series except for this one, which they kindly purchased at my request. They are the best!]
This serial novel’s slow development and sappy, rushed ending evince few of the qualities that made me love the first and second books in the Barchester series. There is plenty of potential in Framley Parsonage‘s several storylines, the most important of which portrays a vicar’s uncharacteristic pecuniary indiscretions and their aftermath. The reader is also given insight into the romancing of the vicar’s sister by the local lord (much to his mother’s horror), the unfortunate Mr. Sowerby’s self-inflicted decline into poverty, and, less interestingly, metaphorised commentary on the political machinations of the day. Fun characters from previous books, such as Barchester’s most eligible spinster–the fabulously wealthy and unromantic Martha Dunstable, Mr. and Mrs. Arabin, and the off-putting Grantly and Proudie families raise this novel above the previous one in my estimation. But, despite the introduction’s depiction of an astoundingly popular, respected work of literature, I felt that Framley Parsonage was pretty standard 19th-century fare that certainly diminished my excitement to finish the series.
I was equally surprised and disappointed by this novel, which almost completely lacks the charm, wit and originality of the first two books in the series. An anorexic plot, weak characterization, and constant harping on the now largely-irrelevant topic of marrying below one’s station make this a tedious read and one I was glad to see the end of. My enthusiasm to read the rest of the Chronicles of Barchester series has been dampened but, in light of the first two books’ excellence, I hold out hope that the fourth will not be a waste of time.
[Why I read it: I’m reading through the series, which starts with The Warden.]
Simply put, this is one of the funniest and most entertaining books I have ever read; the characters, scenarios and author’s commentary (Trollope breaks the fourth wall frequently) had me laughing out loud throughout and I was sorry to reach the last page. Trollope’s delightfully fresh writing style and lack of idealized, stereotypical characters, combined with an unrelenting derision of organised religion’s faults make this novel stand out from others in its genre. The continuing trials of meek Mr. Harding, the romantic perils encountered by his widowed daughter, the clerical ambitions of hateful Mr. Slope, and a cast of other new and fascinating characters form a literary enterprise that is even more enjoyable than the first book in the series, The Warden.
[Why I read it: I enjoyed the first book in the series immensely.]
This sweet little novel is about a mild churchman named Septimus Harding, whose quiet life and untested convictions are disrupted by scandal instigated by church reformer, would-be suitor to his daughter, and family friend, John Bold. The story is as simple as its characters, but this is no reproach: there is a sweetness and authenticity to Trollope’s style that charms and warms, while avoiding the over-sentimentality and contrivance that plagues much 19th-century literature.
[Why I read it: I seemed to encounter more Trollope novels on the shelves of bookstores in Hay-on-Wye than any other author (including Dickens), which made me curious.]