Barchester Towers

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Barchester Towers
by Anthony Trollope
★★★★☆


I’m officially a Chronicles of Barsetshire convert and I have Eleanor Bold to thank for it. The character took a stand for herself and her father in The Warden, but it wasn’t until Barchester Towers that I really grew to love the fiery widow. She could be Lizzie Bennet if Darcy had (God forbid!) died after they were married.

Barchester Towers picks up a few years after The Warden. Eleanor has become a widow and now has a son. No one has taken over the wardenship that her father, Mr. Harding, left at the end of the first book. The race is on to see who will be named the new Warden and who will become the Dean in Barchester. We also meet a new cast of characters including the hapless Bertie Stanhope and his sister, the conniving Mr. Slope, the unhappily married Proudies and a vicar from Oxford, Francis Arabin.

In that same Pride and Prejudice vein, Obadiah Slope is Mr. Collins. The Bishop's chaplain is working hard to move up in the world, but he is just not a likeable character. Even when Eleanor is attempting to be kind to him, she still can’t make herself like him. He bases his search for a wife on income instead of love and so he sets his sights on the newly widowed Eleanor who is now a wealthy woman. In order to woo her he attempts to get her father’s wardenship back for him. Poor Reverend Quiverful has already been offered the wardenship, which would go a long way to feeding his 14 children.

Septimus Harding, the main character from The Warden, once again demonstrates his excellent character in this book. No matter what people offer him or what they tell him he deserves, in the end he always wants what is best for the community. He is such a kind man. Even when his daughter’s taste in gentlemen callers is being questioned, he makes his loyalties clear without yet knowing her thoughts. He stands by her and supports all of her actions. Eleanor’s relationship with her father is one of the highlights of the novel for me.

The thing I'm beginning to realize I love about Trollope's work is his collection of female characters. He creates vibrant women who are the real strength behind the weak or petty men they are married to. Mrs. Proudie might be a bit of a villain, but she's also a force to be reckoned with. Everyone in Barchester knows that her husband, the Bishop, isn’t the real decision-maker in their household. As he struggles with the question of who should get the wardenship, she makes the decision and moves forward with her choice without him.

Mrs. Quiverful does the same thing, but out of her concern for her children’s welfare. She sees her husband's unwillingness to fight for what she believes is rightfully theirs as weak and selfish. She decides to make her own plan and go about getting the wardenship for him.

My favorite female character, of course, is Eleanor Bold. She turns down multiple suitors who are after her money. She stands up to her stuffed shirt brother-in-law, Archdeacon Grantly and remains loyal to her father above all. She is at times righteous, sarcastic, and vulnerable, a fully realized character with a complicated range of emotions. We watch her fall in love and we root for her to end up with the right man. I've grown to admire her for her strength and principles throughout the first two books. In The Warden she was willing to give up her love for her fiancé in order to protect her family dignity. In this book she stands up for her right to privacy and freedom when Grantly believes her acquaintance with Slope is inappropriate. She doesn’t love Slope, but she’s furious that someone thinks they have the right to tell her who she can or can't associate with.

BOTTOM LINE: Just like The Warden, it took me a minute to get into this one, but once I did I loved it! Eleanor Bold is one of my favorite characters I’ve encountered in a long while. I hope she plays a role in the upcoming books as well!

“How many shades there are between love and indifference, and how little the graduated scale is understood!”

“Till we can become divine, we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for change we sink to something lower.”
 
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Our Chronicles of Barsetshire readalong moves right along and this month we're reading Doctor Thorne. I've noticed the books seem to be doubling in size each month. I'm really hoping this is the largest of the batch! Check out Amanda's posts at Fig and Thistle and dive into the next book!

"Doctor Thorne is the third novel in Trollope's series known as the "Chronicles of Barsetshire," and is argued to be Trollope's best work. It tells the story of Mary Thorne, the niece of Dr. Thomas Thorne, whose illegitimacy remains a secret for much of the novel as she is raised by her kind uncle and falls in love with the rich Frank Gresham. This melodramatic novel displays Trollope's brilliant management of plot and dialogue while exploring themes of illegitimacy, class division
and the practice of marrying for money."
Up next on the schedule:
 
June: Framley Parsonage
July: The Small House at Allington
August: The Last Chronicle of Barset

Share your wrap up post with all of us at the end of the month and tweet your thoughts at #Trollope2014.

3 comments:

figandthistle.com said...

I am barely into this novel and I love it. I so need to finish soon because I am behind. I'm really glad we're doing this readalong. I was so intimidated by Trollope and I don't know why. He rocks!

o said...

I like Trollope's women, and I love how they're not caricatures. Mrs. Proudie showed (briefly) a caring side, and Eleanor is 'good', but not insipid. They're all very complete, I think.

And, like I said today on my blog, I'm so grateful you're doing this read-along! Loving it :D

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

figandthistle - I can't believe we were so scared of him! I'm so glad we decided to dive in and start reading.

O - Yes! They feel like women you might know in real life. I'm so glad you're enjoying the read-along! After this book, I definitely am too!