#Trollope2014: The Warden

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Warden
by Anthony Trollope

This is the first book in Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire series. I’d heard in advance that it’s not always the best place to start with the series, but my type A personality insisted I read them in the correct order. It is a slow novel, one where very little action happens and I struggled to get into the first section. But at some point things clicked into place for me. I started to see past the surface plot of a financial debate dealing with the care of a local hospital, and I began to see the characters’ inner struggles.

Septimus Harding is the Warden, a title he earned by running Hiram's Hospital, a charity house. His daughter’s beau, John Bold, starts to question how the charity is run and draws up a case against the Warden. Harding has two daughters, Susan, who is already married, and Eleanor, who lives with him and who is being courted by John Bold. Bold’s decision to challenge Harding’s income puts an uncomfortable wrench in his plan to marry Eleanor.

Once you get past the initial slow start, the book provides an interesting look at the motives behind actions. Bond sees his purpose as noble and right even though he’s hurting the people he loves. It makes the reader question his decision, is it truly motivated by his beliefs or by his pride? Both Bond and Harding have difficult decisions to make and they are being encouraged by their friends to do very specific things. The local newspaper is also playing a part in aggravating the situation. In the end, does it matter why you make a decision if it is the right one? Or is it more important to stick to your original mission despite the effect it will have on others?

In some ways this novel reminded me of Gilead. Both books have a quiet nature and focus on the decisions of elderly men. Both also have a younger man who is struggling with a decision. Both have religious overtones that dictate the path of the main characters. It was an interesting parallel since the two books are set in such different time periods and locations.

BOTTOM LINE: An interesting read that took a bit to get into. I’ve heard the next book in the series is better and so I’m excited to read that one. I enjoyed watching Trollope peel away the layers of this issue until the moral core was revealed. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does that in the other Chronicles of Barsetshire novels.

“Bold began to comfort himself in the warmth of his own virtue.”

“In matters of love men do not see clearly in their own affairs.”

“There are some points on which no man can be contented to follow the advice of another,—some subjects on which a man can consult his own conscience only.”

Our Chronicles of Barchester Readalong marches on to the second book this month. Amanda at Fig and Thistle and I are starting Barchester Towers next and will be sharing our thoughts on that one at the end of April!

Barchester Towers is Trollope's most popular book. 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 skillfully handled with that subtlety of ironic observation that has won Trollope such a wide and appreciative readership."
Up next in the schedule:

May: Doctor Thorne
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.


Andi said...

I've never tried Trollope. Gah! All the books and authors I want to read!

Kat @ NoPageLeftBehind said...

I've also never read Trollope...I think I'll wait to see what you think of the second book before I attempt this series :)

Anonymous said...

I've been meaning to read Trollope for a while. I think I'll end up doing the same thing you did; starting with The Warden because it's the first one. I can't help it, it just feels right. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Andi - I know! It's a never ending list.

Kat - Good plan, I'm hoping I like the second one more.

majoringinliterature - Even if it's not the best one, I feel like you have to start at the beginning.

Brona said...

Looking at the lovely Penguin Classic cover would have helped during the slower bits (I know it's very shallow of me to rave about covers, but I do like this particular edition of penguins).

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brona - I do too! I don't actually own that one, but I love the cover!

Cleo said...

I really enjoyed your review, Melissa! I'm a bit slow but better late than never. Here is my review: http://cleoclassical.blogspot.ca/2014/04/the-warden-by-anthony-trollope.html

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Cleopatra - Great review! I love seeing everyone's thoughts on the characters.

Unknown said...

Strange but I started to read The Barsetshire Chronicles in March too. So glad I found your blog. It'll be fun hearing everyone's thoughts.

As it happens I loved The Warden. I didn't find it slow at all. There was such a mix of storyline, character description and comment on the newspaper business and religious life in a small English cathedral city that I loved it from the first chapter.

The discussion on the responsibility of the press makes the novel very fresh to me. Instead of being a nineteenth century discussion it seems like a a very twenty first century expose of what the press can do with just a couple of cruel words.

Trollope's strength for me is the same as Shakespeare's. They are timeless. There's always something which resonates with the reader whatever time period they live in.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

April van Es - I completely agree about the role the press plays in the novel. It was a fascinating look at the power of journalism in the wrong hands.