Doctor Thorne

by Anthony Trollope

This is the third of the six books in the Barchester Chronicles series.  As far as I am aware (and I am about to find out) they can each be read alone.  Certainly this is true of the present volume.  The only overlap with the previous two books is the occasional mention of the Proudies, Dean Arabin and, mentioned slightly more often but not actually appearing, the Thornes of Ullathorne (to whom the Doctor Thorne of the title is distantly related).

It is also quite a long book – the longest or second-longest in the series.  Since I planned to read it on my Kindle, I googled the book’s title to find out how long it is.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there is a TV dramatisation of the novel in preparation, adapted by Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey and Gosford Park renown).  Another incentive, then, to read it – if one were needed.

The past two weeks have been a reading delight.  The characters are almost all likeable, despite their various flaws – with the exception of Lady de Courcy and her daughter Alexandrina, both of whom feel the need to interfere and ‘guide’ the affairs of Lady de Courcy’s sister’s family, the Greshams.  The story, whilst somewhat predictable, is nevertheless engrossing and ultimately pleasing.  Most pleasing of all is Trollope’s great insight into human behaviour, and his ability to use this insight to develop and unravel situations which are utterly believable to the reader.

I will pause again before reading the next book, Framley Parsonage.  I hope to complete the series by the end of May.



Barchester Towers

by Anthony Trollope

The second of the two Barchester novels that I had read previously.  This time I feel inclined to continue with the other four novels in the series; though perhaps not straight away.

This was my favourite on last reading, and it still is.  A perfect novel: engaging and interesting characters, all of them with some weaknesses; a story with enough suspense and twists and turns that, even though the author gives clues to the reader in various asides as to what is or is not going to happen, there is still enough reason to keep reading in order to find out what happens.  The scenes are carefully and convincingly set, particularly the garden party at the Thornes’ country house.

When I first read this novel and its predecessor, The Warden, I was mainly taken with the very well-observed and carefully crafted depictions of organisational politics.  Though the era and the organisational setting were very different, the behaviours were entirely recognisable as being those of colleagues in the organisation for which I worked at that time.  Trollope has a wonderful insight into the human condition, and the ways in which different character traits play out in the expectations and behaviours of their possessors.  Since most of his main characters in these two novels are clergymen, one might suppose that Trollope would pass judgment on the conflict between their spiritual calling and their temporal ambitions.  In the main, though, the author keeps silent and lets the characters’ actions speak for them.  Even such a worldly, ambitious, impatient man as Dr Grantly, the archdeacon, has his virtues, and can be believed to be sincere in his faith.

The Warden

by Anthony Trollope

I have read this book, and Barchester Towers, some years ago, and other Trollope novels since. My decision to come back to the Barsetshire Chronicles was prompted by a conversation with a neighbour and fellow reader, with whom I often discuss what she and I are reading. She told me that she had just completed a re-reading if the series, and how much she had enjoyed it. So I decided to take on the challenge myself.

I note that Penguin have decided to produce a special edition of The Warden to mark the bicentenary of Trollope’s birth in 1815.  The book merits being introduced to new readers, whether they are presented with the new edition, lovely to look at and hold, or download the Complete Works for a dollar, as I did.

For me, Barchester Towers is even better than The Warden.  I am looking forward to reading the other four books in the series, which I have not read before.

He Knew He Was Right

by Anthony Trollope

I couldn’t bring myself to finish reading this book, compelling though it is.  The main character is just so wrong, though he ‘knows’ he is right, in suspecting his wife of adultery and then going to great lengths to act out his suspicions.

The TV version of the story, with Bill Nighy as a magnificently nonchalant and laid-back Colonel Osborne (the suspected lover) does the story justice, and I ended up watching this and abandoning the book halfway through.

Nonetheless, I can recommend this book, if you can stomach it.