Barchester Towers (Chronicles of Barsetshire #2)

This is by far the best Trollope novel that I’ve read. His writing is clever, satirical, and almost hilarious that I felt as if I was watching a comedy. Perhaps it’s unfair to compare this Victorian novel to a comedy, but the comicality achieved by Trollope through some of the characters paints such a picture. I was a little bit reluctant to read Barchester Towers following the disappointment in The Warden since the story here is more or less a continuation of what began in The Warden. But I was encouraged by many of my GR friends to continue with it since Barchester Towers is the better of the two. I’m really thankful to them and happy that I took their advice.

Chruch politics continues here on a full scale, and I was surprised to find with what little favour Trollope has portrayed his clergy. 🙂 However, they hugely contributed to the enjoyment of the story. In Barchester Tower, Trollope introduces one of the sliest clergymen in Victorian literature in the shape of Obadiah Slope. Even though he isn’t the protagonist, his role in the story justified my considering him as such, for the whole story nearly revolves around him. Odious though he may be, and annoying enough to feel like boxing his ears yourself as Eleanor did, he certainly provides the foremost entertainment of the story. 🙂

At the outset of the story, a “war” begins between Mr. Slope and Dr. Grantly. Neither being ready to surrender, they keep on at it, finding their own allies in the course – Mr. Slope within the robes of the bishop, and Dr. Grantly in the scholarly mind of Mr. Arabin. I wouldn’t venture to say the outcome of the battle; that’d spoil the story. But I could certainly say that the subtle battle between these two factions of the clergy was far more entertaining than any real battle could. 🙂 Dr. Grantly is portrayed in a much different light here. Although he hasn’t greatly outgrown his arrogance and presumptive nature, his feeling of utter helplessness when things work against him, and his resignation to those inevitable, showed a human side to him not seen before.

While these clergymen provided the best entertainment, the non-clergy too was not far behind. These characters, most being women, show that when it comes to scheming, they could outdo the learned dons. 🙂 Out of them, Madeline Neroni holds the brightest candle, closely followed by Mrs. Proudie, the true power behind the bishop’s robe. It is interesting to note that how much these two characters entertained me in their different way, even though I couldn’t like either of them. This shows how well Trollope has portrayed his characters. Except for my slight disappointment at Mr. Harding and Eleanor playing second fiddle to the new characters, I’ve no complaint against him.

The merit of this book lies in Trollope’s writing. I’ve admired his keen wit, satire, and humour in his previous works, but not so much as in here. Trollope’s whole tone is light and bantering which makes the story more engaging and entertaining. I’ve read a lot of Victorian satire, but in my opinion, no author can produce such entertaining satire in a light and bantering manner as Anthony Trollope. In that respect, Trollope is a Victorian Jane Austen.

I’m beginning to warm up to this series, and I’m eager to know what more stories the inhabitants of Barchester can tell me.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.

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