Barchester Towers - NO SPOILERS, PLEASE

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Barchester Towers - NO SPOILERS, PLEASE

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toukokuu 7, 2007, 11:22 am

OK, I'm technically still reading Ship of Magic that my friend loaned me, but BT was just sitting there on my TBR pile last night and I couldn't resist it. I only read through Ch 1, but I know that pirates & sentient ships & sea serpents are just going to have to wait.

I'm going to post as I go along, but it's been 10 years since i read this book, so please, don't spoil it for me. One of the good things about getting older--I know I'm going to love this reading experience because I already read it, but I don't remember the details so it'll seem new.

Poor Dr. Grantly boohoo. Serves you right!

toukokuu 8, 2007, 7:31 pm

I am in the midst of the audiobooks version of BT at this time. The reader is Margaret Hilton for AudioBooks and I highly recommend same if you are thinking about it. It is 15 tapes.

Glad to see someone out there that likes Sarah Waters also.


Muokkaaja: toukokuu 9, 2007, 11:31 am

Sarah Waters is awesome. I just read The Night Watch. Loved it. She can do more than goth.

toukokuu 9, 2007, 3:02 am

Librivox has a free audio version of BT, which I downloaded to my MP3 player. I listened to each chapter, straight after I had read them. A brit called Andy Minter was the best of the group of readers assigned to the book. Some of the accents of the other readers weren't so much to my liking (no names mentioned :P )

Glad you're enjoying the book so far, littlegeek!

toukokuu 9, 2007, 11:29 am

For the most part, when it comes to "serious" fiction (not sure BT qualifies ;-) I prefer to read the book rather than listen to a recording. If the reader doesn't appeal to me, it can ruin the book.

I am, however, listening to The Wee Free Men, because I hate trying to read dialect. The reader does a great job with both the West counties accent of Tiffany, etc. and the Nac Mac Feagle.

On to Barchester....I'm a little annoyed about the first few chapters. I know it was the convention at the time, but I prefer to have the characters interact and be left to discern their qualities on my own, instead of having it spelled out for me by the author. AT gives up on this later, but being told that Mr. Slope is an ass is less effective than having Dr. Grantly blow his top!

I love that scene. Nice way to start the day.

Women. I was impressed with the way AT handled the female characters in The Warden. They each had their own qualities, and were not "just females." However, it is a little disturbing that AT would stoop to misogyny in order to have us disapprove of Mrs. Proudie. It's subtle, but it is not necessary. Mrs. Proudie has no trouble offending us based solely on her character, which is not dependent upon her sex other than the fact that she has no other way to yield power. Slope is just as manipulative and he's male.

It seems to me that the modern reader having no idea of the issues they're fighting about actually adds to the enjoyment of the book. We don't get caught up in our own opinion about the issues, and can just enjoy the delicious cat & mouse. I love the high minded clergy reduced to their most base emotions. It's so English and so hilarious to me.

toukokuu 11, 2007, 11:59 am

AT like Charles Dickens (CD) seems to put his women at a higher level than the men in BT. Like I am only at audio cassette 10 but so far Eleanor seems to be the only clear thinking and emotionally mature individual in the book. The men are either robots or twits. Possibly that will change as I go along, but the male characters are all in the shadow of Eleanor so far.

Most all the men if not complete twits would appear to be badly lacking. I mean with Magdalena just lying on her couch and spider like sucking men into her web. And Charlotte her sister minipulating her brother as easily as she does.

Those comments are certainly not to detract from the book and the dialogue of AT is excellent. Just because AT is not PC means nothing. As a work of its time I think it is fine.

AT makes wonderful observations as to how Slope goes about trying to get a position when one of the fellow clergy gets a fit of apoplexy. His commentary re manipulation of people by people and the workings of society is really interesting. However with Dickens there is more discussion of the emotional nature of individuals and their behavior that make him more enjoyable for me together of course with his humor.

And although others find humor in BT I do not see it.

I still find BT an excellent book at bed time.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 12, 2007, 11:56 pm

I don't think Margaret Hilton is the greatest narrator (I believe I listened to her reading of The Warden). I listened to the late David Case (a/k/a Frederick Davidson) read the entire series - the sarcasm really flowed! Those editions are tough to find these days; I'd advise anyone interested in listening to unabridged Barchester to try the ones read by Simon Vance (a/k/a Robert Whitfield) available via

toukokuu 12, 2007, 9:54 pm

Oh, the delicious party scene. Urquhart, slapstick is funny, esp. when the victim is a fastidious beotch.

I love that diva Madeleine, she's so good at causing trouble and at calling people on their bs.

I like AT's defense of character development over plot at the end of Ch. 15. I like a mystery as much as the next person, but it's like junk food. Great development of character, at which AT excels, is tasty and nourishing. Who cares what happens to people you don't care about?

toukokuu 13, 2007, 10:15 am

littlegeek, you are right, slapstick is funny to 99.9% of the world. My problem is that I find slapstick boring or plodding or predictable and look for more than that in a work by AT.

I am right at the Party portion of the book and am loving the unfolding of it all.

toukokuu 13, 2007, 3:13 pm

urquhart, there's much more than slapstick. Pardon me, I misjudged you, as I figured in calling BT unfunny you were missing the subtleties and so would enjoy more the obvious pratfalls.

Just beginning Vol II, and enjoying Mr. Arabin and all his tribulations. I love how he defends his church's contentiousness to Eleanor, yet I can't help but side with her. It suits as the backdrop to a comic novel, but to live every day with the constant squabbling would become tiresome.

toukokuu 13, 2007, 4:13 pm

littlegeek, I very often in real life am guility of "missing the subtleties" of humor. Could you be my guide and point out a few? Since we are over half way through the book it would be a good idea for me to pick up on what I am missing. They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear, and I do believe I am ready in this instance.

I have a fun question that I often ask people, if I think it is appropriate. With what person in history would they choose to spend an afternoon at tea? Now I would not choose AT, but among the many I would take would be Charles Dickens(past) and Sarah Waters (present.) Waddya think?

As far as tea with fictional characters is concerned I am afraid that Madeleine would have me for lunch and be truly over powering. I wonder if women would find her as scary as men would. But Eleanor would be a pleasure to have tea with.

My memories of the Pallisers BBC series was that it was a magnificent series but that the characters were all to a greater or lesser extent stiff necked and wearing very starched collars. I believe this holds true for BT folk as well. Yes it was the way of "that time" but for me I like to see a bit of warmth as well. Dickens was able to inject a bit of warmth for the same times in his works.

And yes they are both entirely different and should never be judged as one versus the other, but rather as different as apples and acorns.


toukokuu 13, 2007, 6:56 pm

hmmm, it is difficult to explain humour, but to me what is hilarious about AT is the "stiff necked" vicars being brought low by their very human emotions.

Do you not find Dr Grantly blowing his top, or the thwarted machinations of Slope, or Madeleine's bullseye commentary funny? The poor bishop, his resolve that every time dissolves in the presence of both his wife and Slope. The very definition of "church lady," Mrs Proudie. The charming slacker, Bertie. Dude, how are these characters and the scrapes they get themselves into not funny?

What I find "warm" about these characters, and AT, is that, with the possible exception of Slope, they are many-dimensional. Looked at one way, Mr Harding is a mealy-mouthed weakling; look again and he has the most integrity and honest wish to do good of any of the characters. Look superficially at Eleanor and she's a clueless girl, ripe for manipulation; look again and you see someone who really isn't fooled at all. Dr Grantly can be an overbearing blustering fool, yet he has the best interests of his family at heart and is unwaveringly loyal. Arabin can be a pompous ass, but inside beats a disappointed and lonely heart. (I guess they did have geeks in the 19th century.)

Who would I have tea with? Mozart, Satchel Paige, probably other musicians or ball players. The writers would probably be boring.

toukokuu 14, 2007, 9:45 pm

AT is so clever. He makes Mrs Proudie, the villian, the champion of the more deserving candidate in Mr. Quiverful, while the heroes are in the Harding camp. Mr. Harding is not only nearing retirement age, but he has a very rich daughter who can care for him, while Quiverful has all those kids to raise. It throws the whole thing back upon the reader again; do we care more that the more deserving gets the appointment, or that the proper side win?

Slope is so deliciously evil. Dude has not a scruple if it will get him something he wants. Tee hee!

God, I love Trollope.

toukokuu 15, 2007, 10:47 am

Poor Eleanor! Everyone at Plumstead is trying to push her around. She pushes back pretty well, tho. Good for her. It's all so incredibly English how they won't say what they're really thinking until everyone has gone completely emo. Ah, repression!

toukokuu 15, 2007, 10:55 am

Ok I have finished the book but don't want to be a Spoiler so will remain quiet 'til you finish it.

toukokuu 15, 2007, 11:29 am

You know, I've been rethinking my spoiler issue considering even AT didn't think it should matter. I have read it before. Go ahead, if ya wanna.

Urquhart, it's nice to have someone to bounce things off of. I've been trying to get a group read going in here, but no takers.

toukokuu 15, 2007, 12:41 pm

okidoki, herewith some observations, from one possibly not so able to pick up on things subtle or sublime.

1)Madeleine was a magnificent character and showed so clearly how helpless most men are with women. (ie Bill Clinton, the powers of a Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, etc.) Men are such helpless naifs in matters of the heart.

2)Harding, when all is said and done, would appear to be, while not the hero, at least the Character of Choice for AT. Those last sentences of the book on him portrary him as the truly Enlightened man. However this statement made at the end of the book is at variance with the fact that AT has had us spend a whole book with people and plot lines that are entirely other than that.

3)While all the BT characters and plot lines are very much what I can recognize around me in everyday life and are therefore interesting, I don't know of any plot line or character that I would call trully fictional. Is this good or bad; can this be used in evaluating an author and his talent?

4)I enjoyed the humor of the scene where the either Stanhope or Thorne at the party is reading an installment of Little Dorrit, that also came out the same year as BT. Fiction refering to fiction here is an interesting tidbit.

5)The declaration of love scene between Arabin and Eleanor is one of the best in literature in my opinion. The one is Jane Eyre with Rochester is I believe better but both are excellent.

6)AT is great with diaglogue, setting an ambiance, adding complexity, and keeping the interest of the reader going.

7)I like AT and have taken out The Warden from the library today.

toukokuu 15, 2007, 1:42 pm

U, I have no idea what you mean by this:

I don't know of any plot line or character that I would call trully fictional. Is this good or bad; can this be used in evaluating an author and his talent?

Please elaborate.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 2007, 5:30 pm

Well the plot lines and characters are, for me anyway,very contemporary and that he has juggled some things around, given a town and its people fictional names so as to have a book be fiction. His themes of the fight for power, the way different characters behave in their struggle for love and power, etc. are not that different today although his characters are certainly more articulate and eloquent.

I am not sure that this methodology or formula of his is necessarily good or bad and whether it is valid to use this as a discussion point in evaluating an author. All artists have formulas and it seems as if this is AT's.

I am sure AT could have said this far better than I.

Muokkaaja: toukokuu 15, 2007, 5:38 pm

I'm still not sure I get your point, but the way I see it, AT was more concerned with the internal emotions and motivations of his characters. The backdrop being topical, or rather ordinary, probably served the purpose of his characters being accessible to the reader. What is fascinating about this is that while his setting was contemporary, modern readers have no trouble at all relating to these characters, as their human strivings, emotions and reactions are universal.

Is that what you meant?

I don't think many of today's contemporary writers wil translate well into future centuries. Can you imagine anyone being able to follow say, Palahniuk, in even a few decades? He's funny now, tho.

toukokuu 15, 2007, 5:52 pm

Is that what you meant?....well, roughly but probably not worth dwelling on, but what did you think of the other observations I offered?

I think in reading an author it is always great to walk away enthralled and loving the trip. I sense that is what it was for you and that is great. As I suggested I have taken out the Warden and started on that. Maybe I have to read a lot more of him to relate to him as wonderfully as you do. Maybe it is a case of more is better.....

toukokuu 15, 2007, 6:55 pm

Sounds like you enjoy AT plenty, and I'm glad.

In reply to your comments re: Mr. Harding, see my own comments about him in The Warden thread. Harding is a little too concerned with his own comfort, with not rocking the boat, to be a real hero, but AT does seem to admire the shy retiring types. Witness Arabin winning Eleanor. I, too, admire people who live simply and with integrity. Our culture rewards braggarts and contentiousness way too much imho. I think AT would be horrified with our current century.

I'll reply to your other comments once I've completed my reread.

toukokuu 19, 2007, 7:18 pm

Well, I finally managed to find the time to finish up BT, and it's still as lovely and charming as I remember it. I love the fact that Madeline is the one who basically fixes everything up with the lovers. She's happy to use and abuse the county's menfolk, but when she actually runs across a good one who deserves a good wife, he make sure he doesn't eff it up by going to Eleanor herself. Maddy is a woman after my own heart.

Bertie and all the Stanhopes are such wonderfully comic. Eleanor is so sweet & innocent, yet she can judge a man's character better sometimes than those around her, and certainly strives to be a better Christian than most of the clergymen. Even the minor characters like Miss Thorne are skillfully drawn. Just yummy.

I also love AT's little asides and social commentaries, such as the boredom and bother of social niceties, the worship of small children, the inner workings of our vanities. It's the little details that make this novel such a satisfying read.

I'll get around to Dr Thorne sometime this summer. Anyone out there interested in reading it with me, or should I just keep my thoughts to myself? Urquhart?

toukokuu 20, 2007, 5:58 am

Glad you enjoyed Barchester Towers, lg! How do you feel towards Mr Harding now? I finished the book not that long ago and now I'm watching the BCC TV series on DVD. I still can't decide whether I admire Mr Harding for his humility and not wanting to rock the boat or upset others, or whether I'm irritated for his appearing as big wimp who is too easily manipulated by others?! Either way, he seems a true gentleman and a loving father.

Looking forward to hearing how you get on with Dr Thorne. I haven't started it yet, either.... I was going to start The Way We Live Now next, but I do miss Barsetshire and am keen to get back there.

toukokuu 20, 2007, 5:16 pm

I just bought TWWLN, too, but I've got a few others on the tbr pile, including a group read for Green Dragon, so I'm not sure when I'll get back to Trollope. Don't know if i want to finish the Barset books or just read TWWLN. grrrr, too many books.

I'll also refer you to my comments on Mr Hardin in The Warden thread, but basically, part of me is charmed by Harding's gentleness and goodness, part of me thinks he's just copping out. It's a fine line. I definitely think Dr. Grantly is just an ass for his obtuse inability to see anything beyond blind ambition, especially inappropriate in clergy. I think there's something of an answer/compromise reached in Mr Arabin. He's gentle, almost to a fault, but he also believes in standing up for his principles. It's also interesting how Mr Harding's beliefs have insinuated themselves into Eleanor's consciousness, and even Susan's to some extent. Good parenting will do that.

heinäkuu 18, 2007, 3:39 am

Now I can play in the big boys' and girls' playground. (I couldn't find how to translate properly Je peux jouer dans la cour des grands.) I read the first chapters of BT yesterday night (my first Trollope)... My first impression is that it's going to require all my attention. But I have perseverance...

heinäkuu 18, 2007, 9:07 am

I hope you enjoy Barchester Towers, Pepys! :)

heinäkuu 18, 2007, 9:21 am

Thanks for the encouragment, digifish. BTW thanks also for having raised my attention to the site in another thread some time ago. Very useful, because my edition is unannotated.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 17, 2007, 5:23 am

Finished BT the other week. I liked it a lot. Something most peculiar about this book: I found it unusual for a writer to warn the reader in the very first chapters that, at the end of the book, Eleanor will not marry Mr Slope nor Bertie. What a behaviour for an author! Trollope is a real spoiler! (And, as he dared to write this at the beggining of his book, I dare to mention it in this thread...)

Just to keep a trace of the different characters in the book, I tried to classify them according to their degree of sympathy:

1. Mary Bold, Eleanor Bold.
2. Miss Thorne, Bertie Stanhope.
3. Mr Arabin, Mr Harding.
4. Mrs Quiverful, Mr Quiverful.
5. Dr Thorne, Dr Gwynne.
6. Mr Stanhope, Charlotte Stanhope.
7. Dr Grantly, Mrs Grantly.
8. Dr Proudie, Madeline Neroni.
9. Mrs Proudie.
10. Mr Slope.

I hope I forgot nobody. If ever I did, I beg the character to accept my humblest apologies...

syyskuu 27, 2007, 5:50 pm

>29 Pepys: While AT often accused of being a spoiler, notice that he doesn't tell you whom Eleanor WILL marry. And also notice that it doesn't keep you from enjoying the story - the characters are so engrossing.

I will quibble with rating Mr. Arabin so high. I found him a dreary creature and am still all amazement that Eleanor should have found him so simpatico (as Mme. Neroni would have put it).

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 28, 2007, 8:29 am

Before my post #29, I had never tried to write down such a list of characters after having read a novel. (I think it's good to have all the names somewhere.) So Trollope made me do a quite funny première. Of course I agree that, if the pecking order is clear for some characters, it's difficult to classify some others. However, after reflection, Arabin doesn't look to me so unsympathetic... He seems in his right place somewhere between 3 and 5.

lokakuu 12, 2007, 9:08 am

>30 stringcat3: I will quibble with rating Mr. Arabin so high. I found him a dreary creature and am still all amazement that Eleanor should have found him so simpatico (as Mme. Neroni would have put it).

Agreed! He seemed to have about as much personality as a jellyfish ;)

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 13, 2007, 3:10 pm

#32 Interesting to hear that a digifish doesn't like a jellyfish! ;-)

maaliskuu 2, 2008, 2:03 am

I finished Barchester Towers this past week, and I have to be honest and say that I get very confused about all the positions and the hierarchy in the Anglican church. That reservation aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and am looking forward to the next one in the series.

maaliskuu 2, 2008, 7:02 am

>34 alcottacre: alcottacre ~ I found the rest of the series much easier to follow and equally as enjoyable as Barchester Towers. Enjoy! :D

maaliskuu 5, 2008, 10:10 am

Thanks, digifish! Glad to know the rest of the series is easier to follow.

maaliskuu 5, 2008, 4:45 pm

In another AT thread I recommended Irene Collins' Jane Austen and the Clergy. While the divine Jane's writing is much earlier than AT's, many of the insights on the clergy's social, intellectual and religious roles are helpful.

maaliskuu 9, 2008, 11:42 pm

#37 stringcat3: Thanks for mentioning the book. I checked my local library and they have it, so I am going to read it before any more Trollope. Hopefully, it will help me get things a little straighter in my head (key word here is 'hopefully').

syyskuu 28, 2008, 7:43 am

Barchester Towers will be in the post any day now! My third Trollope after The way we live now and The warden. Oh boy, I can't wait!

syyskuu 29, 2008, 2:09 am

I still have trouble understanding the seemingly non-hierarchical nature of the church. I said somewhere that, having been raised a Catholic (it didn't take past age 10 or so), I kept thinking, "Why can't the archbishop/archdeacon/whomever just tell person he outranks what to do?

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 29, 2008, 10:35 am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

Muokkaaja: lokakuu 1, 2008, 10:22 am

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

lokakuu 1, 2008, 11:02 am

#41: You're too witty, Foxhunter! At least I learned something new about Clinton's campaign in 1992 ("It's the economy, stupid"). I wonder if I should modify this Wikipedia page to include Foxhunter in the list of references for his applying the phrase to the Church of England...

lokakuu 1, 2008, 12:16 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

lokakuu 2, 2008, 2:12 am

>42 Foxhunter: Checked the recommended link, but am still hoping for something assumes complete ignorance on the part of the reader.

lokakuu 2, 2008, 2:12 am

>42 Foxhunter: Checked the recommended link, but am still hoping for something assumes complete ignorance on the part of the reader.

lokakuu 2, 2008, 12:15 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

lokakuu 3, 2008, 1:07 am

> 47 Ha!

Really, what's the point of a bishop if he can't just tell parish-level clergy what to do?

In particular I'm bemused by the juxtaposition of bishop and dean of a cathedral. And the various cathedral offices? Fuggudabowdit. Can't someone just do an org chart? ;-)

Enjoyed the rare (for Americans) opportunity to sit in 18th and 19th century box pews last week in Boston. Was downtown doing research and then stayed for a few days to see relatives (I grew up there) so I stopped in at the Old North Church a couple of times (always a favorite), poked around the Old South Meetinghouse and listened to the organist practicing in King's Chapel (which is complete with the royal governor's heavily upholstered and draped pew but sadly lacking in a steeple, as the money ran out and the king wouldn't fork over any more). Then I indulged in the not rare for Americans opportunity to overeat - the Modern Pastry Shop on Hanover Street for torrone and cookies, Salumeria Italiana for olive oil and prosciutto ($21 a pound!), out to Needham to Sweet Basil's for their splendid bolognese over pappardelle, the old Sherborn Inn and a steak on Saturday ...

Well, THAT got a bit off-thread.

lokakuu 4, 2008, 1:58 pm

Viestin kirjoittaja on poistanut viestin.

lokakuu 5, 2008, 4:10 am

> 49 Yes, got it from Netflix and we were wild about it. I keep recommending it. Paul Giamatti was brilliant - and astonishing how much he looked like JA. Laura Linney equally splendid. It was good to see that the period wasn't romanticized. The Adams homestead is is worth a visit, if you're ever on Boston's South Shore.

And it's about time people realized what a snake that Thomas Jefferson was. I've never liked him for what he did to my Massachusetts homey!

I think John Adams would have like Trollope. Both are men who weren't afraid to look at the rather seamy underside of society and use plain language to describe it. They often got into trouble for their blunt and forceful language in "company." I've had the same problem myself! New Englanders don't usually bother to mince words.