Barchester Towers - NO SPOILERS, PLEASE
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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!
Glad to see someone out there that likes Sarah Waters also.
Glad you're enjoying the book so far, littlegeek!
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.
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.
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?
I am right at the Party portion of the book and am loving the unfolding of it all.
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.
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.
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.
Slope is so deliciously evil. Dude has not a scruple if it will get him something he wants. Tee hee!
God, I love Trollope.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.....
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.
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?
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.
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.
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...
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 ;)
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.
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.