The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (thoughts)
It was with a deep sigh that I turned the final page on The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope; it’s strange to think I’ve finished reading about all of the adventures the people of Barsetshire get up to! I must say, though this last book did Trollope proud: he brought back all of the characters from the previous books (some get more time than others, obviously), created new storylines and wrapped up old ones, and altogether created a novel destined to please us Barsetshire fans.
Trollope, at least in these books, is a bit like Austen: he confines himself to a small, quiet corner of the world and the small, quiet events that can change ordinary lives. As usual, there are a few love stories (although I must say, I was surprised and thrilled by Trollope’s choice regarding the ending of one of them), some church politics maneuverings, and a lot of skillfully captured human characteristics. I love spending time with Trollope, because although he sees all of the flaws and silliness that make up people, he’s fundamentally gentle and kind towards them. He’s a complete comfort read for me, since I know going in that “the good end happily and the bad unhappily.” And it’s just so neat to peek in on day-to-day life for various Victorian classes! In this case, he spends a fair amount of time in London, which was quite enjoyable as well.
If you haven’t read any of the Barsetshire books, of course you don’t want to start here! They don’t have to be read in published order, I suppose, except for the first two (The Warden, which is very short, and Barchester Towers), but I did and it was fun to notice the little references to previous stories. My favourites of the six are Barchester Towers, Framley Parsonage, Doctor Thorne, and this one. Ok, so I barely narrowed things down! I liked The Warden, but it was almost a novella and thus I prefer the longer ones. The only book I didn’t love was the fifth, The Small House at Allington; I can’t put my finger on precisely why I couldn’t get into it, but there you go. Some of those characters get quite a bit of page devotion in The Last Chronicle of Barset, which frustrated me at first, but Trollope eventually one me over.
Anyway, I suppose that now I’ll just have to start on the Palliser series! But I suspect I’ll be returning to Barsetshire now and again, not only thanks to rereading, but also because I happen to have Angela Thirkell’s High Rising on my shelves. ;) I highly, highly recommend Trollope to anyone who loves big, cosy classics of the Victorian nature.
Suggested Companion Reads
- At Home by Bill Bryson (I didn’t actually finish this myself, because I was expecting a broader view of the topic and thus after a hundred and fifty pages got fed up with Bryson’s exclusively British Victorian focus. That being said, I think it’d be perfect for filling in the details for anyone who enjoys British Victorian lit, and I do plan to give it another chance when I’m in a suitable mood. ;) )
- Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell (Another quiet, touching Victorian novel that made me tear up; this one is much shorter, though, and refreshingly focused on women who live without men.)
- A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee (A fun historical mystery written by a Victorian lit specialist and set in Victorian London, it features an all-female spy/detective group called the Agency.)