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The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope (thoughts)

March 1, 2012

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.)
11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 1, 2012 6:11 am

    I haven’t read much Trollope– only The Way We Live Now in college and The Warden last year– but I’d love to finish the Barchester series.

  2. March 1, 2012 7:26 am

    I’ve read two of the Palliser series, Can You Forgive Her?, the first one which is quite good, and The Eustace Diamonds, the third, which can stand alone mostly and is also enjoyable. I like the series and will someday finish it, but I have to be in the right mood (ie, have a lot of time on my hands for starters)! I downloaded The Warden to my kindle the other day, just to try Barsetshire, but found the first few chapters rather dull. I know the next book’s supposed to get better (and I once upon a time watched part of the rather old miniseries Barchester Chronicles just for young Alan Rickman!), but still.

    Also, you aren’t the only one who didn’t care for The Small House at Allington. And actually, you were the one who encouraged me to first give Trollope a try, so thank you.

  3. March 1, 2012 11:16 am

    I’m glad you had Cranford as a companion read. For whatever reason, that book doesn’t seem to have me in such panicked fear as most Victorian reads do, so I really hope to try it soon. My hope is that it’s the ticket to knock out this silly fear once and for all!

  4. Vipula permalink
    March 1, 2012 11:30 am

    I have been wanting to read Trollope for quite some time and your review sort of “seals the deal” for me. Also very intrigued by “A Spy in the House” – a victorian all female spy agency – how much fun that sounds!

  5. March 1, 2012 12:41 pm

    Barsetshire, whether Trollope’s or Thirkell’s, is my favourite fictional place. Of Trollope’s Barsetshire books, I’ve only read The Warden and Barchester Towers so far (having only started reading Trollope last year) but I’m very eager to continue on to the rest!

  6. March 1, 2012 2:55 pm

    I love Trollope too and have slowly been working my way through the Barsetshire novels. I’ve read the first four and am planning to start The Small House at Allington soon – hopefully I’ll enjoy it more than you did, but if not it’s good to know I can look forward to this one.

  7. March 1, 2012 3:00 pm

    Great review! I think I might try The Warden and see if this series is something I want to pursue. Thanks for the recommendation.

  8. March 1, 2012 3:06 pm

    I really want to read these books sometime! I have Barchester Towers on my shelves, so I really have no excuse to get started. I have a feeling I’ll enjoy Trollope, especially as I’ve enjoyed various TV miniseries of his novels.

  9. March 1, 2012 8:42 pm

    Of the series, my least favourite is actually ‘Doctor Thorne’ – the plotting is fairly weak (although the characters are good), and it comes to a bit of a spluttering halt far before the end of the book. As I mentioned in my review of ‘The Last Chronicle…’, the only weak point was Johnny Eame’s adventures in London. Who cares about the new ring-ins when you’ve got the whole of Barset to care about?!

  10. March 1, 2012 8:43 pm

    And I’ll be onto ‘The Prime Minister’ soon in my latest cycle through the Palliser novels :)

  11. March 2, 2012 2:18 am

    I started with the Palliser books, and although I’m enjoying them a lot, I do feel that I’m missing out on Barsetshire! Lots of Palliser to go before I get there though. I really enjoyed the first and second Palliser books: Can You Forgive Her? and Phineas Finn. What I really like about Trollope is his female characters. Unlike Dickens’ with his saints, spinsters or sinners, Trollope’s women are fallible and interesting and conflicted. They seem real. Onwards to The Eustace Diamonds, although I’m sure you’ll have overtaken me and finished them all before I’ve even started it, given your swift reading pace. :-)

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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