Monday, October 6, 2008

Guest Blog - Barchester Towers

I have finally finished reading Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers. In the late winter, the Blogger and I watched the BBC production called The Barchester Chronicles. This series produced in 1982 was based on two novels by Trollope: The Warden and Barchester Towers. I had watched the TV mini-series when it was first shown on PBS’ Mobile Masterpiece Theatre and had off and on looked at the boxed set of DVDs somewhat wistfully. Finally I decided that I could resist no longer and bought the set of shows based on Trollope’s novels.

The Blogger and I started out watching just the first episode and then decided that we would watch the next one before stopping for the night. I think that it took us only a week to watch all 7 episodes or a total of 374 minutes of program. The series left both of us chuckling and wondering what was going to happen next among the small community of clergy from the Church of England. It was fun to see Alan Rickman in one of his earliest roles as the 'villain of the piece.' As a long time viewer of BBC productions on PBS it was delightful to see some of my old friends such as Susan Hampshire and Donald Pleasence.

As I watched the show, I began doing some reading about both the series and about Trollope. One criticism that I read of The Barchester Chronicles. was that the TV series did not give enough substance to Mr. Arabin. The comment was that he was a very interesting character in the novel. Out of curiosity, I checked the novel out from the library. I never got past all of the fascinating information about Trollope in the preface before the book was due to be returned. While on a trip to California in March with my husband, I bought a used copy of Barchester Towers at a bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley.

Since March I have carried the book on every plane and on every trip in the last six months. In between other books and when I couldn’t get into another book, I would pick up Trollope and read another thirty to forty pages. Now that I have finished the novel, I am feeling a little lost and alone. Trollope had become a really good friend. I really cared about those living in the shadow of the cathedral. The critic was right. Mr. Arabin was more interesting in the novel as were all of the other characters. I enjoyed the humor whether it was subtle or more obvious such as the arrogant Bishop and his ‘bishop-wife' named Proudie or the family of fourteen children belonging to Mr. Quiverful.

Trollope worked for many years in the postal service and is credited with instituting delivery of mail twice a day and the installation of the well known red pillar boxes. He was about forty before his first book was published and he did not like the writing of Charles Dickens at all. Or was that he did not like Dickens at all. I found Trollope so much more enjoyable than I anticipated and am ready to find out what happens in the next book in The Chronicles of Barsetshire. I am eager to find out if the characters are as vivid without having been acquainted with them before hand.

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