Friday, May 15, 2009

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Although I’ve read a dozen Trollope novels, The Warden  is the one I always come back to. This time through I enjoyed it as much as ever. Probably more - since I’ve grown to love the protagonist so well.

Mr. Septimus Harding never ceases to amaze me with his self-effacing personality and kindliness. Early in the book accusations are hurled against him and instead of loudly proclaiming his innocence, he looks deep within himself to see if, in fact, they might be true. (“He was not so anxious to prove himself right as to be so.”) The decisions he makes as a result of his introspection could only be made by a man of utmost integrity and the way he treats those who have wronged him is nothing short of amazing. Somehow Trollope created a character with a startling ability to forgive others without making him disgustingly sweet. I. LOVE. MR. HARDING.

Because Trollope took pains to go against the grain of the sensationalist literature of his day, many modern readers find his books slow going. But if you like rich character descriptions, British witticisms and a relationship-driven (rather than action-driven) story line, you might want to give him a try. The friendships described in the book, especially those between Mr. Harding and the Bishop and between Mr. Harding and the elderly Mr. Bunce, are tender and touching. The not-so-gentle jabs at the power of the press in chapters 14 and 15 are insightful and comical. But let me warn you. There are five other books in the Barchester series. You may not be able to stop after just one.

(I listened to this via Librivox and although there were multiple readers, Andy Minter was far and away the best, capturing all the pathos of the novel with his lovely voice.)


Becky said...

Oh, I just discovered Trollope a few weeks ago. I began with this one. And I just loved, loved, loved it. I'm in Barchester Towers now. There's just something so happy-making about his writing.

Sarah said...

I love Trollope, and have a soft spot for Mr Harding. I've been re-reading his Barsetshire books this year, and would like to fit in the Palliser books as well.

Carrie K. said...

I read The Warden last year - my first foray into Trollope - and loved it. Your review reminds me that I wanted to move on to Barchester Towers.

Laura said...

What an excellent review! I love Trollope, too. To the point that if another writer's book is said to be like one of Trollope's I HAVE to read it.

The Warden was probably the first Trollope book I read. Then I read the rest of the Barsetshire novels - and Dr. Thorne was my favorite.

I'm so thankful that Anthony Trollope was a prolific writer - there are quite a few more books of his that I'm looking forward to reading for the first time!

Janet said...

I read this years ago, and more recently read 'Barchester Towers.' I really liked them -- they drew me in so quietly and completely.

Thanks for reminding me of this dear man. I feel a reread coming on!

Harvee, Book Dilettante said...

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Carol in Oregon said...

I love Trollope like you do, and "our dear Mr. Harding" is one of my favorite characters in literature.

FYI for you: Masterpiece Theatre did a series based on this and Barsetshire Towers. Its pace matches the book. For the first two episodes, my husband was antsy and impatient. Then it all got under his skin and he adored the rest of the episodes. They capture Mr. Harding's playing of the "air cello" perfectly.

Like Laura, I'm so glad that there are many Trollopes --even on my shelf -- to read. He will always be a treat to me.