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.)