Monday, January 08, 2018
Last Chronicle of Barset
Posted by JaneGS
Anthony Trollope's The Last Chronicle of Barset has the distinction of being my last book of 2017 and my first book of 2018. Weighing in at 861 pages, I started reading it on Nov 18 and managed to finish it in 7 weeks with the holidays and holiday reading thrown in there for good measure.
As you might have guessed by the title, this is the last of 6 novels in the Barsetshire series, and I have to say that I was sad to say goodbye to the villagers, squires, clerics, lawyers, wives, and servants that I've come to know and love since I started on the series with The Warden, back in November of 2010. I think when I reread the series--and believe me, I will!--I will endeavor to do it in less than 7 years!
I also found that I enjoyed the books more as I progressed through the series. I know that book 2, Barchester Towers, is considered to be the crown jewel of the series, but it was not my favorite. Perhaps being more familiar with the characters and their lives with each book helped, but I really think book 6 is the best. Such a rich collection of characters--I think Josiah Crawley and Lily Dale are two of the most frustrating, and fascinating, characters ever developed. Their obstinacy is maddening, and yet I could definitely see the world from their point of view. They couldn't be more different--one is a dour killjoy and the other is a warm and witty woman, but they defy social convention and will not bend to make their road easier.
I couldn't help wishing that Trollope had written a 7th book in the series in which he married off Jane Crawley to Johnny Eames. Maybe there's some Trollope fan fiction out there that finally gives Johnny a wife--if ever a man should be married, he is it.
I found myself mentally picturing Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey (as played by Hugh Bonneville) for Archdeacon Grantley--I find it not at all strange and very amusing that Julian Fellowes borrowed the name Crawley from Trollope's Barchester series and gave it to the lords of the manor! And Mrs. Grantley's ways of handling the Archdeacon are definitely aligned with Cora's.
Finally, I think that one of the reasons I liked this final book so much is the mystery around how Mr. Crawley got the cheque in the first place. I think that more than the other novel, this one had a super strong plot line off of which the other branches could comfortably hang. It was a perfectly constructed novel, and immensely satisfying to read.
I would absolutely love it if the BBC did a TV series of the entire Barchester series. There is a version from 1982, but it only goes through the first 2 books.