Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Reading Assignment: Don't Fear the Victorians

I never intended the Friday reading assignment to be about what I am reading currently, and neither of the books I'm reading right now are assignment-worthy.  On the other hand, it's difficult to write about books I've read years in the past, no matter how much I loved them.  As Vladimir Nabokov said, "Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it.  A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader."  I am a rereader, but I keep track of the books that I love enough to reread, and the number I haven't gotten to yet is staggering.  I should probably devote six months just to reread all these books.  Anyway, today's assignment is one of a series of books that I loved and intend to reread someday.

Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope is my favorite Victorian writer.  People are afraid of him for some reason and when you recommend his novels, they groan, and complain about dull, overblown, dreary "classics."  I can only assume that the groaners have never read him, because he's not dull or dreary at all.  Yet this was my reaction when Trollope's Barchester Towers was assigned in one of my English classes, so I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the assignment after all, and I seem to recall a class discussion in which other students said they'd been pleasantly surprised as well.

I did reread Barchester Towers, about eight years ago and loved it even more.  It's the second book in the Barsetshire Chronicles series.  There's no need to read the first book, (The Warden) and it's probably best to save The Warden for when you are a confirmed Trollope fan.  Which won't take long.

It's set in a fictional cathedral town in England, and all the main characters are connected with the church.  It has all the essentials for a good comfort read: a lovable old man, a young woman, the young man she eventually marries, a Bishop with political connections, and his ridiculous wife.  You could almost be reading Emma, but not really because it's nothing like Emma and there's a lot of un-Austen church politics.

Trollope himself was a contemporary of Dickens and Thackeray.  He was an extraordinarily prolific writer, publishing forty-seven novels as well as several short stories, two plays, and works of non fiction, all while working full time for the British post office.  I've only read six of his novels and I loved them all.  They're absorbing, comfortable, gently funny, and mildly sexy.  My blog name, Patience Crabstick, is the name of a minor character in Trollope's The Eustace Diamonds.  So don't fear the Victorian and check out some Trollope.


  1. I think you've mentioned Trollope before, haven't you? I still keep meaning to put him on the list, but well, you know how good intentions are..... with summer coming, I will have lots of reading time on my hands as I sit by the pool. But I always seem to find myself rereading books.

  2. Somehow I have managed not to have read Trollope. Thanks for the suggestion.

  3. Thats a great quote from Trollope. when the Booker prize was announced this year the judges said what they were looking for was 're-readability' - books that were so strong they could withstand the scrutiny of more than one read

    I'm curious about your friday reading assignment - is that something of your own making. how does it work??


  4. Karen--I just made it up. It came about when I decided that my dream career would be to recommend books for people. So why not start, via my blog?

  5. Adding Trollope to my summer reading. Can't wait to start! Wondered where your wonderful blog moniker came from.

  6. I have some Trollope on my Kindle that I downloaded but haven't read yet (along with many other things on my Kindle I have downloaded but haven't read yet). I think what I have is Can You Forgive Her. Have you read that one?