I'm very happy that I have now read the entire Barchester series by Anthony Trollope. It was very rewarding to read these books and I feel certain that most of you would love them too.
The Last Chronicle of Barset was Trollope's own favorite in the series, and it might be mine too, although I'm also partial to Barchester Towers. The Last Chronicle is different from the other books in that there's a mystery to be solved. Josiah Crawley, curate of Hogglestock, is accused of stealing a check for twenty pounds. The check in question had been reported stolen by Mr. Soames, Lord Lufton's man of business. Mr. Crawley is unable to satisfactorily explain how the check came into his possession and so is indicted and will stand trial when the assizes come to Barchester.
Mr. Crawley is a stern, upstanding christian, and hardly a thief, but his difficult life of poverty and privation have caused him to experience periods of depression so profound that they are described as a temporary madness. It was during one of these periods that he cashed the check and has no memory of how he acquired it. Naturally, it is a scandal for a clergyman to be accused of a crime, and Mr. Crawley and his family suffer much distress and humiliation, made even worse by the fact that the odious Mrs. Proudie must personally persecute poor Mr. Crawley.
Mr. Crawley himself is an impossible person: stubborn, sexist, refuses to listen to reason or act in his own best interests. His confrontation with Mrs. Proudie, however, is one of the most satisfying passages to read in all of literature. You should read this book just for that one scene, although you will also enjoy the secondary plot about Mr. Crawley's daughter, Grace, and Henry Grantly, the son of Archdeacon Grantly. Also in the Last Chronicle, Trollope continues the story of Lily Dale and John Eames from The Small House at Allington.
The Last Chronicle is different from the other books in that it doesn't really work as a stand-alone. At a minimum, you must have read Framley Parsonage and The Small House at Allington, and preferably Barchester Towers as well in order to fully appreciate this book. However, the whole series is so delightful that it really isn't a chore to read them all.