19/10/2006

The Warden (by Anthony Trollope)

I quite like classic fiction, and have had some Anthony Trollope novels on my shelves for some years now, but have never got around to reading them. Recently we borrowed the BBC 'Barchester Chronicles' DVD set, and having thoroughly enjoyed it, thought I'd read some of the original.

'The Warden' is the first volume in a series of six novels, each of which is complete in itself. This one features Mr Harding, the slightly too-good-to-be-true warden of a charity hospital. He's a humble, friendly, caring man with a tremendous gift for music. However he has little business sense, and has never realised that his salary is perhaps more than was intended by the original donor of the hospital, while the 12 lifetime residents receive only a small amount. Not that they need any more - they're housed, and well-fed, and looked after.

However Mr Bold, a local reformer, feels that justice should be done. So he launches a campaign to increase the income of the residents, despite being a great admirer of Mr Harding, and potential suitor for Mr Harding's daughter Eleanor.

The book follows the feelings of those concerned, which include Mr Harding's son-in-law the Archdeacon, and a rather vague politician. They're all rather caricatured, but none the worse for that since this book is intended to be something of a humorous satire while making important points. Mr Harding is naturally the hero, but Mr Bold is far from being a villain. The conclusion is perhaps inevitable, and quite satisfactory, and didn't leave me feeling the need to read further - much better than leaving a cliffhanger.

On the other hand, I found the book decidedly long-winded. Once Trollope starts to make a point - often quite amusing - he seems to continue it on for two or three pages, by which time I found myself either losing his train of thought, or nodding off to sleep. I didn't dislike it - I kept reading, but somehow couldn't manage more than a chapter or two at a time, so despite having only a little over 300 pages, it took me well over two weeks to complete.

In conclusion, it's one of the few books I've read where I actually consider the TV version to be much more interesting!

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