Friday, June 29, 2012

Barchester Towers

Finished Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, the second book in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series. I was assigned this book in a Victorian lit class when I was taking courses at Harvard in the summer of 1984. I remember the professor telling us that the book was very humorous. I wish he had emphasized this more. We were assigned a book a week and I was a slow reader. Other books included Middlemarch and Little Dorrit, some of my now favorites. I was a slow reader in those days, and spending three hours a day on the T to get to and from Harvard Square. I couldn't read on the train, it made me sick. So, I admit it. I bought the Cliff Notes. The fact is, this book is hilarious. Like the first book in the series, The Warden, there is the never ending fuss of high church politics. Underneath however, is a love story that mirrors A Midsummer Night's Dream in it's absurdity and confusion.

I also found myself thinking of Father Tim Kavanaugh, a longtime favorite character of mine, from Jan Karon's The Mitford Years series. In Barchester Towers, Mr. Arabin is the bachelor Vicar of St. Ewold. He is in his forties, and like Father Tim in the first Mitford book, At Home in Mitford, he has managed life fairly well as a man on his own. But then, just as Father Tim meets his new neighbor Cynthia, a divorcee, Mr. Arabin meets Eleanor Bold, a widow who makes him realize that life with a helpmate would be so much better. In both stories the would be lovers misunderstand each other and almost part, but of course neither Trollope nor Karon would ever allow that to happen.

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