“But let the gentle-hearted reader be under no apprehension whatsoever. It is not destined that Eleanor shall marry Mr. Slope or Bertie Stanhope. And here, perhaps, it may be allowed to the novelist to explain his views on a very important point in the art of telling tales. He ventures to reprobate that system which goes so far to violate all proper confidence between author and his readers, by maintaining nearly to the end of the third volume a mystery as to the fate of their favorite personage.” (Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope)
Having loved The Warden so completely three years ago, I’d had an idea in my head of what I’d get out of this book, namely: the minutely detailed thoughts of both morally upright and reprehensible characters in a quiet 18– English town. Perfect. But this time through, the reading experience was so much more about how Trollope guided me through the book. It was almost as if he inserted himself as a character instead of as a mysterious first- or third-person narrator. And, as characters go, Tollope himself became among the most honest, steadfast, and lovable in the book.
Though one does not expect to find post-modern ideas in a 19th century author, Trollope appears to take extreme pleasure in breaking the fourth wall whenever possible. He constantly and convivially breaks through the traditional author-reader barriers and addresses us directly about a wide range of subjects, including the future of the book and the current state of novels. He admonishes the reader to think of his characters in a certain way, upbraids us for not having enough sympathy, and assuages our fears about favorite characters. His narrative method makes the book feel like a conversation rather than a piece of entertainment, and perhaps trains our minds to think of all books as a conversation between author and reader instead of objects to be digested whole.
Buy – Borrow – TBR – Avoid
Length: 388 pgs
Ending: Revealed early in the work, but entirely satisfying nevertheless
Incidental Learning: 18– English culture, laws, religion, and customs
Further Reading: All of Trollope! If you like his unique narrative style, you are in luck because Trollope was prolific and diligent in his art. Continue by reading the rest of the Barchester series.