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Book Review: The Warden by Anthony Trollope

17th March 2016

Book Review: The warden by Anthony Trollope

Anthony Trollope is one of the influential novelists of the Victorian era. Having never read any of his works before, I decided that I should try them out this year, thanks to a bunch of enthusiastic ladies at Instagram who introduced the author to me.

The Warden is very much like its contemporaries, detailed in the writing style, yet with some light and comical moments. What makes the novel stand out is the splendid way in which the novel presents the hierarchy of the Church, ache of the choice between love and principles and the role of media in influencing the common mass both in ethical and unethical ways. Perhaps this is one of the few novels that does a masterful depiction of various bodies  that make up the society in the 1800’s. The Warden is the first in the series titled Barchester Chronicles or Barsetshire Chronicles.


What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book, and a cup of coffee?…Was ever anything so civil?”

This quote sums up the flow of the book. The Warden is a quiet novel, slow in pace yet with an odd beauty.The book is concerned with the trials of one Septimus Harding, a respected, well-liked clergyman in the cathedral town of Barchester, who is also the warden of Hiram’s Hospital, an alms-house for a dozen aged  bedesmen.  Mr. John Bold, a young reformer, is convinced that the hospital funds are being unfairly allocated and that the warden’s income of 800 pounds is unnecessarily given for the minimal duties he is expected to perform. Mr Harding is placed at the center of the controversy and struggles to form an opinion on the matter.  His claim to the money is supported by the clerical community, especially by the forceful archdeacon Dr Grantly, the son of the Bishop and the husband of Mr Harding’s eldest daughter, while the public has differing opinions on the matter. John Bold is a dear friend of Harding and is in love with his younger daughter, and his tribulations of choice between principles and love are painstakingly presented.

The warden by Anthony Trollope

I should say it took me five or six chapters to get in tune with Trollope’s writing. After I got accustomed to his writing style, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book. What I loved about The Warden were Trollope’s descriptive passages.  In addition, here are many instances where the author gives his own views on the matter in addition to telling Harding’s story. This commentary of the author gives us pieces of gossip about the town and characters, which is a welcome change in the flow of the narrative. There are humorous sneers at newspaper men, politicians, clergymen, wives etc which had me chuckling in between. Trollope successfully shows the impact of newspaper/media in forming a public opinion as well as how the media personnel often stray from reality of the situation to create a controversy. Equally striking is the change in the bedesmen (who are fond friends of Harding and even receive some extra monetary benefit from his own fund in addition to what they are entitled to) who are blinded by greed and sign the petition against him, thus showing the rawness of human character that is reciprocated even to a benevolent soul.

Book Review: The warden by Anthony Trollope

I particularly like the fact that Trollope exposes both the goodness as well as the follies and weaknesses of each character. I found it difficult to support either side of the petition. Lovers of classics and Dickens would definitely like Trollope, but those more into the romantic fiction of the Victorian era might not enjoy The Warden. It is said The Warden is the weakest book of the Barchester Chronicles, so looking forward to reading the second book, The Barchester Towers.

What made the novel even more enjoyable was the fact that it was read with a bunch of amazing ladies on Instagram. We were united by a common love for Trollope There is a bigger group over at Goodreads, eager to explore Trollope’s works and have some meaningful discussions over the same. If you are interested, head over to Just a Bunch of Trollopes. It is the perfect place to discuss Trollope over tea and cake.

Title : The Warden
Author : Anthony Trollope
Publisher : Penguin
Published : 2012 (first in 1855)
Language : English
Pages : 256
Rating : 4/5

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The Warden

About the Author

Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Among his best-loved works is a series of novels collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, which revolves around the imaginary county of Barsetshire. He also wrote perceptive novels on political, social, and gender issues, and on other topical matters.

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This Post Has 32 Comments
    1. It is a good read Anne. Since you like Dickens, I am sure you will enjoy this one too. It has taken me a few chapters to enjoy his writing. I admit I was not impressed by the first few chapters. But the writing grows on you and makes it a good read. I have heard the books that follow are much nicer than this one. So eager to read the rest.

    1. I am planning to. I read some trivia about Trollope completing 35 novels in 47 years. I am very curious how he finished so much work in that span of time, that too with a job and ended up being a prominent figure. I am having a little difficulty getting the books. since the books keep arriving in damaged condition. If you ever decide to try his works and want to join some discussion, feel free to join our GoodReads group. I would be happy to introduce you to the others. We will be reading the second book – The Barchester Towers in April.

  1. This novel was assigned to me in graduate school, and I came to love the story. The characters, the comments, and the situation. Due to the sentimentality within, my cynical peers and even the professor assigning the novel seemed to put it down (figuratively–who knows, maybe literally). I didn’t care. I found Trollope’s rolling style infectious, like walking over low hilltops along a well-marked trail on a lovely blue and cool spring day. I am fond of the characters’ manners and choices. Even the less-admirable folk have struggles I can appreciate. Your review of the novel is detailed, well-reasoned, and clear. Thank you!

    1. Thank you. That is a well thought and well written comment. I did not like the book at first. But after a few chapters I got the hang of Trollope’s writing. I liked how Trollope shows both the good side and the bad side of the characters. He is a very impartial author. In case of Mr. Grantly he does say in the end that he has made him rigid character and he has not talked about the goodness of his nature which makes him look more cruel than he actually is. I am looking forward to reading the next one The Barchester towers and discussing it more at the Good reads group. Trollope does have a lot of discussion topics and points to think about in his writing. Glad to know that you enjoy his writing.

  2. This probably isn’t the sort of book I’d run out after…but OMG THAT QUOTE. <3 I absolutely adore it. XD And I love your photos too!! I'm now craving mandarine… ;D And I'm really glad you got the hang of the writing style and ended up really enjoying it! Good books give the best of feelings. :')
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. Yep, glad I hanged out. It was very dull for the first few chapters but later on it helped me to get a glimpse of life in the early centuries. And thanks Cait. You always flatter me about the pictures.

  3. Your photos here are gorgeous as they always are 🙂 I have heard of this author but like you prior to reading this book, hadn’t read any of his works for myself before. It actually sounds like it is going to be quite the novel and I like how it centers on the human nature as well and seems to have its own rawness in it. It might take me a while to get into the writing style but once I do, I am looking forward to trying this one.

  4. The topic of this book doesn’t make me want to pick it up, but your description of the well-rounded characters intrigues me. I really like when an author is able to make me see both the good and the bad in each of their characters.

  5. I loved this post. I’d heard of Trollope but, in all honesty, the name had put me off. This was a great incentive to pick up one of his books, especially this stunning edition!

    I really love your blog and instagram account and have I’ve just nominated you in the Real Neat Blog Awards, which is a way of sharing how much I enjoy your blog. There are some questions for you to answer over on this post
    It would be fascinating to hear your answers.

  6. Thank you, Resh, for this beautiful post. I haven’t read Trollope too. I always wanted to know where I should start, and my path crossed with this review. And, I have read that quote so many time, and I didn’t that it is Trollope’s. 🙂

    1. It is a beautiful quote indeed. If you are interested in reading Trollope, we would love to have you over at the Goodreads group. Let me know if you can squeeze it into your schedule. We will be reading the second book Barchester Towers in April. You can read it even if you havent read The Warden.

  7. Wonderful post, Resh. 🙂 I’m a little over halfway through The Warden and loving it. I like how Trollope is not overly descriptive and wordy. I’m a huge Dickens fan, and even he can be a bit too wordy at times. 🙂 Instead, the plot seems to be moving quickly and the wit makes for an engaging story. I really like Trollope’s narrative voice and how he is like another character in the story. If this is considered the weakest book in the series, then I am definitely looking forward to reading the next one!

    1. Me too. I am looking forward to read Barchester Towers. You are right about the narrative voice of the author. It is nice when he writes the events of the day and puts in his own opinions too.

  8. I’m so glad you linked to this from Barchester Towers! I had never heard of Trollope– but I realized I don’t know much about Victorian literature. I feel like at some point in school I was turned off from it for some reason, and that is obviously a mistake. What a lovely sounding book! That quote sold me. I can’t wait to read this. Thanks for a lovely review.

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