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Barchester Towers Audiobook

Barchester Towers

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Publisher's Summary

Barchester Towers, Trollope's most popular novel, is the second of the six Chronicles of Barsetshire. Trollope continues the story, begun in The Warden, of Mr Harding and his daughter Eleanor.

©2007 BBC Audiobooks Ltd; (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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  •  
    Jefferson 02-13-14
    Jefferson 02-13-14 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

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    ""I'll Slope him!" "I'll dean him!""

    War in Barchester. The army invading the quiet cathedral town is spearheaded by the low church, hen-pecked, gormless new Bishop Proudie, his evangelical, despotic wife ("the she-bishop," the "Medea of Barchester"), and their odious, duplicitous, ambitious, bad-beef complexioned and clammy-handed chaplain Mr. Slope, who, fancying himself the true new Bishop of Barchester, plans to promote Sabbath-day schools and to throw the music and ceremony of the Anglican service out with the rubbish. The outraged local defending forces are comprised of the modest, mild, weak, but stubborn ex-Warden of Hiram's Hospital Mr. Harding, his arrogant, righteous, and hot-tempered Archdeacon son-in-law Dr. Grantly, and the high church "champion," the thoughtful former Oxford professor of poetry and new vicar of St. Ewold, Mr. Arabin. Amid the warfare run rumors of courtship: Eleanor Bold, the younger daughter of Mr. Harding, with a beloved baby son and 1200 pounds per year, is a very eligible widow for suitors calculating, feckless, or inexperienced. Also mixed in the conflict is the Stanhope family, back in Barchester after a twelve-year sojourn in Italy, during which the father, a prebendary of the cathedral, was catching butterflies while supposedly caring for his sore throat. The Stanhope son Bertie is a lazy, good-natured, and unprejudiced parasite, his sister Madeline (AKA La Signora Neroni) is a crippled, beautiful, arachnoid man-catcher with eyes bright as Lucifer's and compelling as a basilisk's, and the first-born daughter Charlotte does her best to enable the predilections of her younger siblings.

    In his second Barchester Chronicles novel, Barchester Towers (1857), then, Anthony Trollope sets these colorful characters in play with and against each other in a largely unpredictable and wholly entertaining comedy of manners with much to say about mid-nineteenth-century gender, class, age, reform, religion, love, family, and novels, all in a way that is particularly Victorian British and universally human.

    Trollope's writing is witty, elegant, suspenseful, knowing, allusive, and quotable. I enjoy, for example, his epic similes using classical literature, Elizabethan drama, or the Bible, as when he hilariously compares Mrs. Proudie to Achilles or Mr. Slope to Lady Macbeth. Trollope's narrator and characters say pithy things like:

    "If honest men did not squabble for money in this wicked world of ours, the wicked men would get it all."

    "A man must be an idiot or else an angel, who, after the age of forty shall attempt to be just to his neighbours."

    "Gentlemen do not write to women about their tresses, unless they are on intimate terms."

    "There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel."

    And Trollope relishes sympathetically mocking his characters, as when with heroic formality he encourages the Bishop to stand up to his wife:

    "Now, bishop, look well to thyself, and call up all the manhood that is in thee. Think how much is at stake. If now thou art not true to thy guns, no Slope can hereafter aid thee. How can he who deserts his own colours at the final smell of gunpowder expect faith in any ally. Thou thyself hast sought the battlefield; fight out the battle manfully now thou art there. Courage, bishop, courage! Frowns cannot kill, nor can sharp words break any bones. After all the apron is thine own. She can appoint no wardens, give away no benefices, nominate no chaplains, an' thou art but true to thyself. Up, man, and at her with a constant heart."

    The novel is not without a disappointment or two. Eleanor's sister-in-law Mary Bold has devolved from an intelligent and independent woman who writes reform-minded newspaper pieces in The Warden (1855), the first novel in his Chronicles, to a bland live-in nanny in Barchester Towers. And some things, naturally enough, feel dated, like the ideas that the ideal condition of wife and husband is for the woman to be a beautiful parasitic plant like ivy decorating a wall (the man) and that independence is a "heavy burden" for women.

    But mostly I listened to Barchester Towers chuckling, grinning, and generally reveling in Trollope's characters, story, and prose and in Timothy West's virtuoso reading of them. As Juliet Stevenson was born to read Virgina Woolf, West was born to read Anthony Trollope. He's perfect with people young and old, high and low, male and female, and unlike Simon Vance reading The Warden, West's Eleanor has no irritating falsetto. His Mr. Slope (nasally unctuous), Mr. Harding (mild, good, and weak) and Signora Neroni (provocative ersatz Italian charm) are all wonderful.

    Charles Dickens had crowded Trollope out of my life until I read The Warden, the first novel in his Chronicles, and was so delighted by it. Both authors write colorful and comical characters we care about, but while Dickens leans towards caricature, Trollope leans towards realism. Dickens' characters are often wholly good or wholly evil, while Trollope's are often very mixed indeed. (Compare Dickens' villain Uriah Heep with Trollope's Obadiah Slope.). Trollope feels less sentimental and melodramatic than Dickens, but after all they both wrote entertaining and page-turning, socially-conscious, humorous, and dramatic novels. I warmly urge fans of 19th century novels, especially readers familiar with Dickens but unfamiliar with Trollope, to read Barchester Towers. (Though both The Warden and Barchester Towers tell self-contained stories, reading the first book first would increase one's pleasure in the sequel.)

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Martin Rochester, Australia 03-02-13
    Martin Rochester, Australia 03-02-13 Listener Since 2008
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    "Match Made in Heaven"

    Timothy West reading Anthony Trollope is one of those perfect coincidences of author and narrator that seem too good to be true; in fact I have sometimes wondered whether strange necromancy might not have been at work and West actually is Trollope. Not a single inflection of the author's wry irony is missed, devestatingly honest, but charitably and affectionately too.

    Barchester Towers is of course the most famous of the Barsetshire novels, but as it is really a sequel to The Warden, it is better to begin with the earlier novel. All six Chronicles of Barsetshire, as well as all the Palliser novels, are available in West's performances on Audible, and few audiobooks have given me so much enjoyment.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Corona Del Mar, CA, United States 08-07-12
    Lisa Corona Del Mar, CA, United States 08-07-12 Member Since 2010
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    "an entertaining listen"

    I enjoyed The Warden first so this was like coming back to old friends. Mr. West does an excellent job with the text and voicing the characters and it blends very well with Trollope's style of speaking with the reader directly. The character names are as entertaining as ever, though I confess that the Lookalofts might edge out the Quiverfulls for my favorite. The story was well-conceived and well-told and I enjoyed the light-hearted look into the church and cathedral town life of the mid-century.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Meredith Rio Rancho, New Mexico, United States 07-24-12
    Meredith Rio Rancho, New Mexico, United States 07-24-12 Member Since 2016

    Blue Dome Mimi

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    "Trollope Triumphs!"

    I agree with the other reviewers...this book is a fascinating listen. Trollope's story is well-written, tightly woven throughout with a thread of gold. I admire his vocabulary and his use of it in telling the story of Barchester and its people. The variety and number of characters is impressive, and Trollope evokes my sympathy or disgust at will. I also enjoyed the way Trollope takes the reader deeper into the psyche of the characters as the story moves along. And don't we all enjoy poetic justice? I loved the book and enjoyed the narrator very much. I'll be listening to more of both by A. Trollope and recommend you do the same.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Madeleine Prince George, BC, Canada 01-28-12
    Madeleine Prince George, BC, Canada 01-28-12 Member Since 2009
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    "Very Nice Story"

    Incredibly entertaining. I felt he gave away a bit of the plot mid-novel but all in all a good listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R Jasper, GA, United States 11-02-11
    R Jasper, GA, United States 11-02-11 Member Since 2010
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    "Narration"

    Your choice of Timothy West was inspired. Barchester Towers is an outstanding classic and worthy of regular exposure to the modern reader/listener.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin 08-10-13
    Robin 08-10-13

    Hi all. I'm in my 50's (that's relevant, i think), and I favor fiction. I like the british sensibility, and was introduced to the Forsyte Saga through audible ... loved it! I happen to also like Chinese writers, but they are not well represented yet at audible. Looking to follow readers with similar tastes ...

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    "tedious story, great narration"

    I'm sorry, but I do have to differ in my opinion of this book from most other listeners. I've read 3 Trollope books before this one ... each was charming, if at times slow. I found this book to be simply boring. The redeeming value of this listen lies in the excellent narration of Timothy West, and the author's impeccable writing style. Unless you have an interest in church politics I'd skip this one.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nicholas Archer 01-16-17 Member Since 2012
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    "A wonderful book and a great performance"

    Timothy West brings out all of the humor and poignancy of Trollope, and this has to be the best of all of Trollope's books. I did something I never do: simply sat at my kitchen table listening. A compelling page turner, with wonderful characters, brilliant witty comentary and the, even romance.

    West is a brilliant reader.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Falanga Berkeley, CA United States 06-28-15
    R. Falanga Berkeley, CA United States 06-28-15

    Entwife

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    "What larks!"

    Wicked and satisfying portrait of human nature. Will not be understood by anyone under 40.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peggy White Cambridge, MA USA 06-03-15
    Peggy White Cambridge, MA USA 06-03-15 Member Since 2016
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    "Timothy West is the best reader ever."
    Where does Barchester Towers rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Timothy West is pitch perfect in reading the Barchester and Palliser novels.


    Have you listened to any of Timothy West’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Yes, they are all incomparable.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Long for one sitting but would if I could


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Philip
    9/29/16
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    "GLORIOUS!!!!"

    19th century ecclesiastical life has never seemed so alive and interesting. Timothy West works wonders with Trollope's magnificent Barchester Towers. All human life is here... love and jealousy, honesty and deceit, ambition and sloth, underhanded deeds and just desserts. I loved absolutely every minute of this audiobook (and The Warden beforehand), and I expect to take in every other book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire series.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bob
    6/20/16
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    "A great novel, exquisitely read"

    The skilful plot peopled by engaging characters, incomparably read by a brilliant reader, Make this a great audible experience.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Tracy Byrne
    Catalonia, Spain
    6/8/16
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    "Not as interesting as the first book (The Warden)"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    I would make it shorter, concentrating on the main story (if there is one!)


    What could Anthony Trollope have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    Keep the story moving more


    What about Timothy West’s performance did you like?

    The characters were spot-on; really brought them to life and differentiated between them very well


    If this book were a film would you go see it?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    After thoroughly enjoying The Warden, I found this book far too long and stuffed full of new characters whose role in the story was unclear at best. Didn't finish it

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Nick Gowlland
    4/13/16
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    "Simply magnificent"

    Timothy West is absolutely superb. He really brings Barchester Towers to life and draws one entirely into the story. His range and portrayal of all the characters is just first class. This is my first attempt at Trollope and it was wonderful. Highly recommended.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Head Coach
    UK
    4/4/16
    Overall
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    "Pure Pleasure"
    Any additional comments?

    Reading Trollope is always a pleasure and hearing Timothy West's reading is the icing on the cake. West really understands Trollope and brings out every bit of humour and nuance. I get more out of this than reading the book myself.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Sue
    2/16/16
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    "Wonderful!"

    A wonderful book, beautifully written and beautifully read by Timothy West. I can't recommend it highly enough!!!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Roman Clodia
    London
    1/16/16
    Overall
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    "Entertaining"
    Where does Barchester Towers rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is an excellent listen and West has a good sense of comic timing while not obscuring the quiver moments. The cockney tinge to Slope's voice, though, felt a bit wrong - not enough to spoil my enjoyment but unexpected. Overall, wonderfully entertaining.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • eatough1999
    Northumberland, UK
    1/9/16
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    "Wonderful"

    Absolutely loved it. Timothy West is perfection in this narration. The story is quite wonderful, the language used an absolute delight


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • P. J. Ormrod
    9/11/15
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    "Barchester brought alive"

    Timothy West reads the novel with intelligence and warmth, allowing Trollope's humour to gently shine through.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Joe
    UK
    8/5/15
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    "Impossible to fault - Story and Reader"

    Thoroughly enjoyed, the story and authorship plus the superb reading - Excellent
    (I dislike the Review requirements and unlikely to review again. Let the listener decide what he wants to say, not Amazon head office)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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