Barchester Towers

Narrated by: Timothy West
Length: 19 hrs and 6 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (562 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

Barchester Towers is the second of six in the series known as Chronicles of Barsetshire. Narrator Timothy West brings life to the story, begun in The Warden, of Mr. Harding and his daughter Eleanor. It chronicles the struggle for control of the English diocese of Barchester after one Bishop dies and a new one is selected.

The rather incompetent new Bishop, Dr. Proudie, led by his formidable wife, and ambitious chaplain, Mr. Slope, begin to create turmoil with their desire to shake up the church establishment in Barchester with new policies and practices. However, the established clergy of Barchester, led by Archdeacon Grantly, the son of the previous Bishop, are equally determined to keep things just as they've always been. Archdeacon Grantly declares 'War, war, internecine war!' on Bishop Proudie, but who will win the battle between the archdeacon, the bishop, Mr. Slope, and Mrs. Proudie?

The Guardian included Barchester Towers in its list of '1000 novels everyone must read'. Full of humour and extraordinary characters, it is no wonder it continues to be Trollope's best-loved work.

Narrator Biography

Timothy West is prolific in film, television, theatre and audiobooks. He has narrated a number of Anthony Trollope’s classics, including the six Chronicles of Barsetshire and The Pallisers series. He has also narrated volumes of Simon Schama’s A History of Britain and John Mortimer’s Rumpole on Trial. Timothy West’s theatre roles include King Lear, The Vote, Uncle Vanya, A Number, Quarter, and Coriolanus. His films include Ever After, Joan Of Arc, Endgame, Iris, The Day of the Jackal. On television, Timothy has appeared in Great Canal Journeys, Last Tango in Halifax and Bleak House.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"It was in [Trollope's] fifth book, Barchester Towers, in which he blended his satirical gifts with disdain for evangelical puritanism, that he found himself." ( Washington Post)

What listeners say about Barchester Towers

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Read The Warden first

I would urge the reader to consider reading the first book in the Barchester series --The Warden--before reading this one. Although one could read Barchester Towers alone and enjoy it immensely, I think the relationships between the central characters are better enjoyed and savored more fully if one has read about them first in The Warden. (It's relatively short and very enjoyable.)

Still BT is an enjoyable read all by itself and the wonderfully amusing wry asides by the author truly made me laugh out loud. If you yearn for a simpler time, or delight in the very best novels of English country life from Austen to Pym, or simply love an English sentence well-turned, you will enjoy this book. The reader is excellent.

41 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Simply superb

The book itself, of course, is a perennial classic for its elegance and wit. Timothy West has comprehended the book magnificently and his reading of it is a triumph. Listening is sheer, unadulterated pleasure.

15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

MARVELOUS VINTAGE WINE MARVELOUSLY POURED

What can one say about Anthony Trollope? He's one of the giants. My wife wouldn't be found dead reading him so it is clear that not everyone falls for him, but for those who love Trollope, Barchester Towers is one of the loveliest, though frankly there's nothing Trollopian I wouldn't read. With readings, the narrator is also critically important and here we have Timothy West, who in my opinion is as good as it gets. I think he is not entirely on the mark with Madeleine, but bear in mind this book has multiple characters. Timothy West does a terrific job differentiating them. He is better at men than at women - go figure - but he is overall so good that listening to this book was a pleasure from start to finish.

13 people found this helpful

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Great book: very well read

Listening to this book convinced me that Trollope is a fine writer, and I plan to listen to many more of his works. In all cases I'll choose the Timothy West version. This reader is excellent. I especially like the way he conveys character through the various voices he uses. His Mr. Slope and Bishop Proudie are especially good.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

The Warden/Barchester Towers

I listened to The Warden/Barchester Towers after listening to The Way We Live Now (my first Trollope venture) and for that reason, I believe, I was not as entranced with the first two Barsetshire novels as I was with my first. The books are similar, in that they deal with issues of the time and the affairs of the many characters found throughout the book, but upon starting the Barsetshire books I was lost from the beginning because of all the religious terminology. I had to do a bit of research on the subject before I continued so I would not be completely lost. The Warden should be listened to first to get the feel for some of the main characters of Barchester Towers. Like The Way We Live Now, Trollope develops great characters we can really care for and really dislike. Trollope’s characterization is what keeps me coming back for more. Regarding the story, it is entertaining and funny and sometimes slow and boring. Sometimes I had no idea what Trollope was going on about, but I always soon found myself back on track with the story and, having finished the story, feel that I didn’t miss that much when I was spacing out at the more tedious bits. Timothy West does an excellent job narrating and I must admit that his narration is another reason why I can’t quite give up on Trollope’s writing. After taking a little break, I attend on listening to Doctor Thorne and then, eventually, the rest of the series. All in all, this is pretty good story telling.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb

This is a terrific book and the narrator (Timothy West) is amazing in bringing the book to life. I didn't want it to end.

7 people found this helpful

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A complete delight

Barchester Towers could have been written by Jane Austen's granddaughter! It is filled with janeisms but set some 50 years later. Trollope has the observations, the wit and the overall gentle and genteel comedy of manners and misunderstandings that made Jane Austen's books so loved.

Even the characters are updated Austen characters, some with wonderful humorous names such as a father of 14 children being called Mr Quiverful and the social climbing farmers the Lookalofts. My personal favourate was Mr Slope who challenges Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice as the most odious curate ever!

I love the direct appeals Trollope makes to the reader - it brings you right into the action and Timothy West is absolutely perfect as the narrator. I believe, some narrators are born to read a particular author, Juliet Stevenson is perfect for Jane Austen as Timothy West is for Trollope. A match made in heaven!

At the end of The Warden I wasn't sure about Trollope and not sure if the Barsetshire series had grabbed me. I can tell you now at the end of Barchester Towers that I am totally smitten with it - I have already downloaded the next in the chronicles and can't wait to start it.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Perfect

This is a perfect combination: a perfect book and a perfect reader. Mr. Timothy West has the perfect pace, opens all tiny details and lets you get completely immersed. I think I had a smile on my face while I listened to the book.

3 people found this helpful

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Content to be Human

"Till we can become divine we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for change we sink to something lower." - Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope This was lovely. Barchester Towers in probably Trollope's best known and most popular work. It could stand alone, but really should be read after Warden as book 2 in the Barsetshire Series (six books). Trollope's prose is beautiful but his characters (good and bad; pretty and plain) are sketched with such nuance and understanding that two books in I feel like many of them are family. This year, I committed to reading the six novels in the Chronicles of Barsetshire and the six novels that compose his Palliser series. After finishing book two, however, I'm about read to commit to reading all 47 of his novels PLUS his autobiography. I surprised my wife by joining The Trollope Society last night (£36) and feel it is inevitable that one of these days I'm going to have to explain to my lovely wife, my partner, my soul why 47 books just came here from London (you can order a very nice set of Trollope's complete novels for £950 + £50 for shipping to the US). It really does seem almost as inevitable as entropy. Unstoppable really. It might not be this week, this month, or this year, but it just seems easier to bite it in one chunk than collect these novels higgledy-piggledy.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant Performance

The story is wonderful and describes the setting with a perfect amount of detail. The characters are fully developed and their foibles are both comical and infuriating but above all presented as people that we care deeply about as the story proceeds. Money and love play a part in the story. The moral questions of life are sifted and answered and although this all occurs in a time past, the universal nature of such struggles makes this book engrossing for today's reader. The narration is simply perfection.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Francis
  • 10-28-08

West is best

Barchester Towers is perhaps the most enjoyable novel of an author whom it is almost always a delight to read. Perhaps the novel does not scale the heights and social criticism is mild and muted in comparison with other Victorian novelists.But there are few readers who will not enjoy the portrayal of the Archdeacon, Mrs Proudie ,the egregious Mr Slope and many other characters.
When in addition the novel is superbly read by Timothy West, this becomes an outstanding audio book. He judges the varied tone of the narration to perfection and differentiates and portrays the various characters so well that listening one forgets that there is just one single reader. I'm sure that I will not be alone in finding that listening to these novels read by Timothy West is more rewarding and enjoyable than reading the book for oneself. Strongly recommended as are all of Timothy West's readings of Trollope.

33 people found this helpful

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  • AReader
  • 06-22-14

Superb reading makes story come alive

I have always enjoyed reading Trollope but of course he is not as dramatic - or melodramatic - as Dickens. This reading brings out the light and shade in his writing. With the subtlest of accents or voices Timothy West breathes fascination into the whole book. Perhaps one of the features that make some readers find Trollope dull is that the commentary by the narrator is so understated. Giving each character his or her own distinctive voice keeps the attention of the listener. It's a virtuoso performance.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Clare
  • 04-07-09

What a joy!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The reader's characterisations are brilliant, from the Bishop with his thin, weedy voice, to the conniving Mr Slope. I had forgotten what a great book this was, it is so much more entertaining than its predecessor, The Warden. The dry wit of Trollope and the social observation are glorious, he is recognisably the same author as that of The Warden, but he seems to have gained considerable confidence and really enjoys exploring the possibilities that various combinations of characters and situations provide him with. The novel is peopled with such wonderful characters, and so much incident that I defy anyone not to be entertained. And if you can get through this book without laughing out loud then I'll eat my hat!

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Philadelphus
  • 04-01-09

A perfect audiobook

This is everything an audiobook should be: Trollope's easiest to go along with novel sublimely well read. The baby talk section always makes me laugh. Don't bother with any other Barchester Chronicles readings!

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • blueskythinker
  • 01-10-11

Pure pleasure

This recording of Barchester Towers is an absolute joy to listen to. Timothy West gives each character their unique 'voice' and it is easy to picture them in conversation together.
My favourite is Rev. Slope who sounds as slimy and ingratiating as Trollope writes him.
I usually listen to my Audible books before going to sleep and I had several rather late nights while listening to this as I didn't want to stop!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Nicholas
  • 02-18-15

Wonderful novel, wonderful reader

What more can one say. This is audiobook heaven. I know of nothing else that comes close to the Trollope and West combination.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 06-29-10

Tim's Trollope Triumph

It's fashionable, especially among politicians to cite Trollope as a favourite writer over the likes of the more obvious Dickens. In reality, he is not in the same class but he is certainly worthy of his place amongst the greats. This is a beatifully read rendition by the great Timothy West (why not Sir Timothy by now?)which brings out all the wonderful humour of the novel.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs C
  • 10-15-20

Wonderful

I had never read Barchester Towers, but having listened to Timothy West read The Warden, I fell in love with all the characters and immediately downloaded its sequel. Barchester Towers is a marvellous novel, ascerbic, witty, very funny and moving at times. It is a delightful slice of mid-nineteenth century life, full of all sorts of foibles of the day, but with such splendid characters that the anachronisms are endearing and fascinating. Who could ever forget the appalling Mr Slope or the terrifying Mrs Proudie? It is peppered with wonderful sub plots and hilariously named minor characters (who can forget the great Doctor Omicron Pi or the social climbing Mrs Lookaloft?) But what makes this audiobook so superb is the performance by Timothy West. He is absolute perfection in reading this. It is almost as though you are listening to Trollope himself. It may be long, but I found it unputdownable - it accompanied me through long car journeys, runs, dog walks and the washing up and I loved every second.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mary Carnegie
  • 07-21-19

Beloved classic enlivened by narration.

With Trollope’s novels a story is enhanced by the manner of his telling of it, his asides to the reader, humour and satire. When West reads Trollope for us, it seems as if the author himself were talking to us, with the extra talent of an accomplished actor. 19th century novels may seem long to some folk in the present age where short books are those which win literary prizes but I enjoy the slower pace which gives a longer acquaintanceship with your heroes and favourite villains. Trollope’s characters are rarely entirely saintly or completely demonic (cf Dickens, satirised as Mr Popular Sentiment), and he avoids the inflexible strict moral tone of Carlyle (Mr Pessimist Anticant) - I do love how he names many minor characters (Mr Quiverfull does not find his 14 children the unalloyed blessings from the Almighty of psalm 127, which hasn’t stopped a group of evangelical Christians from appropriating his name for their polyphiloprogenitive movement.)

1 person found this helpful

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  • Judy Corstjens
  • 06-08-15

Set the Tardis to 1861

I'm beginning to wonder whether my plan to audit the whole of the Barchester Chronicles this summer is not a great use of my time. This volume is twice as long as the first (The Warden, set in 1851) but it doesn't really seem to add very much that is new. The characters are the same, as is the setting, and their concerns and attitudes also. I still love the atmosphere of the Cathedral close in 1855, the sunny gardens and very correct grammar and manners, and the insights into the nineteenth century frame of mind (e.g. the position of women and class structures) but it is now becoming predictable and repetitive. I'm going to skip the next volume (Dr Thorne) and fast forward to 1861. Into this happy band of ecclesiasticals should fall the nuclear bomb of the Origin of Species, and I'm hoping that will spice things up.

The performance from Timothy West is first class. Every character has a distinct, consistent and appropriate voice, including Trollope himself: it is Trollope himself who is starting to pall for me.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 02-13-20

Wonderful reading of verbose classic

I read BarchesterTowers about 40 years ago, but found it has lost its charms in the intervening period. It has some famous characters like Mrs Proudie and Mr Slope, but neither they nor some of the other charcters undergo much development, and the Archdeacon for example does little but disapprove of Mr Slope and Eleanor. She and Mr Arrabin are the best characters by far. There are too many digressions, too much padding, for me, much as I like Trollope's style and insights. Timothy West's reading is an utter delight - if he were reading the phone book I could listen to him for hours.