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Barchester Towers

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
By: (1815-1882)

Second in the series of novels set in the fictional cathedral town of Barchester, the reader is treated to a hilarious, if unseemly, competition for domination of the diocese! The contenders in Barchester Towers are Mrs. Proudie the wife of the mild, sadly henpecked bishop and Mr. Slope his slimy and devious chaplain.

When the beloved former bishop suddenly dies, a complete outsider is brought in to take his place. Instead of the bishop's son, Archdeacon Grantly, whom the entire parish was expecting, a more low-church minister, Bishop Proudie is given the post. The battle lines are immediately drawn between the High Church in the form of the Grantlys and the Low Church represented by the Proudie faction but there is mutiny within the ranks. Bishop Proudie's chaplain is not about to allow his territory to be invaded by a scheming bully, Mrs. Olivia Proudie. The various devices and stratagems concocted by these unholy people of God form the plot of this amusing satire.

Published in 1857, Barchester Towers was followed by four other novels in Anthony Trollope's Barsetshire Series. All the novels follow the doings of the clergy, the social set, the gentry and local politicians in the small cathedral town and its surroundings.

Sir Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful and highly respected writers of the Victorian era. Though born in a socially privileged family, Trollope's father was financially unsuccessful, but insisted on his children being brought up in the aristocratic way. His mother who sought to supplement the family income tried her hand at various failed enterprises and finally began to earn fame and fortune as a writer. Trollope himself had a checkered career as a soldier and post office clerk before launching on his own writing career. Though his initial Irish novels did not make waves, he met with financial and critical success with the six Barsetshire novels.

His popularity began to decline in the twentieth century, but today the Barchester Series is known to a new generation of readers through the medium of the popular BBC series The Barchester Chronicles (1982). Though this series follows only the first two novels, it has remained one of the most popular English countryside series to be made for television.

Barchester Towers is indeed a most diverting and humorous read for Trollope fans. For readers who have not encountered the whimsical, yet authentic, characters portrayed here before, along with their sneaky machinations, Barchester Towers is sure to please.

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