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on February 17, 2004
If you shy away from Victorian novels because you had to read A TALE OF TWO CITIES in high school, it is time to give these treasures another try. Admit it, you are a bit older now. So are these books by Dickens, Disraeli, Thackary, Austen, the Bronte sisters, and, yes, my personal favorite, the great man himself, Anthony Trollope.

Why read something that was written a century and a half ago? Because Trollope knew more about the human psyche than Freud and Jung put together, and wrote about it not with a clinician's jaundiced eye, but with incredible tenderness and love. And entertainingly, to boot!

If you have been reading the Jan Karon novels about life in a small North Carolina highlands town, as it revolves around an Episcopal priest named Father Tim and his colorful parishioners, well!--this is where it all began. A book version of finding the source of the Nile.

Trollope began what Karon has revised and restyled so engagingly. Trollope invented the "church and town" novel, with what have become known as his Bartchester Series of novels, all centering around the doings of a fictitious cathedral town and its outlying countryside.

Not the first in the series, (it is the fourth but perhaps the best), FRAMLEY PARSONAGE traces the faith, home and political lives of a number of intertwining families. Here you will find love, ambition, political maneuvering, gambling debts, pretension, humility, envy, forgiveness, hate, romance. If it sounds like a slice of modern life-it is. We and the Victorians are so much alike; the human condition does not change.

In this delightful mix of clerical, political and romantic intrigue, you will meet everyone from the alarmingly meddlesome bishop's wife, Mrs. Proudie, to the original dizzy blond, Griselda Grantly. All set in the green countryside and the bustling streets of London.

The story centers around the bright, popular pastor, Mark Robarts and his charming wife, but it is his sister, Lucy, who will capture your heart as perhaps the loveliest of heroines in any novel.

I hope you are intrigued enough to be convinced that there is more to Nineteenth Century British Literature than SILAS MARNER. Moreover, I hope you will read this and the other Trollope works. You may recall that in addition to being one of the most successful and acclaimed novelist of all times, Trollope was also a successful and acclaimed civil servant-his "day job" was with the British postal system-he invented the corner mailbox. His more than 40 novels and outstanding autobiography were written in his very disciplined "spare time" in which he produced a specific number of pages every morning before departing punctually for his office. Not only a genius of time management, Trollope was and is a guardian of the human heart.

What? You say you would rather start at the beginning of the Bartchester series? By all means! But if you do not, try FRAMLY PARSONAGE first. Dip your toe in there-for you cannot dip your toe into any of his books without emerging the better, having done so.

If you find this review helpful you might want to read some of my other reviews, including those on subjects ranging from biography to architecture, as well as religion and fiction.
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on July 8, 1998
Young clergyman Mark Robarts receives a choice parish, thanks to Lady Lufton, the mother of one of his university friends. However, Robarts, though newly and happily married, is not content to settle into the life of a country minister. Lured by a wealthy and worldly set of new acquaintances, he finds himself pushed into living beyond his means and, worse yet, being held legally responsible for another man's bad debts.
Meantime the young Lord Lufton has been smitten by the charms of Robarts' sister Lucy, much to the displeasure of his aristocratic mother. It take a great act of magnanimity on Lucy's part - helping the impoverished Crawley family during a crisis (the Crawleys are more prominent in "The Last Chronicle of Barset") - to finally convince Lady Lufton that Lucy is worthy of her son.
This beautifully written novel contrasts the simpler integrity, though sometimes snobbish values, of the old ways with the more meretriciously glamorous lives of a newer society. As usual, Trollope has produced a multitude of characters whose motives are completely credible, and his depiction of the different social groups provides a most vivid kaleidoscope of Victorian life and attitudes. As always, there is nothing outdated in Trollope's sure insight into human nature.
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on June 30, 2006
As a sixty-two year old professor of English literature and a compulsive reader, I have read many, many novels in my life, and most of Trollope's (for they are, indeed, habit-forming), but this one is perhaps my favorite. I have not read it since 1982, but when I open the cover and look at the fly-leaf, I feel the special delight that I felt when I first read it. Like Austen's Emma, it is one of those perfect books you should not miss.
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on February 26, 2012
Trollope's first serialized novel (in 16 monthly installments of 3 chapters each) was a great success. Though the publication, in 1860 onwards, was 'anonymous', there can have been little doubt about the author's identity, since three previous Barset novels had been well received in book form, and the cast is partly the same in this 4th volume.
Trollope had little trouble adjusting to the special process of writing for a magazine. Publishing the start of a book when the rest is not yet in the author's mind causes a special kind of challenge. He went into this adventure with a spirit of curiosity: what will I make happen next?

Our hero is a young clergyman in the fictional Barsetshire. We follow his career and his ambitions. He is the creature of the lady of the manor, who gave him the job (the 'living' in the strange system of the English church of the time). At times he likes to test his chains, to keep up his illusions of honor and freedom.
Due to a misjudged act of financial support for a shady politician cum swindler, he gets into financial trouble. The suspense driver is not if, but how he will be saved from doom. The man Mark Robarts is clearly not marked for doom. Much of the charm of the tale comes from watching the confidence artist spin his yarns.
The political struggles behind the plot are between Tories and Whigs, and between High Church and Low Church. Mr. Robarts has difficulties finding his way. This is the time of Lord Palmerston's rule, or rather of its end, despite the victory in the Crimean War and despite the success in suppressing the Indian 'mutiny'.

One of the differences between Trollope and his dominant rival Dickens was that T always wrote about the 'now', while D and others put their stories back in time by a decade or two, or more. T's method allowed him to inject plenty of real life references, which helped create a special flavor of realism.
Framley Parsonage was the bestseller of 1860, along with W.W.Collins' Woman in White, which T classified as sensationalist, vs his own realism.
T's brand of humorous normality worked very well in the market and can still be used for an antidote against the hangovers that are caused by exuberant flights of fantasy.
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VINE VOICEon April 29, 2009
About three-quarters of the way through "Framley Parsonage," the fourth in Anthony Trollope's remarkably entertaining Barchester Chronicles, two of the characters find themselves an unlikely couple, much to their surprise and mutual pleasure. And it suddenly occurred to me why I love this author's works as much as I do: it's the endless optimism. Yes, things always work out for the best in Austen and Dickens (for example), but in Trollope, when a character is caught off guard and overwhelmed by his/her emotions, so am I. The sense that unexpected, marvelous life changes are always a possibility, connects me to Trollope in a very strong way. Which is not to say that there's no edge to his writing, or no psychological complexity; far from it. In "Framley Parsonage," bad things happen to good people; but Trollope doesn't shy away from the idea that sometimes good people make bad choices...and must pay the consequences. In this way, Trollope's moral landscape seems to me more complex than Austen's and Dickens', less black and white. (Lizzie Eustace, the heroine of "The Eustace Diamonds" is a perfect example of this: she's an underhanded liar and thief, but we find ourselves rooting for her.)

Trollope introduces us to some new characters here, and brings back old ones, much to our delight; Mrs, Proudie is particularly welcome, in all her sanctimonious glory. If I have an objection to the plot of "Framley Parsonage," it's that the dilemma the lovers face too closely mirrors that of the ones in its immediate predecessor, "Doctor Thorne.". That said, my heart couldn't help but respond when the lovely Lucy Robarts suddenly found her dream of love coming true. I knew it was coming (even if she didn't), and yet the simplicity and honesty with which Trollope expressed her astonishment, disbelief and inexpressible joy brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps I'm just an old softie...but perhaps Trollope is just that good.
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When Trollope hits his stride nobody, as Henry James wrote of the author, portrays ordinary people and ordinary life better. Framley Parsonage is arguably Trollope at his best, doing what he does best--portraying ordinary people in provincial life. Marc Robarts is a clergyman with fine connections and perhaps a too fine opinion of himself. Raised among the nobility of the country neighborhood he is fortunate in his associations and ambitious in making his way in the world of Barsetshire.

Lady Lufton, mother of his boyhood friend and leader of the Framley set is both patroness and problem. She is generous in her largesse but in exchange expects Robarts' gratitude in the form of obeisance and homage. Robarts' obligation rankles and spurs him to attempt something like independence. That is, find out if the grass is greener with the Chaldicotes--the other influential set in the county.

The ensuing "drama", delightfully Trollopean, is all very predictable (if you have read more than two of his novels) and all very pleasant. The debts our hero incur bring him to the brink of ruin and disgrace but that is not really the point. Trollope is a keen observer of human character. He understands that even the fortunate chafe at their good fortunate and it is hard to be obliging when obligated. Robarts, like a spirited thoroughbred, has to learn to get along with bridle and bit if he ever expects to be given his head.

Tossed in with the wonderful potpourri of characters is the marvelously vapid Griselda Grantly the neighborhood "belle femme" who also has an eye on upward mobility. Dull and moderately well born (granddaughter of a Bishop) she is blessed with extraordinary beauty and absolutely no intelligence. Her rise in contrast to Robarts' tumble rings perfectly true to those of us who understand that life is often unfair.

Minor characters are wonderful "types" who add to the color and cleverness of this excellent tale. Framley Parsonage a real pleasure to read.
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Framley Parsonage has received nothing but four or five star reviews on Amazon for good reason - it is a great book. Unlike Dr. Thorne, its predecessor in The Chronicles of Barsetshire, which can be read as a stand-alone novel, Framley Parsonage is filled with characters from other books in this series, Dr. Thorne himself being one of them; it is possible to read it out of the context of the series, but much useful information informing the action of the story will be lost. That being said, I think even the reader new to The Chronicles of Barsetshire is going to love this book, as I did.

In Dr. Thorne the love of Mary Thorne for young Frank Gresham was the heart and soul of the novel; so to, in Framley Parsonage,the love of Lucy Robarts for Lord Lufton takes center stage. However, Trollope has enlarged the scope of this novel to include other important stories, such as the debt Lucy's brother Mark Robarts, vicar of Framley Parsonage, incurs when he signs his name to a bill of payment for 400 pounds for Mr. Sowerby, M.P., one of the villains of the novel. From the moment he signs the bill Mark does not know a minute of peace as he worries about what will happen to him when the note comes due.

A villain from an earlier Barsetshire novels surfaces in Framley Parsonage to aggravate and confuse key players in the story. I speak of the infamous Mrs. Proudie, the Bishop of Barchester's wife. It would be fair to say that Mrs. Proudie is the real Bishop of Barchester, for that is how she conducts herself. Whenever Mrs. Proudie takes center stage, the action heats up in a hurry, much to our delight.

Then there is Lady Lufton, the apparent enemy of Lucy Robarts. Lady Lufton considers Lucy "insignificant" and unsuitable to be the wife of her son Lord Lufton. She does everything in her power to prevent the match from taking place. The final scene between Lucy and Lady Lufton was moving and magnificent. Trollope was at his best as he dramatized the nobility of two good women who at last allowed their hearts to show them what was invisible to their eyes.

Framley Parsonage is the 12th novel of Anthony Trollope that I have read; I place it right at the top with other favorites, such as Phineas Redux, from the Palliser series of novels by Trollope. As I have said often, I consider Anthony Trollope to be one of the finest novelists in any language. He is a master story teller who allows his readers to step back in time and enter a world which seems as real to the reader as life itself - so real that the mind, heart, and soul of the reader are engaged. Trollope speaks to us directly and we talk back to him with thoughtfulness and satisfaction. He enriches our lives and we are grateful to him. Add this review to the long list praising Framley Parsonage.
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on September 3, 2006
I'm reading the Barset series in order and have not been disappointed yet. Framley Parsonage is substantive, richer than The Warden, more serious than Barchester Towers, similar in much to Doctor Thorne, and slightly more intricate than DT. I enjoyed the introduction of a healthy dose of political gamesmanship in the form of descriptions of the parliamentary machinations and electioneering strategies. One also learns how to conduct financial shennanigans with horses, farmland, and public forests. The characters in FP are textured and almost always believable; there's only a few caricatures here. As always, the Everyman's edition is accompanied by a lucid introduction and helpful timetable.
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on September 11, 2015
Trollope has few if any truly villainous characters but Mr. Sowerby in this novel has so fallen into disrepute that his conscience is smothered. He picks his prey, a young, impressionable cleric who wanting to be kind and friendly falls for a trick, not once, but two or three times. Eternal optimimist! Yet he is so eager to help his so-called friend that he hides his troubles from his dear wife. I love the way Trollope weaves together the stories of the four couples, all distinctly personal but contributing to the overall story. I surmised that Dr. Thorne would find a wife in his niece's friend. This happy man marries off his niece with an unexpected large inheritance to one of higher status although he believes he is an old man makes a very eligible marriage himself. The underdog triumphs in Lucy Robart's story, she gives up and lets Lady Lufton have her way but mother love and Lucy's sweet but firm persistence wins the day. I give Ludovic Lufton much credit for sniffing out Griselda Grantley's personality and leaving her to be reaped by Lord Dumbello. Another fun thing about Trollope, his names rock! This volume moves away from church politics to electioneering, simony and nepotism showing that those in the church were not immune from such contaminations.
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Framley Parsonage has received nothing but four or five star reviews on Amazon for good reason - it is a great book. Unlike Dr. Thorne, its predecessor in The Chronicles of Barsetshire, which can be read as a stand-alone novel, Framley Parsonage is filled with characters from other books in this series, Dr. Thorne himself being one of them; it is possible to read it out of the context of the series, but much useful information informing the action of the story will be lost. That being said, I think even the reader new to The Chronicles of Barsetshire is going to love this book, as I did.

In Dr. Thorne the love of Mary Thorne for young Frank Gresham was the heart and soul of the novel; so to, in Framley Parsonage,the love of Lucy Robarts for Lord Lufton takes center stage. However, Trollope has enlarged the scope of this novel to include other important stories, such as the debt Lucy's brother Mark Robarts, vicar of Framley Parsonage, incurs when he signs his name to a bill of payment for 400 pounds for Mr. Sowerby, M.P., one of the villains of the novel. From the moment he signs the bill Mark does not know a minute of peace as he worries about what will happen to him when the note comes due.

A villain from an earlier Barsetshire novels surfaces in Framley Parsonage to aggravate and confuse key players in the story. I speak of the infamous Mrs. Proudie, the Bishop of Barchester's wife. It would be fair to say that Mrs. Proudie is the real Bishop of Barchester, for that is how she conducts herself. Whenever Mrs. Proudie takes center stage, the action heats up in a hurry, much to our delight.

Then there is Lady Lufton, the apparent enemy of Lucy Robarts. Lady Lufton considers Lucy "insignificant" and unsuitable to be the wife of her son Lord Lufton. She does everything in her power to prevent the match from taking place. The final scene between Lucy and Lady Lufton was moving and magnificent. Trollope was at his best as he dramatized the nobility of two good women who at last allowed their hearts to show them what was invisible to their eyes.

Framley Parsonage is the 12th novel of Anthony Trollope that I have read; I place it right at the top with other favorites, such as Phineas Redux, from the Palliser series of novels by Trollope. As I have said often, I consider Anthony Trollope to be one of the finest novelists in any language. He is a master story teller who allows his readers to step back in time and enter a world which seems as real to the reader as life itself - so real that the mind, heart, and soul of the reader are engaged. Trollope speaks to us directly and we talk back to him with thoughtfulness and satisfaction. He enriches our lives and we are grateful to him. Add this review to the long list praising Framley Parsonage.

Special note: I read The Folio Society edition of Framley Parsonage, which I highly recommend for the art work alone, which added much to the telling of the story.
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