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Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

Discovering Anthony Trollope is a wonderful experience - The Warden by Anthony Trollope is the first of his Barsetshire novels and only my second ever Trollope read.  Having been a life-long fan of Dickens, I admit to being a little biased and resisting Trollope for some time.  I'm so glad that I decided to go against my better judgement and give Trollope a chance.  His writing is just wonderful and his characters more than compare to Dickens.

The Warden tells the story of Septimus Harding who is the warden (no surprise there) of an almshouse in Barchester.  The plot centres around a legal action against Mr Harding, challenging the living he makes from the wardenship.  Trollope examines the effects of investigative journalism on those involved and how it colours opinions and can damage reputations.  There is biting satire  - Dickens is lambasted as Mr Popular Sentiment, an author writing novels pandering to the masses and manipulating their emotions.  But it is also a story about human relationships and what brings us happiness.

Anthony Trollope

What I find so intriguing about this novel is how it has remained so fresh and applicable to society today.  Journalism and publishing still influence opinion and can manipulate the general public.

Mr Popular Sentiment
While I will never turn my back on Dickens, I can now appreciate that Trollope is a writer of equal importance and possibly greater talent.  While Dickens embraced and shaped popular thought and opinion Trollope questioned and challenged them and in some ways this makes Trollope's work more universal and lasting.  I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the Barsetshire novels and am grateful that Trollope was as prolific as Dickens!

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