on 7 April 2008
In this fourth novel of the Barsetshire Chronicles Trollope entertwines two main storylines. The first centers on Mark Robarts who has recently, and at an uncommonly young age, become vicar at Framley. He has a doting wife and children, a loving patroness in Lady Framley, and a good friend in her son Lord Lufton. Things could not be going better for Mark Robarts it seems, but then he gets carried away by his success. He starts to mix in high circles and with politicians, and before he fully well realizes what's happening finds himself in debt to the scheming politician Sowerby, with financial and social ruin threatening. The second storyline is about Lucy Robarts, Marks' younger sister living with him at Framley parsonage. She's in trouble too: she has fallen in love with Lord Lufton and he with her, but Lady Lufton firmly opposes the match, and Lucy - out of a sense of pride - rejects Lord Lufton and says she will not take his hand unless his mother asks her to accept it.
This may not seem much to write more than 500 pages about, but Trollope does so brilliantly and keeps you engaged throughout. As always he concentrates on the inner life of his characters, and their thoughts and feelings are described in great detail. As often with Trollope too, you have the feeling from the very start that in the end all will turn out well for Lucy and Mark, but this too (strangely so perhaps) doesn't in the least diminish one's appetite for reading on. 'Framley Parsonage' is mainly a reflection on the qualities of a gentleman, and the changing perception of such in Victorian times where birth and rank still counted for a lot, coupled with a growing belief that it is first and foremost moral standing and behaviour that really makes a gentleman.
I found 'Framley Parsonage' a very absorbing read, superb in its depiction of country life in Victorian times. Definitely the sort of book where you cannot help but read on, simultaneously anxious that the end is drawing ever nearer. Luckily there's still two novels to go in the series, and I immediately started the fifth novel ('The small house at Allington').
The fourth of the Chronicles of Barsetshire, Framley Parsonage (1861) is a gentle novel filled with memorable characters, including many characters who from The Warden, Barchester Towers, and Dr. Thorne. Mark Robarts, a young vicar with a devoted wife, has a comfortable situation at Framley Parsonage on the estate of the indomitable Lady Lufton. Her son, now Lord Lufton, had been a friend of Mark Robarts at school, and it was their friendship which resulted in Mark's position. Mark, though conscientious in his duties and grateful for his situation, is ambitious, however, anxious to expand his horizons beyond Framley.
Lady Lufton, who rules with an iron hand, is appalled when Mark decides to spend a weekend with a "fast" crowd, one which he believes can advance his career. Young and naïve, he becomes the dupe of an aristocratic "con-man," an MP named Nathaniel Sowerby, who persuades him to help him out of a financial jam by signing a note for five hundred pounds (more than half Robarts's yearly salary), allowing Sowerby to draw funds on Robarts's name. Though Sowerby swears he will resolve the problem within weeks, he needs an additional four hundred pounds when the note comes due.
In the meantime, Robarts's sister Lucy arrives at Framley Parsonage upon the death of their father. Lucy, a sweet ingénue in mourning, soon comes to the attention of Lord Lufton, who is fascinated by her naivete, a marked contrast with the women he has known to date. Though Lady Lufton has much more "significant" matrimonial prospects in mind for her son, the courtship begins, and though Lucy declines Lord Lufton's initial proposal, she remains in love with him. As Robarts's financial miseries become more pressing, and as Lucy's misery at having turned down Lord Lufton increases, the scene is set for a final showdown.
Numerous peripheral characters, many of them known to readers of the series, add to the drama of the primary action. The implacable dowager Lady Lufton, wishing to maintain her family's social position, staunchly opposes the Duke's relationship with Lucy Robarts, pushing Griselda Grantly, daughter of Archbishop Grantly, as the Duke's suitor. The competition between the (Archdeacon) Grantlys and the (Bishop) Proudies for suitors for their daughters adds great comic relief to the story, and the internecine manipulations among the clergy provide gentle satire in a novel which seems to be remarkably domestic in its focus.
Trollope provides a full picture of Victorian life, representing many aspects of society, and though his view of the clergy has in earlier novels been a bit jaded, he is sympathetic to many of its representatives in this novel, seeing them as humans, rather than as types. A sweet novel, part love story and part social commentary, Framley Parsonage is a charming novel, memorable for its characters and picture of Victorian England. Mary Whipple
on 8 April 2011
Not necessarily the best Trollope book (a number are more accomplished technically) but the one which to me is the most typically Trollopian and comforting. Basically two stories run together - the story of a clergyman who gets his fingers burnt when hob-nobbing with politicians, and a romance involving his sister-in-law, this mixes familiar characters from Barsetshire with new ones to form a satisfying whole that naturally turns out right at the end - for in Trollope the virtuous are generally rewarded.
on 2 June 2016
AT evoked his world without the vivid backgrounds, quixotic characters and violent events favoured by contemporary Charles Dickens (the biggest 'action' scene here is a visit from some surprisingly genteel bailiffs) but you can't fault him for a lack of detail in his elaborately constructed world. Intricate family and social connections spanning Barsetshire and London demand close attention, and knowledge of the previous three novels in the Barchester sequence is a help, though not essential. AT also discourses in leisurely fashion - very leisurely in 21st century terms - on contemporary politics and various doctrinal camps in the Church of England, largely extraneous for the general modern reader, and this certainly isn't a tale you'd download onto your mobile. But the plot lines are handled well, most of the characters plausible (especially the roguish Sowerby and the extraordinary Miss Dunstable) and the whole thing is imbued with the author's scathing wit and prodigious learning. AT was a natural writer - in a different way to CD to be sure - but the fact he's still popular today (Dr Thorne was a TV series recently) is testament to his formidable abilities.
Trollope is my fall-back author. When I've had my fill of to and fro of books which jump about in time and place (the current trend for many modern novels), and other literary gimmicks, I always return to Trollope, and I am never disappointed.
Framley Parsonage, like all Trollope's novels, has its star-crossed lovers (Lucy Robarts and Lord Lufton), its gentry (Lady Lufton), its clergy, its poor (the wetched Crawley family) its politics, and as always in Tollope's novels, but perhaps especially in this one, he never uses one sentence when three or more will do, but it is a still story that held me. Perhaps the padding was a bit more than usual, and I could have done without some of it, and this is not my favourite of his novels, but I still loved it. I was disappointed in the marriage of Dr. Thorne (towards the end. He has always been one of my favourite characters in Tollope's novels), but I must allow this gentleman to make his choice, and be happy for him. Trollope's acute insight into human beings and their relationships is as sharp as ever, and some of the characters' names just as preposterous. A must for all lovers of this great author.
on 16 January 2013
I have just downloaded this to my kindle for free! I read the whole of the Barchester series ( 6 in all I think) about 10 years ago, loved them, and am ready to read them again. Lovely gossipy stories which were written about 150 years ago but remove the setting and they're just as relevant today. It makes me realise that as regards greed, pride and power seeking - the human race hasn't moved on an awful lot.
on 10 March 2013
I found this story, of the tribulations of a country vicar who becomes involved with the 'wrong set' and his sister's romance with a man seen as above her station, somewhat uneven in quality. Many parts of the novel completely engaged me, when Trollope uses his discerning eye to present keenly observed characters along with wonderful dialogue which helps create insight into their thoughts and feelings. However, these passages are interspersed with long pages of exposition in the author's own voice, often reiterating what we have already observed at first hand.
This is worth reading for the good parts - but perhaps you may wish to skim parts too.
on 13 March 2014
Aeons ago watched the Barchester Chronicles as a TV serial and always meant to read them.
Thanks to wonders of expired copyright have now downloaded all of them for free and just love them. Anthony Trollope, student of human nature, wonderful Victorian novelist. If you haven't tried him do so.
This book introduces lots of characters who feature hugely in the later books, plus the occasional from the original, or their children pop up.
Please read the Barchester Chronicles in order.
on 4 June 2015
A Timothy West reading, unabridged, of a long and satisfying, funny and sad Trollope - so much better than any dramatised version due to this brilliant narrator. This is a whole series of audiobooks which have a different shape from most, but you may like them enough to acquire a whole bookshelf. They are read in English English when appropriate and American English where it suits, in case you are wondering.
on 20 July 2014
I think what is often overlooked in Trollope's novels are the romantic plots. The scenes between Lord Lufton and Lucy so beautifully written, I fell in love with him myself!
I also love the humour and the wonderful characters, with such funny names. You can just imagine these little country places and the people in them all in competition with each other.