Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Warden by Anthony Trollope

"You might pass Eleanor Harding in the street without notice, but you could hardly pass an evening with her and not lose your heart"

This week's bookish highlight was an invitation on Tuesday evening to an event at The Austrian Cultural Forum in Kensington where Robert Seethaler was reading from two of his novels. Having reviewed The Tobacconist a few weeks back (scroll down a bit!!) it was a real experience to hear the author read from the novel himself. Yes he read in German but the energy he gave to the reading made up for anything lost in not understanding the language!

This week I've been having a break from contemporary fiction thanks to a promotion WHSmith have been running to celebrate their 225th anniversary. Their repackaged 'Yellowback' range of slim paperbacks are inspired by the titles the retailer used to sell back in the early days of the railway. Early adopters of rail travel soon recognised that the smooth and comfortable journey, compared to horse drawn carriage, meant that passing the time with a book was actually possible. The only trouble was that hefty folio editions of long form novels were just too heavy to carry which led WHSmith to develop the lightweight and pocket sized 'Yellowback'.

The title I picked up was Anthony Trollope's The Warden. I hadn't read a Victorian novel for years so I'd almost forgotten the sometimes slow pace and treacle like plot but, to be fair, The Warden actually carries some pretty contemporary themes.

The Warden in the novel is Septimus Harding who finds himself in the centre of a scandal which rocks the fictional West Country town of Barchester. Harding is Warden at a church run almshouse for elderly men in the town but finds his cushy and well paid position being challenged by a young reformer and friend of his daughter. The challenge becomes a legal battle that is played out in the local and national Press that exposes the morality at the very heart of the Church of England.

The Warden isn't a classic by any means but Trollope's writing is enjoyable once you get into it. There is a real pleasure in reading a slim bit of historical fiction and I think WHSmith have done a pretty good job of bringing these titles back as part of their celebrations. Reading and rail are still inextricably linked and anything that celebrates two of my favourite things is fine by me!

I read this novel mostly on the train into Marylebone.

The Warden by Anthony Trollope published by Vintage, 201 pages.     

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