I heard about the #6Barsets reading project from JoAnn at Lakeside Musing. I believe she did succeed in reading all of the Chronicles of Barsetshire this year. Inspired by the project, I managed to get one book further in the series with the completion of the third book, Doctor Thorne, having read The Warden and Barchester Towers some years ago. I absolutely adore these books, but their length and the lures of other books lead to my procrastination.
Trollope’s combination of warmth, humor, and insight into the human mind has few peers in literature, or at least in my affection! In Doctor Thorne, these skills are applied to the story of Doctor Thorne, his ward and niece, Mary, and their array of friends, family and acquaintances. Doctor Thorne is a man of deep integrity and stubborn pride. Mary is an intelligent young woman who is loved by her childhood friend, Frank Gresham. Unfortunately, Frank’s family is besieged by debt and so he “must marry money.” The characters go through many trials, but most come to a happy ending in the end. Trollope knows he has sewn it all up rather neatly, I think, based on his various asides. I must add that part of the joy of reading Trollope’s novels is encountering his flippancy about plot and novel structure, his little lectures and tangents, his pointed favoritism toward certain characters:
As Dr Thorne is our hero – or I should say my hero, a privilege of selecting for themselves in this respect being left to all my readers – and as Miss Mary Thorne is to be our heroine, a point on which no choice whatsoever is left to any one, it is necessary that they shall be introduced and explained and described in a proper, formal manner.
Mary Thorne is definitely a character one can root for. She reminded me a lot of Mary Garth, of Middlemarch, both young women capable of great love but also possessing firm knowledge of their own self-worth. They are not cowed by those deemed superior in rank.
It’s the kind of book where I don’t want to review it as much as I want to chat with someone else who has read it, and compare notes on what parts we liked best, and what we thought of such-and-such character. For instance, there’s this one almost throwaway part that I love where one of Dr. Thorne’s domestic staff smacks a guest’s servant with a rolling pin when he is inappropriately amorous of her. It’s a nice small moment of satisfaction as the guest himself is causing Dr. Thorne no end of great trouble. Then too, I would want to discuss how well Trollope captures the way that wounded pride motivates people to say or not say certain things, to let their friendships lapse and connections fray.
I heard that Julian Fellowes has been tapped to adapt Doctor Thorne as a three-part series airing in 2016. Apparently, he’s a big fan of Trollope and counts him as an influence. As much as Downton Abbey can be a mixed bag, I am hopeful that Trollope’s excellent source material will bring out the best in Fellowes. I couldn’t find who has been cast as Mary Thorne, but I saw that Alison Brie will play the great character of Martha Dunstable (who apparently will be American in Fellowes’ adaptation.) Tom Hollander (Mr. Collins in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice) will play Doctor Thorne. Ian McShane has been cast as the ambitious, alcoholic Sir Roger Scatcherd.
So, looking forward to that and also to reading the rest of the Barsetshire Chronicles in the near-ish future!