Trollope’s The Warden, written in 1855, may not be at the cutting edge of contemporary fiction, but still has a lot to offer the patient reader.

Set in a ficticious English Cathedral City, this first in the celebrated series of six ‘Barchester Chronicles’ introduces the key players all of whom are perfectly crafted by the author and beautifully developed into characters so wholly believable it is hard not to feel their trials and tribulations with them. The Warden is a Mr Harding who, accused of holding corrupt office, is caught in a bewildering trap between his accuser, Mr Bold, and the self-styled defender of the church, Dr Grantly.

Moving at a sedate pace, the plot emphasises the agony of Harding’s decision as he grapples with family demands, duty and conscience and perfectly replicates the difficulty we all face in making major life choices. A real joy of this short book are the tangential descriptions Trollope indulges in, giving us a glimpse of a world partially gone, partially extant; but much changed. From its homely setting and very human actors to its dramatic conclusion in London, this book makes a good bit of light summer reading.

Edward Keene

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