The Warden is the first of the six classic Chronicles of Barsetshire novels, Trollope's best-loved and most famous work.
(P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks
Oh dear. Why does Simon Vance feel impelled to make all the characters sound as though they have stepped from a 1950's British film? Eleanor is made particularly unattractive, with priggish clipped vowels at their worst. A pity, because it is a good book and he's not a bad reader in many ways.
Septimus Harding, the Warden of this story is a kindly, mild and some would say weak man, definitely a follower. That is until his his position as Warden and the remuneration he receives for this role is questioned and he is alleged to be in receipt of misappropriated charitable monies and therefore by association a dishonest man. The Warden is deeply shaken by the scandal and faces a moral dilemma which causes him to struggle with his own conscience and forces him to act. A great read, humane, quiet and as relevant today as when it was written in the 1860's. Highly recommended.
"Delightful Reading of Trollope"
I had always intended to read Trollope and never quite made the time. Listening to this engaging narration by Simon Vance made such a pleasure possible while driving to work. Although one must have a taste for much more intricate prose than is characteristic of today's fiction, Vance's interpretation makes all the different characters recognizable and brings out the humor and minute social observation that keeps Trollope's intrigues of small town and ecclesiastical life in England mid-19th Century so enjoyable even today.
"NOT WELL READ"
We all know the world is divided into two - those who cannot get enough of Trollope, and those who are somehow defective. That said, I cannot recommend Simon Vance's reading. He is a good nonfiction reader and he can read fiction too, as long as he does get into characters. The problem lies in his hopeless rendition of female voices, and he is not that great at men's voices either, so it rather spoils the telling. Sorry, Simon. I whole-heartedly recommend Timothy West's readings, who nails it every time.
"Simon Vance reading the Chronicles: Perfection"
I love the Chronicles of Barsetshire, and Simon Vance is the perfect reader for them. I have listened to The Warden (a very good book), Barchester Towers (one of the best books of all time), and I am currently about half way through Dr. Thorne.
In The Warden, it was great listening again to Trollope's description of the press - and the politicians - as his insights are all still relevant today. It is, perhaps, a pity that they sound so fresh, but at the same time - it makes one ponder the fact that we are more often led by reporters, rather than educated by them.
What a great book!
The Warden Harding is a man of incredible ethics, and in today's world of ethical rationalizations, he sounds weak.
No one is better to take you on a visit back to through Trollope's classics than Simon Vance. This reading is everything I would expect from Simon - in fact, I decided to re-visit this series when I discovered that Simon Vance was reading it.
"The Series Begins . . ."
The first of the Barchester series, The Warden seems obviously designed to set up the next five novels. It's fine on its own, but not the best of Trollope by any means. Mr. Harding, warden of an almshouse for 12 elderly disabled men, finds himself the target of a lawsuit promoted by his daughter's admirer. The claim is that the benefactor's will did not mean for the church to use the bequest to fund a warden, but that it was meant to go directly to the 12 men. Complicating the situation is the fact that the archdeacon, married to Harding's elder daughter, insists on fighting the suit, which gets nasty in the public press. The plot focuses on how Mr. Harding, a genuinely kind and good man, deals with the stress and his own conscience, and how his daughter Eleanor struggles between her fierce love for her father and her growing affection for John Bull, the lawyer behind the lawsuit.
"Terrible reading of a great book!"
I love Trollope and am usually not at all picky about the performances of recorded books, but I found this reading of The Warden unbearable! Simon Vance adopts a strange, high-pitched, affected tone of voice every time he reads the women's lines that makes Trollope's female characters come across as gross caricatures. The gentle but always intelligent Eleanor Harding sounded like a half-witted flirt, Mrs. Grantly sounded like a snooty society matron instead of a sensible clergyman's wife, and the love scenes were absolutely painful! Mr. Vance is a very good reader generally, and if only he could have rendered the female characters in a more natural tone of voice this would have been a fine and worthy reading. I switched to the Timothy West reading for the remainder of the Basetshire Chronicles, and am so glad I did. I really don't think I could have stood a simpering Mary Thorne!!
This novel was painful to read, as the injustice of it all is so clear, and so is the inevitability. But, like all such narratives, it is also comforting to be reminded that we are not the only ones to encounter injustice, and the model that the warden offers, as far as dealing with a moral question with honor is concerned, is a treasure to behold. Simon Vance is, as usual, a jewel of a narrator. I can't believe I haven't read Trollope until now. I'll certainly be reading more of his works in the future.
"May prove challenging to contemporary readers"
A clergyman, Mr. Harding, is accused of abusing of his privilege of receiving a high income for very little work, and that church funds are being misappropriated; both accusations made by a young reformer who also happens to be in love with the clergyman's daughter, and influences those who are directly under the clergyman's protection and benefiting from his generosity. Mr. Harding is well-loved by all, and the combination of the savage media outcry that follows and his unimpeachable honesty pushes him to take actions which are against his best interests. Can't say I absolutely loved this novel, but I read it in the context of a tutored read on LibraryThing and the two tutors had a wealth of knowledge to share about the clergy and moral attitudes of the time and so on, which certainly helped this modern reader appreciate the story a lot more than I would have without my mentors. That being said, I look forward to listening to the next book in the series, Barchester Towers.
"The Difficulty of Finding & Doing the Right Thing"
Poor meek, mild, and middle-aged Mr. Septimus Harding! The warden of small Hiram???s Hospital (almshouse) in Anthony Trollope???s first Barchester novel, The Warden (1855), Mr. Harding sees to the food and lodging of twelve poor old men and gives them their daily allowance of one shilling and fourpence (to which he has added out of his own money twopence per day). As a stipend for his post, he receives 800 pounds per year from Hiram???s fund. He has enjoyed seeing to the physical and spiritual needs of the old men, playing melancholy and lovely violoncello music, and living comfortably with his younger daughter Eleanor in the fine house and beautiful garden that go with the wardenship. His placid life is rudely disrupted when a young doctor named John Bold, a well-meaning, self-righteous, and reckless reformer, champions the cause of the twelve old men, whom he sees as being cheated out of their just amount of money by Hiram???s Hospital and the corrupt Church of England.
Anthony Trollope tells an absorbing story featuring a small cast of very human characters and themes extending beyond the central legal case to the overly influential role of the mass media in modern society, the ambiguous motives and results of reform-minded people, the human tendency to never be satisfied with what one has, the difficulty of doing the right thing when dealing with people and money, and the nature of friendship. And yet I wonder whether Trollope need go into such lengthy detail in his satire of the pamphlets of Dr. Pessimist Anticant (AKA Thomas Carlyle) or his critical description of the children of Mr. Harding???s son-in-law. And although I like Trollope???s conviction that no one is all evil or all good, I wonder if his critique of reformers (including Mr. Popular Sentiment, AKA Charles Dickens) is completely fair or warranted, trenchant though it is.
Simon Vance gives his usual smooth and professional reading, but his young female characters (as they often do in his other books) sound artificially high-pitched and nasal. His Eleanor is almost insufferable when she (Vance) says, ???Oh, paPA!???
But I did care very much about Mr. Septimus Harding and his plight! And I enjoyed and or was moved by most of The Warden. I recommend it to anyone who likes the work of Dickens and who wants to read one of his contemporaries who has a different approach to human nature, social problems, and fiction.
excellent book and narration. Trollope does indeed rival Dickens in narrative and vocabulary. Vance narrates well without becoming the focus himself.
I kept waiting for the story to start and then it was over. I think it was to high-brow for me!
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