The Last Chronicle of Barset

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5 out of 5 stars
By Michele Kellett on 17-03-2010

The Clever Mr. Trollope

This is one of the few Trollope novels I had not read. It re-introduces several characters from earlier Barchester Chronicles, wrapping up their storylines. But, to be honest, I had encountered them so many years ago, I couldn't really remember them. So I am pleased to report that this book holds up entirely on its own, as a lovely, comic and touching conclusion to Trollope's clerical novels. I found myself walking miles further because I was on tenterhooks about the fate of these gentle (or ambitious or exasperating) characters, shrewdly characterized by Timothy West. And it contains a long passage about the end days of an aging cleric, whose goodness, mildness and acceptance are both utterly believable, and piquantly contrasted with those among whom he lives, that I pulled over to weep. Whereas Dickens often portrays goodness as treacle, Trollope never loses sight of his characters as people in a closely observed world.

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30 of 30 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Neil Chisholm on 26-12-2012

A touch bleak but all the ends neatly tied off

I have listened to all six of the Chronicles one after the other with no other books read or listened to between them. One could almost say it was a baptism by complete immersion. That it might have been, but it has meant that it has convinced me that Trollope was a man of total brilliance.

I was in search of a new Jane Austen or rather of gentle comedy of manners in a historical setting. I didn't want abject poverty and daily struggle, or anger, swindle and darsteadly deeds - I've tasted Dickens and he's not to my taste and the Bronte clan with their overwhelming poverty doesn't leave me enlightened just melancholic but Anthony Trollope has delighted me to my very core.

Trollope is a master of characterisation and observation. His main characters are fleshed out and truly appear three dimensional and his minor characters only slightly less so. The pace of the action never gallops along but neither does it dawdle. His humour is gentle, sometimes obvious but always witty. Several times I have been caught laughing out loud.

The Last Chronicle was a bit bleaker than the previous ones but throughout it all and that despite the apparent hopelessness of the situation you knew somehow it would turn out right for all concerned. Characters from the entire series appeared in this last book and it was delightful to have them drop by.

Trollope has the wonderful habit of finishing each novel by tying up the ends of each of the story lines nice and neatly. You are not left wondering what might have happened. At the end of this last book everyone of the story lines were finished off and there was a sense of completeness, total conclusion and satisfaction. I was sad that it was over but there was no sense of doubt, wonder or concern about the fate of a character which was rather uplifting. I wish more books and even movies would do this!

A word about Timothy West - he has to be one of the best narrators. To take on the task of narrating over 120 hrs of book with probably as many characters must be daunting at least but he took it in his stride and brought the books alive with his characterisations. Narration is not acting, there's no positioning, no visual aids to assist with the action, it is voice alone. The voice of the author telling his story and the speech of the different characters, Timothy West did it all with the greatest of aplomb. He was perfect for these books.

Listening to the Chronicles has made me a fan of Trollope and I shall be seeking out more of his books. If you like Jane Austen you will like Anthony Trollope, her literary honorary grandson if you will! If you are looking for a gentle tale among England's green and pleasant pastures in the 1850s this is for you, no windswept moors, no blackened cities, no continually failing crops or trouble at mill. I will be back to visit Barsetshire again in the future and after over 100 hrs of listening you can't get a bigger recommendation than that!

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12 of 12 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Kellie on 25-04-2011

A fitting end to the beloved series

Timothy West conveys just the right feel for a book from the Barset Chronicles. His reading was sensitive when it needed to be, funny when it needed to be... just perfect. I absolutely loved it and will definitely keep this one to listen to again.

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9 of 9 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Cariola on 16-03-2012

A Fitting Conclusion

Trollope has really mastered the art of creating irritating characters in this last volume of 'The Barchester Chronicles'--which doesn't make it any less enjoyable. Some are familiar to readers of the earlier novels. There's Mrs. Proudie, for example, the bishop's wife, who seems to think that SHE is the bishop, yammering on about "the souls of the people" while she bullies her husband and everybody else. The namby-pamby bishop is quite irritating on his own accord: he never silences or reprimands his wife until near the end, and then it takes the form of whining and blaming. The focal figure of the novel, the reverend Mr. Crawley . . . well, I wanted to whack him over the head with a 2x4! I understand his forgetfulness and his adherence to principles, but refusing to hire a lawyer (even taking on a free one) when you've been charged with a crime, thus putting your family on the brink of total destitution and disgrace, is unforgiveable, not to mention just plain stupid. Then there's Lily Dale, abandoned in an earlier installment by her lover in favor of a wealthier woman. Devoted not only to him but to her role as martyr, she refuses the love of a good man, refuses to marry the now-widowed lover, and takes a vow reflected in her diary: "Lily Dale: Old Maid."

By now, you're probably wondering why I didn't hate this novel. Well, while all of these characters are maddening, somehow Trollope also manages to makes their trials and tribulations quite intriguing. And at least one of them gets his or her comeuppance. Trollope weaves in several subplots as well, inlcuding that of Grace Crawley, a young woman as principled as her father who refuses the proposal of the man she loves, reluctant to tie his family to her father's possible shame. And John Eames, who has loved Lily Dale forever. There are plenty of other characters to admire, among them those trying to help the beleaguered Mr. Crawley. (Most memorable is the goodhearted lawyer Mr. Toogood.)

As others have mentioned, the subplot surrounding John Eames's friend, the painter Conrad Darymple, doesn't quite fit. Perhaps it's true that Trollope stuck it in to come up with the number of pages required by his publisher. Nevertheless, The Last Chronicle of Barsetshire is an entertaining and engaging book, a fitting conclusion to Trollope's delightful six-volume chronicles.

Timothy West is one of the finest narrators around. I've greatly enjoyed his readings of Trollope and Hardy, among others.

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7 of 8 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Virginia Waldron on 21-10-2013

Great Book

This book ties all the loose ends of the series together. The performance is masterly and the story delightful. Trollope evokes a setting that becomes tangible to the reader and the characters are ones for which one feels deeply. I was sad to say good-bye to this wonderful series.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Meredith on 15-09-2012

Last Chronicle Is A Beautifully Interwoven Story

First of all, I'll say that I absolutely loved this book! Timothy West is a wonderful narrator and I enjoyed his reading to the end. And what I mean by "interwoven" is that if you've listened to the first five books in the series, you'll see that the families from the other novels are interwoven in this last one. However, as another reviewer has said, this book would also stand on its own. The words flowed so freely and with such energy that I didn't want to stop listening until it was over. No matter what I've done in the last three-four days, I've also listened to this book. There are disappointments for some of the characters (and for me) and triumphs for others, all of which are brought about in an ingenious way. In a world where rank and money is everything, the poor and lowly can be discounted so easily. But Trollope doesn't allow only bad things to happen to good people, and thereon hangs the story of the Crawleys. You'll recognize most of the characters as they enter the story in one way or another, and I felt that it was the coziest way to experience a summing up of the Chronicles. And, as with all of Trollope's stories, the lessons learned from an honest look at the lives of our fellow man are of value in our own.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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