Barchester Towers  By  cover art

Barchester Towers

By: Anthony Trollope
Narrated by: Timothy West

Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

Barchester Towers is the second of six in the series known as Chronicles of Barsetshire. Narrator Timothy West brings life to the story, begun in The Warden, of Mr. Harding and his daughter Eleanor. It chronicles the struggle for control of the English diocese of Barchester after one Bishop dies and a new one is selected.

The rather incompetent new Bishop, Dr. Proudie, led by his formidable wife, and ambitious chaplain, Mr. Slope, begin to create turmoil with their desire to shake up the church establishment in Barchester with new policies and practices. However, the established clergy of Barchester, led by Archdeacon Grantly, the son of the previous Bishop, are equally determined to keep things just as they've always been. Archdeacon Grantly declares 'War, war, internecine war!' on Bishop Proudie, but who will win the battle between the archdeacon, the bishop, Mr. Slope, and Mrs. Proudie?

The Guardian included Barchester Towers in its list of '1000 novels everyone must read'. Full of humour and extraordinary characters, it is no wonder it continues to be Trollope's best-loved work.

Narrator Biography

Timothy West is prolific in film, television, theatre and audiobooks. He has narrated a number of Anthony Trollope’s classics, including the six Chronicles of Barsetshire and The Pallisers series. He has also narrated volumes of Simon Schama’s A History of Britain and John Mortimer’s Rumpole on Trial. Timothy West’s theatre roles include King Lear, The Vote, Uncle Vanya, A Number, Quarter, and Coriolanus. His films include Ever After, Joan Of Arc, Endgame, Iris, The Day of the Jackal. On television, Timothy has appeared in Great Canal Journeys, Last Tango in Halifax and Bleak House.

Public Domain (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"It was in [Trollope's] fifth book, Barchester Towers, in which he blended his satirical gifts with disdain for evangelical puritanism, that he found himself." ( Washington Post)

What listeners say about Barchester Towers

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Read The Warden first

I would urge the reader to consider reading the first book in the Barchester series --The Warden--before reading this one. Although one could read Barchester Towers alone and enjoy it immensely, I think the relationships between the central characters are better enjoyed and savored more fully if one has read about them first in The Warden. (It's relatively short and very enjoyable.)

Still BT is an enjoyable read all by itself and the wonderfully amusing wry asides by the author truly made me laugh out loud. If you yearn for a simpler time, or delight in the very best novels of English country life from Austen to Pym, or simply love an English sentence well-turned, you will enjoy this book. The reader is excellent.

46 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Simply superb

The book itself, of course, is a perennial classic for its elegance and wit. Timothy West has comprehended the book magnificently and his reading of it is a triumph. Listening is sheer, unadulterated pleasure.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

MARVELOUS VINTAGE WINE MARVELOUSLY POURED

What can one say about Anthony Trollope? He's one of the giants. My wife wouldn't be found dead reading him so it is clear that not everyone falls for him, but for those who love Trollope, Barchester Towers is one of the loveliest, though frankly there's nothing Trollopian I wouldn't read. With readings, the narrator is also critically important and here we have Timothy West, who in my opinion is as good as it gets. I think he is not entirely on the mark with Madeleine, but bear in mind this book has multiple characters. Timothy West does a terrific job differentiating them. He is better at men than at women - go figure - but he is overall so good that listening to this book was a pleasure from start to finish.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

The Warden/Barchester Towers

I listened to The Warden/Barchester Towers after listening to The Way We Live Now (my first Trollope venture) and for that reason, I believe, I was not as entranced with the first two Barsetshire novels as I was with my first. The books are similar, in that they deal with issues of the time and the affairs of the many characters found throughout the book, but upon starting the Barsetshire books I was lost from the beginning because of all the religious terminology. I had to do a bit of research on the subject before I continued so I would not be completely lost. The Warden should be listened to first to get the feel for some of the main characters of Barchester Towers. Like The Way We Live Now, Trollope develops great characters we can really care for and really dislike. Trollope’s characterization is what keeps me coming back for more. Regarding the story, it is entertaining and funny and sometimes slow and boring. Sometimes I had no idea what Trollope was going on about, but I always soon found myself back on track with the story and, having finished the story, feel that I didn’t miss that much when I was spacing out at the more tedious bits. Timothy West does an excellent job narrating and I must admit that his narration is another reason why I can’t quite give up on Trollope’s writing. After taking a little break, I attend on listening to Doctor Thorne and then, eventually, the rest of the series. All in all, this is pretty good story telling.

10 people found this helpful

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Great book: very well read

Listening to this book convinced me that Trollope is a fine writer, and I plan to listen to many more of his works. In all cases I'll choose the Timothy West version. This reader is excellent. I especially like the way he conveys character through the various voices he uses. His Mr. Slope and Bishop Proudie are especially good.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Superb

This is a terrific book and the narrator (Timothy West) is amazing in bringing the book to life. I didn't want it to end.

8 people found this helpful

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Content to be Human

"Till we can become divine we must be content to be human, lest in our hurry for change we sink to something lower."
- Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope

This was lovely. Barchester Towers in probably Trollope's best known and most popular work. It could stand alone, but really should be read after Warden as book 2 in the Barsetshire Series (six books). Trollope's prose is beautiful but his characters (good and bad; pretty and plain) are sketched with such nuance and understanding that two books in I feel like many of them are family.

This year, I committed to reading the six novels in the Chronicles of Barsetshire and the six novels that compose his Palliser series. After finishing book two, however, I'm about read to commit to reading all 47 of his novels PLUS his autobiography. I surprised my wife by joining The Trollope Society last night (£36) and feel it is inevitable that one of these days I'm going to have to explain to my lovely wife, my partner, my soul why 47 books just came here from London (you can order a very nice set of Trollope's complete novels for £950 + £50 for shipping to the US). It really does seem almost as inevitable as entropy. Unstoppable really. It might not be this week, this month, or this year, but it just seems easier to bite it in one chunk than collect these novels higgledy-piggledy.

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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"I'll Slope him!" "I'll dean him!"

War in Barchester. The army invading the quiet cathedral town is spearheaded by the low church, hen-pecked, gormless new Bishop Proudie, his evangelical, despotic wife ("the she-bishop," the "Medea of Barchester"), and their odious, duplicitous, ambitious, bad-beef complexioned and clammy-handed chaplain Mr. Slope, who, fancying himself the true new Bishop of Barchester, plans to promote Sabbath-day schools and to throw the music and ceremony of the Anglican service out with the rubbish. The outraged local defending forces are comprised of the modest, mild, weak, but stubborn ex-Warden of Hiram's Hospital Mr. Harding, his arrogant, righteous, and hot-tempered Archdeacon son-in-law Dr. Grantly, and the high church "champion," the thoughtful former Oxford professor of poetry and new vicar of St. Ewold, Mr. Arabin. Amid the warfare run rumors of courtship: Eleanor Bold, the younger daughter of Mr. Harding, with a beloved baby son and 1200 pounds per year, is a very eligible widow for suitors calculating, feckless, or inexperienced. Also mixed in the conflict is the Stanhope family, back in Barchester after a twelve-year sojourn in Italy, during which the father, a prebendary of the cathedral, was catching butterflies while supposedly caring for his sore throat. The Stanhope son Bertie is a lazy, good-natured, and unprejudiced parasite, his sister Madeline (AKA La Signora Neroni) is a crippled, beautiful, arachnoid man-catcher with eyes bright as Lucifer's and compelling as a basilisk's, and the first-born daughter Charlotte does her best to enable the predilections of her younger siblings.

In his second Barchester Chronicles novel, Barchester Towers (1857), then, Anthony Trollope sets these colorful characters in play with and against each other in a largely unpredictable and wholly entertaining comedy of manners with much to say about mid-nineteenth-century gender, class, age, reform, religion, love, family, and novels, all in a way that is particularly Victorian British and universally human.

Trollope's writing is witty, elegant, suspenseful, knowing, allusive, and quotable. I enjoy, for example, his epic similes using classical literature, Elizabethan drama, or the Bible, as when he hilariously compares Mrs. Proudie to Achilles or Mr. Slope to Lady Macbeth. Trollope's narrator and characters say pithy things like:

"If honest men did not squabble for money in this wicked world of ours, the wicked men would get it all."

"A man must be an idiot or else an angel, who, after the age of forty shall attempt to be just to his neighbours."

"Gentlemen do not write to women about their tresses, unless they are on intimate terms."

"There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel."

And Trollope relishes sympathetically mocking his characters, as when with heroic formality he encourages the Bishop to stand up to his wife:

"Now, bishop, look well to thyself, and call up all the manhood that is in thee. Think how much is at stake. If now thou art not true to thy guns, no Slope can hereafter aid thee. How can he who deserts his own colours at the final smell of gunpowder expect faith in any ally. Thou thyself hast sought the battlefield; fight out the battle manfully now thou art there. Courage, bishop, courage! Frowns cannot kill, nor can sharp words break any bones. After all the apron is thine own. She can appoint no wardens, give away no benefices, nominate no chaplains, an' thou art but true to thyself. Up, man, and at her with a constant heart."

The novel is not without a disappointment or two. Eleanor's sister-in-law Mary Bold has devolved from an intelligent and independent woman who writes reform-minded newspaper pieces in The Warden (1855), the first novel in his Chronicles, to a bland live-in nanny in Barchester Towers. And some things, naturally enough, feel dated, like the ideas that the ideal condition of wife and husband is for the woman to be a beautiful parasitic plant like ivy decorating a wall (the man) and that independence is a "heavy burden" for women.

But mostly I listened to Barchester Towers chuckling, grinning, and generally reveling in Trollope's characters, story, and prose and in Timothy West's virtuoso reading of them. As Juliet Stevenson was born to read Virgina Woolf, West was born to read Anthony Trollope. He's perfect with people young and old, high and low, male and female, and unlike Simon Vance reading The Warden, West's Eleanor has no irritating falsetto. His Mr. Slope (nasally unctuous), Mr. Harding (mild, good, and weak) and Signora Neroni (provocative ersatz Italian charm) are all wonderful.

Charles Dickens had crowded Trollope out of my life until I read The Warden, the first novel in his Chronicles, and was so delighted by it. Both authors write colorful and comical characters we care about, but while Dickens leans towards caricature, Trollope leans towards realism. Dickens' characters are often wholly good or wholly evil, while Trollope's are often very mixed indeed. (Compare Dickens' villain Uriah Heep with Trollope's Obadiah Slope.). Trollope feels less sentimental and melodramatic than Dickens, but after all they both wrote entertaining and page-turning, socially-conscious, humorous, and dramatic novels. I warmly urge fans of 19th century novels, especially readers familiar with Dickens but unfamiliar with Trollope, to read Barchester Towers. (Though both The Warden and Barchester Towers tell self-contained stories, reading the first book first would increase one's pleasure in the sequel.)

5 people found this helpful

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A complete delight

Barchester Towers could have been written by Jane Austen's granddaughter! It is filled with janeisms but set some 50 years later. Trollope has the observations, the wit and the overall gentle and genteel comedy of manners and misunderstandings that made Jane Austen's books so loved.

Even the characters are updated Austen characters, some with wonderful humorous names such as a father of 14 children being called Mr Quiverful and the social climbing farmers the Lookalofts. My personal favourate was Mr Slope who challenges Mr Collins from Pride and Prejudice as the most odious curate ever!

I love the direct appeals Trollope makes to the reader - it brings you right into the action and Timothy West is absolutely perfect as the narrator. I believe, some narrators are born to read a particular author, Juliet Stevenson is perfect for Jane Austen as Timothy West is for Trollope. A match made in heaven!

At the end of The Warden I wasn't sure about Trollope and not sure if the Barsetshire series had grabbed me. I can tell you now at the end of Barchester Towers that I am totally smitten with it - I have already downloaded the next in the chronicles and can't wait to start it.

4 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

I thought I'd read all the classics.

It is wonderful to find this gem of a tale. I will immediately purchase the next book.

3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Francis
  • 10-28-08

West is best

Barchester Towers is perhaps the most enjoyable novel of an author whom it is almost always a delight to read. Perhaps the novel does not scale the heights and social criticism is mild and muted in comparison with other Victorian novelists.But there are few readers who will not enjoy the portrayal of the Archdeacon, Mrs Proudie ,the egregious Mr Slope and many other characters.
When in addition the novel is superbly read by Timothy West, this becomes an outstanding audio book. He judges the varied tone of the narration to perfection and differentiates and portrays the various characters so well that listening one forgets that there is just one single reader. I'm sure that I will not be alone in finding that listening to these novels read by Timothy West is more rewarding and enjoyable than reading the book for oneself. Strongly recommended as are all of Timothy West's readings of Trollope.

38 people found this helpful

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  • AReader
  • 06-22-14

Superb reading makes story come alive

I have always enjoyed reading Trollope but of course he is not as dramatic - or melodramatic - as Dickens. This reading brings out the light and shade in his writing. With the subtlest of accents or voices Timothy West breathes fascination into the whole book. Perhaps one of the features that make some readers find Trollope dull is that the commentary by the narrator is so understated. Giving each character his or her own distinctive voice keeps the attention of the listener. It's a virtuoso performance.

11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Clare
  • 04-07-09

What a joy!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. The reader's characterisations are brilliant, from the Bishop with his thin, weedy voice, to the conniving Mr Slope. I had forgotten what a great book this was, it is so much more entertaining than its predecessor, The Warden. The dry wit of Trollope and the social observation are glorious, he is recognisably the same author as that of The Warden, but he seems to have gained considerable confidence and really enjoys exploring the possibilities that various combinations of characters and situations provide him with. The novel is peopled with such wonderful characters, and so much incident that I defy anyone not to be entertained. And if you can get through this book without laughing out loud then I'll eat my hat!

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Philadelphus
  • 04-01-09

A perfect audiobook

This is everything an audiobook should be: Trollope's easiest to go along with novel sublimely well read. The baby talk section always makes me laugh. Don't bother with any other Barchester Chronicles readings!

9 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Judy Corstjens
  • 06-08-15

Set the Tardis to 1861

I'm beginning to wonder whether my plan to audit the whole of the Barchester Chronicles this summer is not a great use of my time. This volume is twice as long as the first (The Warden, set in 1851) but it doesn't really seem to add very much that is new. The characters are the same, as is the setting, and their concerns and attitudes also. I still love the atmosphere of the Cathedral close in 1855, the sunny gardens and very correct grammar and manners, and the insights into the nineteenth century frame of mind (e.g. the position of women and class structures) but it is now becoming predictable and repetitive. I'm going to skip the next volume (Dr Thorne) and fast forward to 1861. Into this happy band of ecclesiasticals should fall the nuclear bomb of the Origin of Species, and I'm hoping that will spice things up.

The performance from Timothy West is first class. Every character has a distinct, consistent and appropriate voice, including Trollope himself: it is Trollope himself who is starting to pall for me.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony Saville
  • 02-18-15

Wonderful novel, wonderful reader

What more can one say. This is audiobook heaven. I know of nothing else that comes close to the Trollope and West combination.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • blueskythinker
  • 01-10-11

Pure pleasure

This recording of Barchester Towers is an absolute joy to listen to. Timothy West gives each character their unique 'voice' and it is easy to picture them in conversation together.
My favourite is Rev. Slope who sounds as slimy and ingratiating as Trollope writes him.
I usually listen to my Audible books before going to sleep and I had several rather late nights while listening to this as I didn't want to stop!

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • John
  • 06-29-10

Tim's Trollope Triumph

It's fashionable, especially among politicians to cite Trollope as a favourite writer over the likes of the more obvious Dickens. In reality, he is not in the same class but he is certainly worthy of his place amongst the greats. This is a beatifully read rendition by the great Timothy West (why not Sir Timothy by now?)which brings out all the wonderful humour of the novel.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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  • Elizabeth
  • 02-10-10

Strong characters, but weak plot

I have a great fondness for 19th century fiction, being a fan of Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Gaskell, George Eliot, the Brontes and Jane Austen (all 'popular stuff'). I didn't really know anything about Trollope, but was hoping to find another author from another time for a bit of escapism.

I read 'The Warden' rather than listened to it, as for such a short novel felt is wasn't worth downloading. I was not overly impressed, but had read such good reveiws of 'Barchester Towers' that I was still looking forward to downloading it and listening to it.

Trollope creates very entertaining and distinct characters and dialogues. This could be compared to Jane Austen, who also focuses her stories around the characters and their interactions, often with amusing results. However, what Trollope avoids is plot devices and suspense, which for me makes it all a bit bland and pointless.

We all know more or less how the story will end, there is little room for guessing and whilst the outcome is a satisfying one, the journey towards it is somewhat uneventful.

So whilst I enjoyed the characters, I really struggled with the slow pace of the story.

Another thing that slightly irritates me about this book is the inexplicable death of a main character from the first book. I suppose you cold argue that that is a plot device, but it's a weak one, in my opinion.

I got through to the very end, but that will be that last Trollope novel I will choose to encounter.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Mrs C
  • 10-15-20

Wonderful

I had never read Barchester Towers, but having listened to Timothy West read The Warden, I fell in love with all the characters and immediately downloaded its sequel. Barchester Towers is a marvellous novel, ascerbic, witty, very funny and moving at times. It is a delightful slice of mid-nineteenth century life, full of all sorts of foibles of the day, but with such splendid characters that the anachronisms are endearing and fascinating. Who could ever forget the appalling Mr Slope or the terrifying Mrs Proudie? It is peppered with wonderful sub plots and hilariously named minor characters (who can forget the great Doctor Omicron Pi or the social climbing Mrs Lookaloft?)
But what makes this audiobook so superb is the performance by Timothy West. He is absolute perfection in reading this. It is almost as though you are listening to Trollope himself. It may be long, but I found it unputdownable - it accompanied me through long car journeys, runs, dog walks and the washing up and I loved every second.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 05-05-22

Splendid as Trollope is always & brilliantly read

Those coming new to Trollope might consider the Palliser series or better yet The Way We Live Now. Then again, it was here that Trollope made his name. One cannot go wrong - I personally will keep going for what that's worth. Those who know Trollope but wonder only about the narrator should wonder no more! This fellow is exquisite (in my head he IS the author's voice and I have to remind myself that it is not actually Trollope speaking lest I someday say 'Oh Trollope, yes, I love him - beautifully spoken man too').

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  • Rodney Wetherell
  • 02-13-20

Wonderful reading of verbose classic

I read BarchesterTowers about 40 years ago, but found it has lost its charms in the intervening period. It has some famous characters like Mrs Proudie and Mr Slope, but neither they nor some of the other charcters undergo much development, and the Archdeacon for example does little but disapprove of Mr Slope and Eleanor. She and Mr Arrabin are the best characters by far. There are too many digressions, too much padding, for me, much as I like Trollope's style and insights. Timothy West's reading is an utter delight - if he were reading the phone book I could listen to him for hours.