Finally I am up to date - just about! This month's book is another I have listened to while knitting, Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope, superbly read by Timothy West. Set in the fictional West of England county of Barsetshire, it evokes a different world, where the values and social rules were quite different to those of today. Principally the book concerns the question of whether it is right to marry for money or whether it is better for an upper class young man to take up a profession to support himself. Over the course of the novel it does become clear what Trollope's own views are through the language he uses, writing of the young hero, Frank Gresham, "selling himself" to save the family estate.
As with many Victorian novels it is a slow affair and gently meanders through the story, which becomes part of its charm. Despite this I did become utterly caught up in the story and ended up spending most of a whole day listening towards the end. Trollope's characters are very real people, unlike the caricatures who people Dickens' novels (at least in my view) and he is keen to explain their motivations and that no one is entirely bad and no one entirely good. In particular this novel (and others of his I have read) are peopled with strong female characters who are often the ones taking action while their menfolk vacillate. I am particularly fond of the wealthy heiress Miss Dunstable, who cares little what people think and is as far as she can be her own woman, lively, funny and caring. Without getting too Freudian it seems that Trollope's mother, a strong, lively woman who wrote novels and supported her family, had a big impact on his view of women.
Map of Barsetshire
I would heartily recommend the Barchester Chronicles - Doctor Thorne is the third in the series - to anyone interested in human life and wanting to escape to a different world while reading something well written. However, should you be put off by the thought of audio books more than 20 hours long, or books of 544 pages (and I do not blame you in the least) the BBC made a superb dramatisation of all the Barchester Chronicles which is well worth a listen. Audio books from Audible are, incidentally, far cheaper if bought using their credits system. In the meantime I am making a start on the fourth novel in the series, Framley Parsonage.
You can see the other posts in this month's Year in Books here.