The Warden marks my first foray into the extensive body of work of Anthony Trollope. I'll admit that I chose this one to start with because it's the first installment of his Chronicles of Barsetshire series, rather than because it's plot sounded particularly compelling. In a nutshell (and a somewhat fuzzy nutshell at that, since I'm suffering from a summer cold at the moment!), it's a story about the ethical debate that erupts over the local monetary dealings of the Church of England. The specific controversy surrounds a hospital that serves as an almshouse for twelve elderly and destitute townsmen. It was originally endowed with money from a local clergyman's will, which stipulated a few pence per year be paid to each of hospital's twelve residents. In the ensuing years, however, the hospital's investments have grown substantially, bringing in hundreds of pounds per year as the salary the hospital's Warden, while its residents continue to receive their tiny stipend. This injustice is brought to light by a local young doctor (who also happens to be in love with the Warden's daughter, to further complicate matters) and a battle erupts between the church and the local townspeople, with Septimus Harding, the elderly, peace-loving Warden, caught in the middle.
I can't say that I loved this book, but I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging it was, especially in certain scenes in which two opposing characters were arguing about the issue at hand. There were a few passages in which I actually felt like I was on the edge of my seat as I raced through dialogue. I had to stop and remind myself that--wait a minute--these characters are actually discussing pretty dry points of church fiscal policy. Trollope's ability to pull off this story seems to boil down to his sense of satire, which he turns on each character equally. Things like the narrator's witty descriptive barbs and the names that he christens his characters with (Mr. Bold, Mr. Senitment), kept the book's theme from feeling too pedantic or preachy.
Have you read any Trollope? Do you have any recommendations for his works outside of the Barchester series?