Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book Review: Chronicles of Barsetshire 1, The Warden

CHRONICLES OF BARSETSHIRE 1, THE WARDEN: Barsetshire is a very interesting fictional county

This book tells the story of Septimus Harding, the warden of Hiram’s hospital and precentor of Barchester Cathedral, in the fictional county of Barsetshire. He is drawn to a world of scandal, as he is judged liable to possessing excessive income from a charity that is supposed to benefit others.

The story of The Warden is simplistic and complicated at the same time. It is simplistic because there are only a few threads that weave the story. There are no foreshadowing, no subtle twists and turns, no intricate plot points; it moves to a very specific direction. It just tells us the protagonist’s struggles, as his world is shaken by controversy. This could be a problematic trait, for it could bore the readers, but this is not the case for The Warden, for it has its own share of complication behind its simplicity. This complication shows itself in the depth of the foundation of the story; the story establishes the history of the fictional county and its prominent people in a very solid way. They are intricate enough to be a legitimate groundwork of interest.

The story is not perfect, however -- particularly the second half. The first half of the book is very straight to the point, but some parts of the second half somewhat drive the story to directions that don’t really benefit the overall story. The perfect example for this is how the protagonist is drawn to random places, as he waits for ten in the evening for his interview with Sir Abraham Haphazard. Sure, his random adventures have been incorporated with his thoughts and feelings about the coming events. But I still find them unnecessary, and they could be removed entirely.

This simplistic yet complicated story is written in a style that is very easy to read. Considering that this is a classic, it is not very surprising that the sentence construction is flooded with commas and punctuations. However, the vocabulary employed is simple enough to make the complicated structure understandable. The author also hasn’t utilized an over-descriptive voice, which is a good thing, for it gives the readers plenty of room for their imagination. But this hasn’t been very consistent. There are some parts of the book that suffer from too much description, and I’m not really sure what has caused this change of style. Maybe it is because of the establishing of certain places in the fictional county, so the readers could have a clearer picture.

            It is also important to note of the author’s attempt at experimental metaphors, which is very evident in the chapters ‘Iphigenia’ and ‘Mount Olympus.’ This attempt could trigger negative reactions from the readers, for it requires certain knowledge of some educational departments. However, as a personal matter, this attempt has been effective. I find it to be very interesting and bold. The only problem I have with it is its lack of explanation regarding certain elements.

This book also has its share of well-drawn characters. Septimus Harding, Archdeacon Grantly, John Bold, and Tom Towers are distinct enough to leave an impression. What makes it even more impressive is the fact that these characters don’t even enjoy big amounts of time in the pages. Still, they seem to be very well made characters because of their dialogues and decisions.

Overall, The Warden is an interesting read. Sure, it is not very experimental and innovative, but its simplistic yet complicated approach is enough to captivate readers in a story that is set in a well-founded fictional county, which, I must add, is inhabited by a pool of interesting characters. This is just the first book in the Chronicles of Barsetshire, and I enjoyed it. Surely, I’ll read the other books in the series, for the county of Barsetshire has truly captured my curiosity.

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