Trollope seems to be having a lot of fun in this second novel of his Chronicles of Barsetshire series making it an entertaining, almost light, book for this reader in spite of the length and the somewhat heavy issue the plot revolves around--the heated battles between England’s low and high church clergy. The story is full of clever, often laugh-out loud asides by a very present, quite friendly, somewhat cozy omniscient narrator who frequently parses the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the characters rather than just reporting them.
Most of the main characters from The Warden, first book in the series, are back, and it’s part of the fun to see how they are getting on with their lives, but there are many new and wonderful additions too, including a bishop cowed by his wife and curate, the oily manipulative Mr. Slope, the steeped in ancient Anglo-Saxon tradition Thorne siblings, and the scheming Stanhope family fresh from Italy and full of continental ways. Trollope writes characters who can be silly, weak, selfish, stubborn, pompous, and irresponsible and still you feel some sympathy for them. Like many Victorian novels Barchester Towers is long, but the ending is perfect, with every character arc and plot thread resolving in a way that is highly satisfying.