Anthony Trollope: Barchester Towers
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This 1857 sequel to The Warden wryly chronicles the struggle for control of the English diocese of Barchester. It opens with the Bishop of Barchester lying on his death bed; soon a battle begins over who will take over power, with key players including the rather incompetent Dr Proudie, his fiendishly unpleasant wife and his slippery curate, Slope. This is a wonderfully rich novel, in which men and women are too shy to tell each other of their love; misunderstandings abound; and Church of England officials are only too willing to undermine each other in the battle for power. One of Trollope's best-loved novels, it is a dazzlingly real portrayal of nineteenth-century provincial England peppered with humour, wisdom and extraordinary characters.