Thursday, 6 January 2011

Salem Chapel (Oliphant)

Having read The mystery of Mrs Blencarrow by Mrs Oliphant, recently republished by Persephone books, over Christmas, I felt moved to grab one of her books from the Virago Modern Classics TBR pile. I had enjoyed Mystery, but had felt that perhaps the novella was not quite suited to Mrs Oliphant. Both Salem Chapel and Miss Marjoribanks which I also owned were quite substantial works so quite different. They are part of the "Carlingford Chronicles", which begin with The Rector and The Doctor's Family; I didn't have too much of a problem starting with the second book in the sequence, although I am wondering whether the first book might provide a better introduction to the characters. Likened to Anthony Trollope's Barchester books, the books are set in a small town in the nineteenth century and relay the lives of the characters there.

Salem Chapel is a tale devoted to the arrival of a new minister, Arthur Vincent, who comes to take charge of the Dissenting Chapel in Carlingford, and tells of his involvement with the other townspeople. Life is not as he expects it to be - he finds himself obliged to attend tea parties to say prayers at their end and seems to spend more time involved in the workings of society than preparing his sermon.

If I'm honest, Salem Chapel did not really grab me, and I hope that I will have more success with the other volumes in the series (perhaps I should go back to The rector?). It's just been published the once by Virago with an original green cover.


  1. I must admit, Oliphant's outspoken criticism of some of my favourite authors has done nothing to compel me to read her.

    She seems a little... stationary, for want of a better word. That can be difficult to adjust to if you're used to a more frantic pace.

  2. Whilst I admire her work ethic - she supported a large & feckless family through her writing efforts - I really can't warm to her. I loved Trollope's "Barchester Chronicles" & thought I would enjoy the "Rector" but abandoned it having not got very far.