I just had to read this book I got for Christmas right away – I had told myself I had to wait – but I coudn’t. This lovely new Virago edition and it’s partner Wild Strawberries were just two of the books I recieved from my Virago Secret Santa. I am already hoping that Virago will re-issue the rest of the series.
This novel then marked the end of my reading for 2012. It is a joyously frothy cosy comedy – which I just adored.
Angela Thirkell famously took the county of Barsetshire created by Anthony Trollope in the nineteenth century, setting a series of something like thirty novels there. Virago Press have re-issued the first two with such pretty covers, and I am thankful to also have the next one Wild Strawberries TBR. However I believe that the books are quite able to be read as stand alones – or in any order. I suspect I will become addicted to finding other books in this series.
Laura Morland an attractive widow and successful novelist, collects her excitable youngest son Tony from school in time to spend Christmas and the New Year at her country home in High Rising. Once settled back home, as Tony plays with his railway and prattles endlessly about which engine to buy with his savings, Laura is made aware that her friend George Knox, another writer, has installed a scheming secretary at his home in Low Rising, who is it seems rather taking over, even pushing George’s daughter Sibyl out of the way in her bid to dominate the poor man. Laura decides she must somehow rescue her old friend from Miss Grey, the woman she and her friends begin to call The Incubus. Whilst sorting out the problem of peculiarly tempered Miss Grey, Laura also manages to aid Sibyl’s path to true love. After which time Sibyl and her intended become ridiculously silly, billing and cooing all over the place.
Thirkell’s characters – especially the young lovers and the children are slight caricatures, but are so entertaining that it doesn’t matter. These entertaining exaggerations of character are definitely part of the charm of these old fashioned social comedies. Gossiping housekeepers paternal family doctors bright young things and innocent children are the stuff of easy, comfort reads. There is also some real laugh out loud moments in this highly entertaining read. Thirkell’s comedy is a sharply observed satire; and a delightful social comedy. It is obviously old fashioned and there are some mild ethnic slurs – which do grate on our modern sensibilities – but I have encountered worse in 1930’s fiction.
All in all this was a rather lovely last read of 2012, and actually suited my mood perfectly.