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Posts Tagged ‘Angela Thirkell’

Northbridge Rectory (VMC Book 2216)

Northbridge is coping as best it can with the trials and tribulations of war time.  Officers are billeted at the Rectory, the air raid siren only seems to go off when the planes have gone past, and love strikes in the most unlikely places.  Miss Pemberton exercises control over her lodger, Mr Downing, though Mrs Turner looks as though she will make her move.  Mrs Turner’s nieces are looking for love among the officers at the Rectory as is one of the Rectory’s servants.

For those readers who read Cheerfulness Breaks In and want to know what happened after the cliff hanging ending to that novel will need to read nearly half of this book to find out!  I enjoyed this book but I didn’t think it was as good as others I’ve read by this author – maybe because I read it in very short bursts rather than reading it in longer sessions.

I do think every day life in war time is well done and it really brings the problems to life and makes me realise how lucky we are in the relatively peaceful twenty first century.

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Cheerfulness Breaks In (VMC)

This is a touching portrait of middle class middle England coping with the start of World War II.  Mr Birkett is adjusting to sharing his buildings with a school evacuated from London as well as hoping that the current engagement of his daughter Rose will actually result in marriage. Novelist Mrs Morland has moved out of her house – letting it to her publisher and his family and she is staying with Mr and Mrs Birkett for the duration.

Lydia Keith is trying to hold everything together at home as well as doing more than her fair share of voluntary work.  Everyone is battling with the black out and the problems of food rationing and petrol rationing but somehow they retain their sense of humour and carry on as usual for at least the majority of the time.

This is an entertaining and amusing read as well as being poignant at times.  Because it was written at the time it really does show how World War II affected a certain section of society and how they responded to the many challenges involved.

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The Brandons: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 42)

This is a charming story of life in a country village with the focus on a fete.  The beautiful Mrs Brandon – a widow with two grown up children – captivates all men who come within her orbit though she is completely oblivious of the effect she has on other people. Her late husband’s Aunt Sissie seems likely to die before long.  She is an irascible old lady and Mrs Brandon feels sorry for her much tried companion – Miss Morris – and vows to have Miss Morris to stay once Aunt Sissie dies.

A chicken pox epidemic among the poor and a vicar who is excellent at parish work but who regards Mrs Brandon as a goddess; Mrs Grant who is obsessed with Italy and who lards her conversation with Italian phrases; servants who are domestic tyrants and  the usual collection of angst ridden young people make up this entertaining froth of a book.

If you want a book to lose yourself in and where the descriptions and dialogue will at least make you smile then this book is ideal.  It is light hearted and amusing and ideal if you want to remind yourself that such villages did exist in the 1930s.  If you have read Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novels and Ivy Compton Burnett then the society depicted in Angela Thirkell’s novels will be familiar to you.

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Before Lunch (VMC Book 2216)

Jack Middleton has agreed to his sister and her two stepchildren staying at the house next door to where he lives for the summer.  Jack himself is not an easy man to get on with if only because he never stops talking.

His sister Lilian talks a lot as well but she does listen to other people.  Her stepchildren, Denis and Daphne are soon fitting into the neighbourhood and becoming part of everyone’s lived.  The neighbourhood is indignant about proposed plans to build on a local beauty spot and vows to stop the owner in his tracks.

This is a delightful social comedy which made me laugh out loud at some of the descriptions and dialogue.  There are misunderstandings, star crossed lovers – both young and older – and plenty of snobbery and one-up-manship.

If you enjoy authors such as Nancy Mitford, Ivy Compton Burnett and Jane Austen then you will probably enjoy Angela Thirkell.  It is good to see these books available again.

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Pomfret Towers

I loved this story of a shy girl – Alice Barton – who is persuaded to spend the weekend at Pomfret Towers.  He mother is a friend of Lord Pomfret and he extends an invitation to Alice and her brother Guy.  For Alice the whole thing presents a nightmare of what she should do and say; from thinking the house maid will sneer at her nightdress to wondering what she can talk about with the other guests she fears a social disaster.

But most people are kind and sympathetic and Alice makes some new friends and even falls slightly in love with an artist – Julian Rivers.  Julian’s social climbing mother, Hermione, is a marvellous creation.  She tries to organise everyone and then claims she doesn’t have time to get on with her writing.  She is a successful author – as is Alice’s mother.

The author’s characters live in the mind of the reader long after the last page has been turned.  There are plenty of amusing incidents and the reader can cringe and blush along with Alice as she negotiates the social mine field.   If you want something light to read this book is the ideal one to relax with and forget the stresses and strains of modern life.  It evokes a forgotten world of the upper classes in the nineteen thirties.

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Summer Half: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 43)

Colin Keith decides he can’t depend financially on his parents any longer and applies for a job as classics master at Southbridge School.  He is supposed to be reading for the Bar but he knows he won’t be earning any money for years.  He isn’t really cut out to be a teacher but he acquits himself reasonably well and makes friends with some of the masters and the boys – including Tony Morland – who first appeared in High Rising.

Colin finds himself witnessing the disintegration of Philip Winter’s engagement to the headmaster’s daughter – Rose Birkett.  Rose is a totally selfish and rather beautiful young woman and even her parents are not blind to her faults.  The episode where she commandeers all the coats belonging to the male members of a boating party when they are caught in a thunderstorm is priceless and made me laugh out loud.

This is a real comedy of manners set against the background of a boarding school and the countryside in summer. Naturally the characters are shuffled into the correct order by the end of the story leaving the reader satisfied and still smiling over some of Rose’s behaviour and her incredible ignorance when compared with her well educated and knowledgeable peers.

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August Folly: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 45)

Richard Tebben is home from Oxford and he is dreading the coming holiday because he knows he hasn’t done very well in his exams and his parents annoy him all the time.  He needs to find a job but he doesn’t really know what he wants to do.  One of the neighbours is putting on a play – a Greek tragedy – and Richard knows he will be roped into playing a part and he can think of nothing more boring.

Then everything is brightened up by the appearance of the glamorous Dean family in the neighbourhood.  Mr and Mrs Dean and six of their nine clever children are staying for the summer.  Having met them Richard feels that maybe the holiday won’t be so bad after all.  His sister Margaret is home as well and he is glad to see her again.

I loved the characters in this marvellously evocative novel of village life.  The trials and tribulations of young love and the strain of keeping secrets amongst the older people are brought vividly to life.  The amateur dramatics bring out the worst in people and provide amusement to the reader.  I think Thirkell is excellent on relationships between unlikely people.  This book reminded me of Agatha Christie without the murder.

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