High Rising

By Angela Thirkell

So I finally read an Angela Thirkell Book. And what better place to start than the first in her Barsetshire series? It was a pleasant read: the kind of book you read with a faint smile and a gentle chuckle every so often. Laura, our heroine, “a delightfully vague widow with four sons” on her late unlamented husband:

“You see my husband was nothing but an expense to me while he was alive, and naturally he is no help to me now he’s dead, though, of course, less expensive…

She knows how to sketch a character in a few strokes and turn a humorous phrase. On her annoying but beloved and oh so talkative 11 year old son:

She had sent him to school at an earlier age than his brothers…partly, as she remarked, to break his spirit. She fondly hoped that after a term or two at school he would find his own level, and be clouted over the head by his unappreciative contemporaries. But not at all. He returned more self-centred than before, talking even more, and, if possible, less interestingly. Why the other boys hadn’t killed him, his doting mother couldn’t conceive.

Mrs. Stoker, Laura’s no nonsense, grouchy, but loyal housekeeper, on our villain, the encroaching neurotic secretary to a neighbor and good friend: “Miss Una Grey she calls herself, said Stoker, as if the secretary were indulging in a sinful alias.”
She mines the comic out of the most unlikely circumstances. Her description of Laura haplessly trying to change a typewriter ribbon is priceless.
As a mother of two sons, this description of a Valentine terrible Tony sends to his mother from school, really hit the spot:

The letter was written with much care and a shocking calligraphy in red and blue ink, and copiously decorated with hearts, pierced by arrows, dripping blood…[A an original valentine poem, too long to quote] “It’s lovely Valentine,” said Adrian, while Laura’s eyes shone with pride.

I’ll be reading more of the Barsetshire series in a bit. I hope to meet Laura, and especially her son Tony again. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

May 23, 2017

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