by Angela Thirkell
I enjoyed this Angela Thirkell very much more than some of her other books. This was mostly thanks to my copy of Angela Thirkell’s World: A Complete Guide to The People and Places of Barsetshire by Barbara Burrell. Since this concludes (I think) the saga of the difficult Rose Birkett, I wish I had read the book before this, Summer Half, first though.
‘Rose is a very good girl, but I don’t think you quite understand what you’re undertaking. I’m afraid my wife and I have spoilt her rather.’ ‘Take it from me, sir, you have,’ said the Lieutenant. ‘But this is where the Navy puts its foot down. Do you mind if I smoke, sir?’… ‘You know I’m awfully fond of Rose,’ said Lieutenant Fairweather, sitting down again, ‘and you needn’t be anxious about her, sir.’ ‘No, I don’t think I am,’ said the Headmaster. ‘Nor about me, sir, if it comes to that,’ said the Lieutenant, looking his future father-in-law straight in the face with an immovable countenance.
It also sees the marriage of “swashbuckling” Lydia Keith to the great and good Noel Merton whose unlikely romance has been brewing through several books.
‘Gosh!’ she said. ‘If I loved anyone I’d marry them at once.’ Then to Noel’s intense surprise, her face went bright pink and she looked at him as if imploring forgiveness. ‘You couldn’t think of me in that light, I suppose,’ said Noel. ‘Because if you did I would be more than willing. Much more.’ For the first time since he had known his Lydia her gaze dropped before his. … ‘Of course I will,’ said Lydia…We couldn’t get married to-day, could we?’
And, besides Lydia, another favorite, her great friend, clever Geraldine Birkett, gets matched up as well.
‘I don’t think it would be a bad plan if Geraldine and I got married. I just thought I’d break it to you.’ As his future parents-in-law appeared to be struck all of a heap, he continued, standing over them with a pleasant impression of self-reliance and kindness, ‘She needs someone to look after her…The Birketts were so taken aback by this totally unexpected development that they were bereft of speech, till Mrs. Birkett recovered herself enough to ask weakly if Geraldine knew. ‘She knows all right,’ said Captain Fairweather. ‘I gave her the idea and it’ll soak in all right….
“I’m sure Geraldine will be very happy with you and I can really think of nothing nicer.’ ‘Well, it surprised me as much as it surprised you,’ said Captain Fairweather with great candour… Anyway I’ve known her since I was a kid—and she was a pretty ghastly kid herself,’ said the gallant Captain meditatively, ‘so we ought to make a do of it.”
In between getting the various couples sorted out, we meet old friends and new friends as we share life in the English Countryside during the beginning of WWII. Most of the interesting and amusing developments and the new friends (and enemies) in this novel are due to the evacuations of children and a school from London to Barsetshire. Fair warning: If you are a communist, a refugee, or from an underprivileged urban background, you might be offended by some of the passages in this book.
Angela Thirkell isn’t as accessible as, say, D.E. Stevenson. I really had to concentrate and sometimes, re-read, to fully grasp the meaning of some of the language and subtle humor and satire. And also just to bask. But it is well worth the effort. I will continue to visit Barsetshire from time to time and already know the next three I will read or listen to.
But Oh, that ending! So glad I had my trusty ATW: ACGTTPAPOB to set my mind at rest.
August 26, 2021