2016: 120.-121. Two More by Thirkell


“The owner of Laverings looked out of his bedroom window on a dewy June morning.”

Before Lunch, Angela Thirkell

Yes, we are back to Thirkell.  But as long as Virago keeps reprinting them in gorgeous editions, I’m going to keep reading and buying them, so you might as well be resigned to just skipping these posts.  Or, you know, becoming a nut like me and getting into the slow-paced mostly Tory world of Barsetshire,  and the interconnected families that run it.  Here we have Jack Middleton, who lives with his wife Catherine at a small farm and fancies himself a county squire.  He is pompous and she is not, but they nonetheless are devoted to each other.  When his widowed sister Lillian and her two step-children arrive to spend the summer in a nearby house, fractious Jack worries they will ruin his idylls - he finds the daughter, Daphnes to be too capable and lively for his taste, while the son, Denis, is a composer who Jack thinks is a crashing bore.  But the rest of the county (including his own wife) disagree and soon the delightful newcomers are finding their places in the community - including catching the eye of the local Lord…

It’s pretty classic Thirkell with a nice little love story, but the part about Jack and what a pompous ass he is, and how his wife both loves him, and finds herself a little open to attention from another source who treats her with a little respect (and yet they all behave perfectly British-ly and nothing untoward really happens), is a different plot from Angela, and one that she handles quite well.  And have you ever read such a run-on sentence as the one I just wrote? It’s fun to watch her examine the dynamics of a marriage, instead of just young love.


“The sudden collapse into complete senility of that licensed old imposter, Mr. Bradford, had made it possible for the new headmaster to make some changes in the staff and replace him by a young man, not long down from the University, and Colin Keith was the man.”

Summer Half, Angela Thirkell

This is a good Thirkell to have finally read, because it’s one of those ones that they ofter refer to in other Thirkells, and I finally know what happened (though I had the gist of the plot obviously).  Colin Keith (who pops up time and again with his entire family) decides to take a year off from training for the Bar to teach at the Southbridge School.  He has a misguided idea that he needs to earn his own living rather than rely on his parents - but of course he moves home and makes them crazy while he does so, especially since he hates teaching and makes everyone miserable.  And he makes it worse by getting engaged to the headmaster’s featherbrained daughter Rose, the absolute worst girl for him.  Luckily it all works out in the end, and the journey is all the fun.  A more classic Thirkell, and I enjoyed it immensely!

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017