87.- 114. The Angela Thirkell Project

So, after years of noodling around reading Angela Thirkell (who, if you’ve forgotten, wrote a series of novels set in a fictional British county called Barsetshire), I decided to re-read the whole series, in order.  As I’ve said a bazillion times before, I had been reading the books as they came into my life, and so, while I could follow the plot of each particular novel, I was missing the experience of the background of county life - the characters that reappeared in in each story and who was related to whom and all that jazz.  So this summmer I re-read them all in order, and enjoyed them immensely.  But since these books are barely of interest to anyone on earth but me, I’m not going to go on and on re-reviewing them.  Rather, I’ll link to  my previous reviews of each novel, and then briefly review here anyone that I read for the first time this summer.  Because I am well aware that my weird Thirkell obsession is of interest to no one who reads this blog, and I’m only blogging about it to be a completeist about the number of books I read this week.  Thank you for your patience, and feel free to skip on to the next post.

The Barsetshire Chronicles (I only re-read these - I’ve not finished her stand alone novels)

 87.  High Rising (1933)

 88.   Wild Strawberries (1934)

 89.  The Demon in the House (1934)

 90.  August Folly  (1936)

 91.  Summer Half (1937)

 92.  Pomfret Towers (1938)

 93.   The Brandons (1939)

 94.   Before Lunch (1940)

 95.  Cheerfulness Breaks In (1940) - This one was new to me, and it was pretty darn good, so I was glad to finally read it.  Rose Birkett, the pretty and brainless daughter of the headmaster of the Southbridge School (a school which features prominently in the series), is finally getting married, after having broken hearts all over the county with silly broken engagements.  While the wedding planning is going on, Lydia Keith, who has been one of our favorite characters from the very beginning, starts to transform from the wild hoyden she’s been the whole series, to a serious young woman, and finds herself in love.  I know, it doesn’t sound like much, but Lydia is one of the central characters of the series, and her transformation from wild child to young woman - while still keeping her essential Lydianess is quite lovely.  (I don’t want to say more in fear of spoilers, but, on the other hand, you’d have to be blind and deaf to not figure out who Lydia is going to end up marrying).  My only complaint with the book is that it ends super super abruptly (and kind of on a major cliffhanger), and that sort of ending is so different from other Thirkells that I went to the library to make sure pages weren’t missing from my edition.  But all in all a good read - and I didn’t even get into the social history about the early days of the war!

96. Northbridge Rectory (1941)

 97.   Marling Hall (1942)

 98.   Growing Up (1943)

99.    The Headmistress (1944)

100.    Miss Bunting (1945)

101.    Peace Breaks Out (1946)

102.    Private Enterprise (1947)

103.    Love Among the Ruins (1948)

104.  The Old Bank House (1949)

105. County Chronicle (1950)

106.    The Duke's Daughter (1951)

107.   Happy Returns (1952)

 108.   Jutland Cottage (1953)

109.    What Did It Mean? (1954)

110.    Enter Sir Robert (1955)

111.    Never Too Late (1956)

112.    A Double Affair (1957) - This one concerns the marriage of the vicar of Hatch End (Mr. Choyce) to our old friend Miss Merriman, who has heretofore spent her life in the service of others.  The excitement about the wedding, of course, causes love to bloom in other quarters.

113.    Close Quarters (1958) - This book focuses on Margot Macfayden, formally Margot Phelps, who was the focus of Jutland Cottage.  After having made a delightful marriage and escaping her loving, but overbearing parents, she finds herself unexpectedly widowed.  She is devastated.  And though she is financially secure, she doesn’t know how she will live her life.  Worse, her parens health has failed significantly, and she is petrified that she’ll have to move back to care for them, and resume her old, beaten down life.  Luckily, her old friend Canon Fewling is determined not to let her get subsumed again, and helps her come up with a plan to keep her independance and still do right by her family.

114.    Love at All Ages (1959) -  This one is less plotty - its more a collection of events that happened in Barsetshire and a bunch of engagements and babies being born and all that.  And complaining about how things have changed and being vaguely snobbish.  But it’s the last true Thirkell and it’s nice enjoyable fluff - exactly what you expect to get in late period Thirkell.

115. Three Score and Ten (1961) (with C.A. Lejeune) - This is the last Barsetshire book, and it wraps up the series delightfully.  It centers on famous author Mrs. Morland (our Thirkell stand in, who has been in the books since at least the third book), who is turning seventy.  Her friends decide that they must throw her a party to show her how loved and appreciated by the county, even though she’s not a native of Barsetshire (no, living there for 40 years is not enough).  It’s a perfect set up for a last book, because we catch up with everyone we love as the party is being planned. However, I don’t think Thirkell wrote much of this before she before she died, and that the bulk was written by her collaborator - especially because it does such a good job wrapping all the plot strands up..  But regardless, it’s a perfect capper to the series.  It gives us a last view of Barsetshire and all the people who live there and and whom we’ve grown to love.  

Other books

    Ankle Deep (1931)

    Three Houses (1931)

    Trooper to the Southern Cross (1934; republished as What Happened on the Boat)

    O These Men, These Men! (1935) - ABOVE!

    The Grateful Sparrow (1935)

    The Fortunes of Harriet (1936)

Christmas at High Rising (2013) - collection of short stories

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017