read_warbler (read_warbler) wrote,

Two Angela Thirkells

Sometimes you're just in the mood for 'gentle'... as in books that are undemanding, charming, humorous... gentle. Which is how I ended up reading a couple of Angela Thirkell books in a row. First up, August Folly.

The Dean family, mother and father Rachel and Frank, and six of their nine children are coming to the Dower house for the summer. The oldest son, Laurence, 27, is to inherit the Palmer estate, the Palmers being childless. 'Organising' Mrs. Palmer is putting on a play for the village and has decided that it will be the Greek play, Hippolytus. The plan is to rope in the Dean family to act in the play and also the Tebbens, whose son and daughter, Richard and Margaret are also home for the summer. Richard is rather self-centred, his parents' golden boy, didn't work hard at university and thus got a third for his degree when he was capable of better. Margaret has been working abroad, where she knew Laurence Dean quite well. Richard is dreading the summer with parents who annoy and embarrass him, but has reckoned without the irrepressible Deans.

These Angela Thirkell novels (both of these set in the 1930s) are sheer delight from start to finish. This one had a lot of characters so it was necessary to concentrate a bit to remember who was who but even I managed to get there in the end. The story is basically a romance but Thirkell did not write in a sentimental manner about people so these stories are not soppy in any way. They're full of humour and very accurate as regards human failings. I love how Richard, in his early twenties, falls for the middle-aged mother of nine children. The eldest Dean girl, Helen, is so possessive of her brother, Laurence, that she's made miserable when he seems to be falling for Margaret. And the children in Thirkell's books are always so real... there's even a couple of mentions of Tony Morland from previous books. All in all... delightful. I have a feeling I'm going to end up with a massive collection of Angela Thirkell's books.

Next, Summer Half.

Colin Keith is studying for the Bar but decides that he shouldn't be so dependant on his parents and takes a post as a teacher at Southbridge School for boys. The head master and his wife have two daughters, one of whom, Rose, is engaged to Philip Winter a teacher in the same house as Colin. Rose is beautiful, but far from clever. She's also flighty and likes to have the attention of every man in the room. It makes Philip edgy and unpredictable. Colin has two sisters, Lydia, still at school, and the beautiful Kate. Colin's house master, Everard Carter, falls for Kate but Kate seems to be interested in someone else. Add in two schoolboys, Eric Swan and Tony Morland from Demon in the House, now older but still irrepressible, and you have a recipe for much drama and highjinks both at school and during the holidays.

This Angela Thirkell again has a 'huge' cast of characters, all of them very individual with quirks and flaws that make them very real. I always like a book set in a school so that was delightful too and it was very nice to see Tony Morland again, who hadn't changed much in the intervening five or so years. The romantic tangles and misunderstandings were of a similar nature to August Folly, at least in one instance, but as I enjoyed that aspect that was fine. Again there was a lot of humour to the fore mainly as regards the quirks of human nature. One thing strikes as you read these books, set in the 1930s, and that's how much fun the children had outdoors. Even the older ones at 16 or 17 were happy getting messy clearing out a pond or swimming in the river. And reading! Goodness they were well read. They seemed so much younger than modern kids of that age which was rather refreshing. Another super read from Angela Thirkell... I gave both books a five on Goodreads.

August Folly and Summer Half are my books 18 and 19 for Bev's Mount TBR 2015 challenge.
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