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The unmarried Anne Todd, a wonderful secretary as well as a devoted bedside nurse to her decrepit mother, is an archetypal Thirkell heroine: plucky, determined, resourceful, but acutely aware that being safely married would be a better alternative. The current resurgence of interest of Thirkell, several of whose 40-odd novels of life in imaginary "Barsetshire" before World War II are being reissued, has awakened a nostalgia for the sharp glittering surfaces of her work. High Rising is Thirkell at her warm, easygoing best.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"A symbol of enduring British virtues...No one living has such mastery over the humor of non sequiturs." -- The New York Times
I have loved Angela Thirkell for many years and was thrilled to see her novels appear in attractive trade editions. They are well-bound and the covers are appealing.
However -- the new editions are apparently scanned from the old and not proofed. There are innumerable extra commas and periods. There are sentences that bound from one line down to the next. There is even, in Wild Strawberries, a sentence that leaps from the end of one chapter to the first line of the next - thus spanning two pages. There are meaningless characters, letters, and numbers that appear as artifacts. There are many words that are misread in the process and the error changes the meaning of sentences.
I bought 4 books at once and this is true in every one of them - some much worse than others. The errors are distracting and sometimes annoying. There are just too many of them to ignore. As much as I like the look and feel of these new editions, I do not plan to spend more money on them and may return the 4 I bought.
But Thirkell is still a great read if you treasure a peaceful journey through known country.
The divine Angela Thirkell, to my mind a latter-day Jane Austen, wrote her simply wonderful novels about upper-class village life in pre-war England, in a series of 40 or so novels that are simply irresistable. Her plots captured a time, a mind-set, and a way of life that is long gone, and in fact, her later novels, set just after the war, already reflected a desperate nostalgia for a never-to-return past. Never mind, though, because "High Rising," one of the earliest of Thirkell's series, is a delight you won't soon forget. The plot centers, as always, on a blithering author whose high-piled hair is continually in disarray, often spewing hairpins at the most inappropriate of times. A widow, she has raised several strapping sons, and is now engaged in trying to educate her youngest, the irrepressible and impossibly boring 8-year-old, Tony. To do so, she must churn out novels, and to that end, she employs a secretary named Anne Todd. And so the plot begins. Anne is a selfless creature who uncomplainingly cares for her ailing elderly mother, a task that is draining her almost to illness. But plucky pre-war Britishers of a certain class never complained, and neither does Anne. The plot thickens when a truly horrid gold-digger appears to become secretary to another author, and proceeds to wreak terrible havoc on this close-knit society. She is truly an "incubus," which becomes her secret nickname. So. What will become of the incubus? Will she succeed in her nefarious plot to marry wealthy Geoffrey, a scholarly author who doesn't have a clue? If so, what of Geoffrey's teenaged daughter? Who will mind the dogs? Will High Rising (Tony's prep school) survive yet another class of noxious boys? Will the good village doctor, besotted by Anne, be successful in his gentlemanly courtship? And most of all...can anyone resist this book??
It is good to see Angela Thirkell's light novels once more receiving attention, especially in the USA. "High Rising" is one of her first novels, dating from 1933. There were many English novelists in the 1930s who mined the traditionally English vein of gentle parody, graceful writing, mild absurdity, and class distinction. Much handsomer than most of them, and exhibiting the influence of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, Angela Thirkell peopled her novels with descendants of characters found in the latter's Barsetshire novels. If that gives an idea of the flavor and style that might be enjoyed in her books, I can add that this one chronicles the dizzy doings of Laura Morland, a novelists, who juggles the demands of four sons, her publisher, her secretary, her formidable maid Stoker, and a friend George Knox whom most think should be more than a friend to her. The custom of "coming to tea" sets them all interacting. Watch for the number of verbs Angela Thirkell can employ - from plunge, to insinuate - to describe how characters can enter a room.
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High Rising is the first book in the Barsetshire series and it centers on Laura Morland, a widowed author who writes "good bad books" in order to support her family. After her husband's death, the mother of four boys decided to become a very successful author of second-rate books and in the course of time, she has managed to attract a large reading public with her entertaining books about the fashion industry in 1930s England. Thus, she leads a happy life with her youngest son and her hilarious housekeeper Stoker in High Rising where she often visits her quirky friends and neighbors. But her friends and neighbours are not the only ones who are comical. Laura's eight-year-old son Tony has a passion for trains and his love for trains often results in endless discourses about his objects of desire. Tony's speeches are often very exhausting and Laura is glad to meet with her friends in order to relax and talk about other matters. With her neighbor and friend George Knox, she can discuss her books since George is a fellow writer (although a very eccentric one). Nonetheless, Laura really enjoys his company and she also enjoys being surrounded by her other friends, including her secretary Anne Todd and her publisher Adrian Coates. Overall, Laura is really content with her life in High Rising and she loves its close-knit community, but everything changes when her friend George hires a new secretary. Miss Grey, or the "Incubus", is a very devoted secretary, but something just seems odd about her. When High Rising's residents begin to suspect that Miss Grey secretly intends to marry George, Laura tries to prevent this unthinkable thing from happening. Aided by her friends, Laura is eager to reveal Miss Grey's real intentions and to restore happiness in High Rising.Read more ›
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