Friday, April 19, 2013

Discovering Angela Thirkell



Attention, Barbara Pym fans!

Angela Thirkell (1890-1961) was a very prolific English/Australian author. She wrote a book nearly every year from the 1930's through 1960, including her Barsetshire series which deals with life in an English country village and features many recurring characters. She has a small, but very devout following in our book blogging community and, after reading High Rising, I have joined their ranks.

A summary, from Goodreads:
In High Rising, Mrs. Morland, a widowed author, must attend to the deeper problems of country life while her son Tony drives everyone to distraction with his amazing combination of toy trains. Here Mrs. Thirkell demonstrates the characteristic style for which she is known and for which readers love her. This is fiction replete with gentle irony, grave absurdity, and urbane understatement.
"You read her, relaxed and smiling, from the first word to the last."-Chicago Sun

My one sentence review:
Reading High Rising reminded me of  Barbara Pym minus the clergy - a perfect comfort read!

A bit more:
High Rising was the perfect antidote to my classics-laden March reading. I became lost in 1930's English country life. Thirkell's first novel in her Barsetshire series offers romance, intrigue, and a totally delightful cast of characters, including two authors, a literary agent, a conniving secretary, a boy obsessed with trains, a country doctor, servants, and more. My understanding is that many of them will reappear in later books.

Although there are many novels in the Barsetshire series, they can be difficult to find. Thankfully, Virago has recently reissued High Rising and Wild Strawberries (books 1 and 2), and will hopefully release more in the future.

I read an older Moyer Bell edition and was distracted by an unending series of typos - some rather unfortunate, as "dear" Mrs. Morland became "deaf".

The search for  more Angela Thirkell novels has begun.

My rating:



Last word:
I've officially changed my mind about series and can't wait to read the next novel, Wild Strawberries.

High Rising
by Angela Thirkell
Barsetshire Series #1
Moyer Bell, 2008
originally published in 1933
source: purchased

26 comments:

  1. Yay!!!! Great (even if uneven) pleasures ahead. Funny...I bought the Moyer Bells as they originally came out and never noticed the typos...but everyone's talking about them so it's possible I didn't read enough in those editions to notice (because I usually do!) I had a lot of fun collecting my 'library' - there was one (Pomfret Towers) that eluded me for a while, but I have all of them now. I was reading them in order years ago then stopped (for the Double Dare reason!) so the only possible solution is to start again.

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    1. Audrey - It was your post on High Rising that finally convinced me to start reading Thirkell - thank you! In Lisa May's comment below, she says the older Moyer Bells had fewer typos. I'm guessing you read those. The 2008 edition is really a disgrace... can't believe they even published it with all those errors.

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  2. Glad to hear that you have found Thirkell. I found her Barsetshire series in December, and since then, have been steadily reading through her works. (Up to #7 now.) It's a lovely series, rather non-demanding and all stand-alones it seems to me. They might have refs to previous characters in the later volumes, but they are their own story, so I think it's ok if you read them out of order. (They're tough to find.) I am lucky to have a good inter-library loan system so have been getting the next one in the series from libraries all over the place. If I hadn't that option, I don't think I would have got far as they seem OOP in many places. Enjoy!

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    1. Ravingreader - I spent some time yesterday scouring our inter-library loan offerings and found more than expected... thanks for the suggestion. It will be fun to start collecting them at used book stores and sales, too!

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  3. I must admit I have not heard of this author before. She sounds like a real treasure so thank you for introducing me to her and her work.

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    1. Kathleen - Thirkell could become my comfort read of choice! ;-)

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  4. I'm so pleased you enjoyed this! It really is a wonderful introduction to the series. I'm OCD about series, but I do think it's helpful to read these in order, because there are constant references to past events, and some continuing story lines. But I know how hard to find these are, so that reading in order might be difficult.

    I think the newer Moyer Bell editions have many more typos than the ones I bought a few years ago.

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    1. Lisa May - I'm the same way about series, and that's probably why I don't read many ;-) This season's used book sales will be more fun now that I have something specific in mind. I'd love to find a Barsetshire guide, too.

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  5. I'm envious! I think I'm going to have to treat myself and buy it.

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    1. Cat - I doubt you'll be sorry if you do!

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  6. I'm so looking forward to reading the new copy of High Rising that I just got in the mail! I can't wait to enter her world.

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    1. Anbolyn - I have a feeling you're going to love it... especially with that beautiful Virago edition I spied on your blog yesterday!

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  7. I haven't heard of this author at all - kind of surprising considering the number of books she's written. Will add her to Pym on the list of authors I must pick up!

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    1. Lisa- Thirkell may become my go-to comfort read. Just hope I can find more of her books.

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  8. I find this exciting for two reasons. The first is that I want to read her so I can compare and contrast to Pym in time for the reading week. The second is that I know have something to hunt for when I go to a big book sale with Teresa and Frances tomorrow (and for the Ithaca sale on May 12th).

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    1. Thomas - I was just wondering I should have saved this post for Pym week... maybe a reprise will be in order. It will be great to have a focus for book sale season, too.

      Our May weekends are ridiculously full this year with Mother's Day, moving daughter out of dorm, and other travel, but the Ithaca sale came up at book club yesterday. We may have a couple of cars going down on the 13th... save some Thirkells for me??

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  9. I read one last year and didn't like it, but a friend told me it was one of her least favorites. I just saw 3 in a used book sale and passed on them. They were Baretshire novels too. Maybe I should have given them a go?

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    1. Peggy - Since Thirkell wrote over 30 books, I wouldn't be surprised if a few fall short. I'd recommend reading High Rising before you write her off completely.

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  10. Angela Thirkell is a treasure. I must get back to more of her books!

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    1. Debbie Rodgers - I feel like I'm late to the Thirkell party ;-)

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  11. Another author that I must try for sure. I adore comfort reads!!!

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    1. Staci - High Rising was the best comfort read I've come across in a while!

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  12. I'm glad Angela Thirkell is experiencing a revival, but do think the two new Viragos are her best books. In some of her later books she became rather repetitive and formulaic, with weak plots, and she is not as sharp as Barbara Pym. However, she is a great amusing comfort read, so do try High Rising and Wild Strawberries!

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    1. Michelle Ann - I've heard others say High Rising and Wild Strawberries are among Thirkell's finest and I do look forward to reading more of the Barsetshire series... suppose I shall keep going until I become bored or discouraged. Barbara Pym is definitely a treasure! Thanks for your comment.

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  13. Thanks for introducing me to a new author!

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    1. Stacybuckeye - You're welcome! Thirkell was a great discovery.

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