I read this one well before Christmas but have been procrastinating over writing about it - amongst all the delights of reading older fiction there is one recurring thorny issue politely referred to as 'opinions reflecting their time'. I had thought about trying to organise my ideas on this and using a particular passage in 'Wild Strawberries' as an illustration but so far so disorganised and it's a theme I'll have plenty of opportunity to return to.
Meanwhile back to 'Wild Strawberries' before my memory fades. It's not (in my opinion) quite as much fun as 'High Rising', it lacks a Tony Morland, and the eccentric Lady Emily is no substitute for Laura Morland either. Lady Emily is an immensely irritating woman who is always late, always losing things and always re-organising things that were working just fine before she interfered with them - I sensed that even Thirkell was fed up with her by the end of the book as she allows a certain amount of criticism to drift into the narrative. Annoying as she can be though Lady Emily is still a living breathing character you can believe in- the vicar who perhaps suffers most from her ability to disturb the peace is determined to speak stern words to her until he sees her touched by tragedy. The bitter sweet moments that Thirkell creates for Lady Emily and her husband are one of the strengths of this book - and one of the things that marks it out from being a standard read once and throw away romance.
Being Thirkell however there is plenty of romance - mostly for Mary Preston, Mary has been having a hard time at home looking after her mother and holding down a job. The job is fairly meaningless but the Preston's really aren't at all well off so Mary is grateful for an invitation to her relations country house for the summer - where she promptly falls in love with a glamorous sort of cousin who turns out to be as unreliable as he is attractive. Will she realise in time that her affections are being wasted on the playboy type and that there's a much more suitable alternative right under her nose? Of course she will, it wouldn't be a very satisfactory romance without a happy ending.
The joy of Angela Thirkell for me is partly that she makes for enjoyable light reading and so often that's just what I need at the end of the day, the other side of what she does is throw a light on a particular way of life in the 1930's. For someone who delighted first in P.G Wodehouse and later in Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford anything from the 30's raises a bit of interest, but much as I love those writers they're not great for domestic detail. Thirkell's world feels more or less real and it's fascinating.
I still hope that Virago plan to publish lots more Thirkell's, so am delighted to see that 'Pomfret Towers' is coming out in November (shame about the long wait) especially as it's one that I haven't read and is prohibitively expensive second hand. With luck it will come out in a pair as 'Wild Strawberries' and 'High Rising' did but either way is set to be one of the highlights of my bookish year.
If you can find The Demon in the House (it comes between High Rising and Wild Strawberries), you'll find Laura and Tony again. I'm so glad these books are being published again...I just wish they were being sold here! :)ReplyDelete
I keep an eye out for her but apart from the old penguin paperbacks affordable Thirkell's are hard to come by. Such a shame because the more I read the more I enjoy her.Delete
Pomfret Towers is coming out in November?!?! I obviously hadn't heard that news yet but am thrilled by it since PT is one of my favourite books in the series.ReplyDelete
Though there is no single character in Wild Strawberries that I enjoy as much as Laura in High Rising, for me it is just a more satisfying book. The Leslies are a strange but fascinating bunch and I think Thirkell's way of treating them, with a mixture of affection and irritation, is one of the things I love best about her. So many others need to have characters that are entirely likeable; Thirkell has very few of those. Everyone is flawed and the hero and heroine of one book (this one being a good example) are happily derided in subsequent volumes.
I read Laura's review which obviously sent me straight to a****n to look for copies and that's how I noticed it was coming out. Delighted as Thirkell can be so hard to track down. 'Wild Strawberries' isn't my favourite but it is very good. The Leslies are an interesting bunch - Lady Emily could so easily have been an irritating caricature but she isn't quite that. Maddening, but believable, and the whole episode about visiting the vicars tenants months before they're due is so funny...Delete
Absolutely Audrey! The Demon in the House is one of my favourites. I've reread it several times. I love the scene in which Master Wesendonck bursts into tears and Tony explains to his mother what the trouble is.ReplyDelete
...meant also to say that on the Angela Thirkell FB group http://www.facebook.com/groups/21316783056/?fref=ts -- which you would be most welcome to join @:-) -- we discussed Lady Emily when we did a group read of Wild Strawberries. She irritated several people but had her supporters too.ReplyDelete
Thank you Margaret, The Demon In The House sounds great. I've enjoyed Tony in every book I've found him in and would like much more of him.Delete