Given these weird and scary times we now live in, Angela Thirkell seems like the only sensible option! Her gentle social satire, quintessential British humour and lightness of touch in the face of adversity is not only comforting but inspiring.
High Rising is the first book in a 29 book series, the Barsetshire Chronicles, a homage to Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire books. Barsetshire is a fictional English county used by both authors for their cast of characters – mostly gentry and clergy – to run around in.
Thirkells’s light, amusing, romantic stories are given an added extra something when we take into account that most of the early books in particular, where written contemporaneously. The WWII books were written as they were living it, without knowing when or how it would end, how many lives would be lost or what sacrifices they might be called on to make as a society. Doubt and fear underlie every action in these books. Yet you cannot live every single moment of every single day like that. Daily life continues, even though it’s different to ‘before’. New things become normal, hardships are sudden and unexpected. But carry on, you must. And if you must carry on, then you might as well do it with as much good grace and humour as you can.
High Rising takes place in 1933. Events are unfolding in Europe that will have profound effects on this world one day. We know that, but Thirkell and her delightful, charming characters do not. They are still in the grateful to have survived The Great War phase. Their quiet, domestic arrangements have not been impacted by the wild, crazy 20’s or the Depression. They’re enjoying the new freedoms and new emerging technologies that make their daily lives easier. Getting electricity put in for the first time or even a telephone, having the bathroom plumbed or a new motor car. These are the great advances of society to be celebrated and enjoyed.
It’s hard not to feel nostalgic about this innocence today.
Laura Morland is a wonderful creation. Independent, caring and very practical. She embodies resilience and strength of character. A widow with four boys, all but one grown up and out in the world, she earns her way by writing frivolous romances.
She was quite contented, and never took herself seriously, though she took a lot of trouble over her books. If she had been more introspective, she might have wondered at herself for doing so much in ten years, and being able to afford a small flat in London, and a reasonable little house in the country, and a middle-class car. The only thing that did occasionally make her admire herself a little was that she actually had a secretary.
I hope to see a lot more of Laura in the future.