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Review: High Rising, by Angela Thirkell


Pages: 233

Original date of publication: 1933

My edition: 2009 (Moyer and Bell)

Why I decided to read: heard about this book through the Persephone discussion board on LibraryThing

How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, February 2010

High Rising is the first in a very long (31 books) series about the fictional place of Barsetshire, modeled on Trollope’s books. High Rising is the story of Laura Morland, a widow and mother who is also the author of ‘good bad books.” It follows Laura’s story over the course of roughly a year, as she manages her career and boisterous youngest son, Tony, and witnesses the foibles of the town of High Rising and its environs.

The story itself is was good enough for me to read to the end, but I do feel as though Angela Thirkell doesn’t quite have the comedic touch of DE Stevenson, or a knack for subtlety that Barbara Pym does. However, Thirkell is good at making her characters seem real, and immersing her readers in the world of Barsetshire. Laura Morland is a charming character, with her hair that’s constantly falling out of its pins when she’s consternated (which is often), or her fondness for lurid thrillers with titles such as The Winding Sheet of Blood. Equally well-defined is Laura’s train-obsessed son; or Laura’s pedantic neighbor, Gorge Knox, a writer himself. Angela Thirkell writes with her own unique, wry style of writing, and I enjoyed reading about the people she wrote about.

She’s less skilled, however, at describing Barsetshire; but having not read Trollope’s books, maybe I’m at a disadvantage here? As far as plot goes, not much “happens,” but I loved the simple intrigues of her characters and the way that, in the end, everything works out happily. I have to say, though, that this particular edition is awful; grammatical errors abound, which sometimes got in the way of my enjoyment of the novel. Still, I hope that this is a fluke, and these errors will be ironed out before subsequent editions will be published. Also, the descriptions of some of the other books in the series, at the end of this book, are terrible; the writer even gets the order of them wrong. In all, though, this is a good book, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

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