This book was first published in 1942 and the attack on Pearl Harbor (7th Dec 1941) is mentioned towards the end of it. This sort of book would have been a perfect read for people in need of comfort books during that terrible time.
Marling Hall is set in Anthony Trollope’s fictional Barsetshire. Times are changing fast and Mr Marling fears that he won’t be able to hand his estate over to the younger generation. That way of life is disappearing. Lettice, the eldest daughter of the family, has been widowed by the war and has moved into the converted stables to live with her two young daughters.
Meanwhile Frances and Geoffrey Harvey, a brother and sister, have turned up in the village looking for a house to rent after having been bombed out of their London flat. They rent The Red House from Mrs Smith who takes a room just across the road and spends most of her time nicking everything out of her old home under the noses of the occupants. Her attitude was that since she owned the house then she could take whatever she wanted including the veggies which the tenants had grown and the eggs laid by their chickens – and worse! All through the book I just longed for Mrs Smith to get her come-uppance but it never happened. In my mind I’ve gripped her firmly by the neck and given her a good rattling but I’m still hopeful of her meeting her match in a later Thirkell book.
Mrs Smith reminded me of Mapp from EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books as she also had a habit of waltzing into her old house uninvited. Lucy the younger Marling daughter is similar to Quaint Irene too, a sort of rumbustious adult tomboy. Unfortunately she used the ‘n’ word a couple of times when her father was trying to find an alternative word for ‘native’ – but it was 1942.
Again, it’s all ration books and clothing coupons and knitting for soldiers and romance, but not the soppy kind which I can’t be doing with at all. Miss Bunting, who seems to have been nursemaid to all the toffs of Barsetshire is in control of the situation.
I don’t seem to be able to get away from The Home Front at the moment. Bizarrely there’s something very comforting about books set in that time and let’s face it we’re in need of comfort reads at the moment for all sorts of reasons. We’re definitely living in interesting times!
This is another author whom I’m reading as part of my CPR Book Group Ceilidh which is about trying to breathe life back into neglected authors and books. This one wasn’t as funny as The Brandons but was still very enjoyable, Angela Thirkell deserves to be more widely read.
Feel free to nominate your own favourite neglected authors.