Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

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.

4 thoughts on “Marling Hall by Angela Thirkell

  1. I read this one in 1996 and all my little 3 x 5 card tells me, apart from a very brief synopsis, is that I enjoyed the characters and the ‘quiet humor’. Some of the books have made me laugh out loud, so I guess there’s a lot of variation in tone. All are, as you say, comfort reads.

    • Joan,
      I’m so envious of your cards, I wish I had been as organised as you over the years, it must be great to be able to look back like that. The Brandons had me laughing out loud at times but maybe after 3 years of war she was finding it difficult to be so funny with Marling Hall. I’m looking forward to reading them all eventually.

  2. I also seem to be reading about the Home Front a lot, especially since I’ve started reading Persephones (though not all of them could be described as comfort reads exactly). Thirkell sounds good but I feel like I should read all the Barsetshire Chronicles first and I have four more to go! I think I need to give up on American Idol and just read because I’ll never finish all of Trollope (ha!) if I keep watching television.

    • Karen,
      I haven’t read any Persephones yet, I’ve been able to get out of print books from Ebay or the library. I find the Home Front topic is like going back in time listening to the stories from my parents who were involved in the war. I hope you get around to Thirkell some time. I’m planning on starting the Palliser series soon. Our tv isn’t great at the moment so we’ve been watching The West Wing on dvd (can you believe we didn’t see it at the time?)
      BTW the Thirkell books just make the odd reference to being set in Barsetshire.

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