I’ve been looking for a copy of this book for quite a wee while now, so I was chuffed when I heard that Virago were reprinting it and Wild Strawberries, but I’ve already read that one. High Rising is her first Barsetshire book and thankfully there aren’t too many characters in it to keep track of. Mrs Laura Morland is a local author of popular fiction and is herself addicted to reading mysteries with titles like The Bucket of Blood. She’s completely unimpressed by her ability to write but when she sent her first manuscript to publisher Adrian Coates he recognised a ‘touch of good badness almost amounting to genius’ and had given her a contract for two more.
The village High Rising is also home to another author, George Knox, and his new secretary is upsetting the balance of the neighbourhood. Miss Grey is a manipulative, scheming woman, verging on madness and is out to hook her wealthy employer.
Romance isn’t really my favourite genre but these books have plenty of comedy and wit in them too but it’s the characters in her books which I love. She was just so good at writing recognisable types and although there are times when you want to shake Mrs Morland because of her constant hair malfunctions, you know it would only end up with more of her blooming hairpins cascading out of her hairdo.She has a good selection of characters who you would happily have as friends or neighbours and others you would go far to avoid meeting.
Thirkell writes touchingly about little boys too, it’s not something that you see in print often. As a mother of sons she was happy to describe the things which she adored about them, the way their hair grew round and round on their head, or dirt somehow exuded from their skin and the constant chat about whatever happens to be their obsession, and if you have boys yourself you’ll know that there is always something that they are ‘experts’ on.
Come to think of it, males never really grow out of that and do love to lecture women, especially about things that the women know more about. Have you noticed that! We had a side-splitting experience in a restaurant in Cheltenham earlier in the year when we couldn’t help over hearing a chap who didn’t draw breath the whole time we were there. I think his lady friend said about three words, but he wasn’t listening anyway. If I ever write a Middle Piddle book for my own amusement that chap is definitely going into it.
Well, that was me going off at quite a tangent, back to the book. I’m sure Mrs Morland is based on Thirkell herself as she was apparently quite embarrassed to be the author of the types of books she wrote and admitted that she ‘nicked’ from classic authors, but that’s what they all do anyway, if they don’t just rewrite the news or history. If you like a 1930s English village setting then you’ll probably really enjoy this one. I even love the cover, snow, hills, wee village buildings, trees, a stylish woman in a cloche hat and even a train – what is there NOT to like!
Virago have also reprinted Wild Strawberries.
If you want a list of Angela Thirkell’s other books have a look here.