Love At All Ages by Angela Thirkell was first published in 1959 and it’s everything that you would expect from a Thirkell book.
The government’s tax regime has caused the one time wealthy of the county of Barsetshire to have to economise, so most of the large houses have been rented out to private schools and various businesses. This sounds like a dire drop in their status but in truth they are all very pleased with the situation, most of them didn’t like the massive homes that were so uncomfortable, impossible to heat and the distances between kitchen and dining-room so vast that their food was always cold by the time it reached them.
This one features mainly the Pomfret and Towers families and as you would expect there are the usual hatches and matches all very satisfactory. Sadly this book doesn’t feature Mr Adams, one of my favourite characters although Mr Wickham is present, he’s a sort of one man booze supplier who feels an affinity with anyone with a similar fondness for the demon drink. (Kamarade!)
Editorially Thirkell’s books could be described as being a total mess. She rambles madly and goes off at tangents, but it’s all obviously contrived. She’s madly snobbish and she freely admitted to nicking stuff from many authors – Trollope and Dickens obviously, but I’ve just realised that she nicked things from E.F.Benson’s writing too. I read Trollope but avoid Dickens so I’m sure that I’m missing a lot of allusions to his writing, not that that would spoil the books for anyone. There are a couple of mistakes in this book, but by this time Thirkell herself was obviously getting confused with all the many inhabitants of her Barsetshire, something which she admitted within this book.
I do think that Thirkell’s best books are those that she wrote during and about World War 2 and the subsequent years when Britain was struggling under austerity and the never ending ration. It gave her so much scope to have rants against those who were in power and gives a window into life as it was lived and the changes in society, always entertaining and informative.
Several other readers have mentioned on Goodreads that Love At All Ages is the last in her Barsetshire series but I have Three Score Years and Ten which was published two years later. Although it was unfinished at her death, and was finished by C.A. Lejeune who apparently had often spoken of the characters with Angela Thirkell, so hopefully she was able to replicate the same atmosphere of the books. I intend to read it soon-ish.