Classics Club Spin # 23 – Summer Half by Angela Thirkell

Angela Thirkell omnibus

I feel it’s a bit of a cheat putting Angela Thirkell’s Summer Half on my Classics Club list as it doesn’t really fit in with my idea of a classic but I’m trying to work my way through the books I have in my house and I don’t have many classics unread. Having said that – this is a re-read for me as I read Thirkell’s books just as I managed to get a hold of them, and now I’ m reading them again, in the correct order. Summer Half was first published in 1937.

Colin Keith’s father expects him to continue with his law studies and go on to be a barrister, but Colin feels bad about living off his parents, he feels it’s time to earn some money so he applies for a teaching post at the prep school at Southbridge. He’s nervous about the boys though, would he be able to cope with them? When he’s successful he’s in two minds about it as he really does enjoy his law studies.

The other teachers are a friendly set though and Colin settles down. Philip Winter is another young teacher there and he has the misfortune to be engaged to Rose Birkett, the headmaster’s daughter. Rose is beautiful to look at but she’s an intensely annoying dimwit with a tiny vocabulary. Philip is her third or maybe fourth fiance- and she’s only 18. The older boys in the school are incensed at the way Rose treats Philip and young Tony Morland and Eric Swan particularly do their best to protect him from her constant flirting with any other handy males.

As the setting is mainly the school there’s a lot of fun with the boys, particularly Hacker who is their classics scholar and is a bit of a nerdy character. He has a pet chameleon and in Hacker’s attempts to look after his pet he inadvertently causes mayhem in the school, but such fun!

“Mr Carter pointed out that the classics appeared to be no preparation for life, in that they did not, so far as he could see, even train a boy to think.”

I had to laugh when I read the line above as it’s so true. You just have to think of Boris Johnson who allegedly reads ancient Greek, but can barely string a sentence together in English.

This one was perfect light reading for Covid-19 times.

10 thoughts on “Classics Club Spin # 23 – Summer Half by Angela Thirkell

  1. I just finished another Thirkell a couple of weeks ago, Cheerfulness Breaks In, and Rose shows up again! I won’t say another word but I was sorry I’d waited so long between Thirkells (more than a year) because I’d lost the thread of the intertwining characters and was really confused. Thirkell is a really good author for now, so distracting, I won’t wait long before I take up the next volume.

    I also have some Thirkells and forgotten classics on my second CC list. Like you, I’m really trying to work through the books in my house and I’ve already read a lot of the major classic works. I’m digging deeper into those backlist books this time around, a lot of Viragos and lesser known books.

    • Karen K.

      I read that one a while ago, as I recall Rose’s eventual marriage changes her for the better, in some ways, but she has now discovered the word ‘dispiriting’.
      I intend to get around to reading more Trollopes but they’ll have to be from Gutenberg I think and on my Kindle as I have none left in the house unread.

  2. I keep thinking about trying a book by Thirkell, but feeling like there are too many in the series. I think I just have to try High Rising some time this year, and see how I like it. If I am going to read them, I want to do it in order.

    • tracybham,
      Her World War 2 books are my favourites and you don’t really need to read them in order although if you like them you would probably end up re-reading them in order as I am. Mind you they are not for everybody, some just don’t like her style which can be rambling at times.

  3. I love Angela Thirkell so much, and indeed she’s perfect for Covid escapism. High Rising is one I really like — so much fun with those boys, and poor tormented Philip. Colin’s sister Lydia is one of my all-time favorite characters.

    I too did a little quarantine Thirkell-reading — it was a historical one that was new to me, and it was wonderful. Pitch-perfect Victorian dialogue/writing.

    • Jean,
      I like Lydia too, she’s so motherly, I love that she travels around with all her sewing and darning implements and longs to sew on buttons. Which Thirkell was it that you read recently? Thanks for dropping by.

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