Three Score and Ten by Angela Thirkell is her last book, unfortunately she died before she was able to finish writing it, but her friend C.A. Lejeune finished it off for her, presumably she had left some notes. I think that Lejeune did a fairly good job of it although as it was the year of Princess Margaret’s marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones that was given a few mentions and I believe that Thirkell didn’t write about such things, although I could be completely wrong about that.
The three score years and ten belong to that famous Barsetshire novellist – Mrs Morland. Of course strictly speaking she isn’t a local as she has only been there for forty years, but she’s very popular with young and old and they’re keen to mark her big day in some way. With Mr Wickham in charge of the booze procurement her party is obviously going to be a success.
This book features many of Barsetshire’s favourites – such as Sam Adams and his wife Lucy. The dreadful bishop and his wife are kept at bay as usual and it is that swine Lord Aberfordbury who provides the conflict by planning to knock down some well-loved cottages to build a factory on their site.
I particularly enjoyed this excerpt:
It is well known that it is not safe to have books in the house as they marry and have children, so producing over-populated neighbourhoods; but attics are just as bad. So, if one comes to think about it, is one’s own desk or writing table on which letters answered and unanswered, cards of invitations to various meetings, a Christmas Card that one can’t bear to throw away because it is so pretty, a notice of a concert that took place two months ago, one or two newspaper cuttings, a newspaper which one kept because because one meant to cut something out of it and then forgot what it was, all get mixed up with one another, all lie in confusion; and old bits of furniture and other odds and ends do certainly increase and multiply.
Purists may decide not to read this one as Thirkell didn’t manage to get it finished but I think that Lejeune did manage to write in her madly rambling style and also reproduced the ways of speech employed by the ‘lower orders’, that’s probably one of the things that so annoys people who aren’t fans of Thirkell’s writing, thinking it points her out as being a horrible snob, but it’s a skill writing in what is really a dialect just as she sometimes writes in a Scots dialect, and of course, she got that right too as her father was Scottish, she spent a lot of time in Scotland and had J.M. Barrie as her godfather.
I think I’ve now read all of her Barsetshire books, except the first one Northbridge Rectory. I’m waiting for a copy of that to arrive in the post, and when it does I intend to start reading the series again, in order this time. They’re comfort reads for me, perfect reading during yet another general election campaign and what seems like a constant stream of bad news stories.