August Folly by Angela Thirkell

A Second Angela Thirkell Omnibus cover

August Folly by Angela Thirkell was a re-read for me as although I’ve read all of Thirkell’s Barsetshire books, I read them out of order, just as I managed to find the books. I actually enjoyed this one one more the second time around. It had been my first ever Thirkell read originally and I’ve grown to love them more as I got to know the places and people better. She nicked ideas from a variety of classic authors, not just Trollope, there’s a wee bit of an homage to Jane Austen in this one.

August Folly mainly involves the large Tebben family, the Deans and the Palmers and a big part of the story is about the rehearsals for a play being put on in the village, the cast being a mixture of wealthy inhabitants and the locals that serve them as servants or in local shops. I suppose plays within books are a classic but I found the constant references to the play and Greek to be a bit annoying. On the other hand I did enjoy the children, especially as the younger Tebbens are a wild lot who think nothing of climbing all over the gables of their home, just about giving their mother heart failure.

I love the names of the surrounding villages, they all have wool connotations, Fleece, Winter Overcotes, Winter Underclose and Worsted. Thirkell was a terrific snob of course, and I usually just have a laugh to myself about that, but in August Folly one of the characters gets a third class degree from his university, but ends up getting a good start in a career from one of his neighbours as a thank you. That it’s not what you know but who you know mentality is something I really dislike in the real world.

The wartime books are by far my favourites so I’m looking forward to getting to those ones. I love it when Thirkell has a good old rant about the rationing, queuing and the government. I think those rants must have cheered up many struggling women trying to feed and clothe their families.

August Folly by Angela Thirkell

For some reason I was under the impression that August Folly was the first in Thirkell’s Barsetshire series, but it isn’t. I should have read High Rising first but I don’t have that one yet. This one was first published in 1936.

It’s set in the fictional Barsetshire village of Worsted, it’s sixty miles west of London and to get there you have to change trains at the village of Winter Overcotes.

As you would expect from a Thirkell book this is a light hearted romance and it mainly concerns the planning and rehearsals for a village play, an annual event. The book is full of characters who say things like: ‘Oh golly, that’s good, I’m frightfully, terribly, ghastly pleased.’

An enjoyable read but definitely not one of Thirkells best. I don’t think she really hit her stride until the outbreak of World War II. The whole thing gave her so much to write about with the big upheaval in society, especially all the red tape and rationing and the influx of foreigners and evacuees.

It’s still worth reading though and I hope to work my way through them all eventually. You can see a list of all of her books here if you’re interested.