High Rising by Angela Thirkell

It’s the time of the year when if I’m not on holiday then I have people visiting me for a holiday, so I’ve just been too busy to blog recently, but a fun time was had by all as we dashed about the east of Scotland showing friends some sights. But back to blogging:

One of the books on my 20 Books of Summer 2017 list is Angela Thirkell’s High Rising, a re-read for me because I wanted to read them all in the correct order this time around. High Rising introduces many of the inhabitants of Barsetshire, that updated setting of many of Anthony Trollope’s books and featuring some of the descendants of his characters, but that is by the by as it really doesn’t matter if you haven’t read those books.

The book was first published in 1933 but my copy is a modern re-print with an introduction by Alexander McCall Smith. It mainly features Mrs Laura Morland, a widow with four sons, three of whom are out in the world, but her youngest son Tony is still at prep school and he’s the reason she keeps writing her very popular Madam Koska books, she needs the money they bring in to pay for his school fees apart from anything else. Tony is an exasperating little boy, absolutely full of himself and constantly boasting, but there’s a lot of comedy in Tony’s shenanigans. Thirkell had two sons of her own and I’m sure that she was using an actual boy as a template for Tony’s character, he’s obsessed by trains and has an urge to pass on all his railway information to anyone he comes across. Anyone with sons will recognise that stage, although in my day it was more likely to be dinosaurs or F1 racing.

George Knox is really just an adult version of Tony, someone who loves to hear his own voice, but he has taken on a secretary to help him write his books and there’s something odd about her. She seems to be far too familiar considering she is a type of servant, she is behaving more like a wife, and George’s friends fear she will hook him.

Can Laura save George from the clutches of the obviously mentally unstable secretary, whilst shedding her tortoiseshell hairpins? I googled kirby grips/Bobby pins to see when they were invented and it seems to have been in the 1920s, but Laura was sticking loyally to the old fashioned hairpins which do fall out easily, I know as I have some from way back then.

I enjoyed reading this one just as much as the first time I read it. If you want to read my more detailed review from then have a look here.

Bab: A Sub-Deb by Mary Roberts Rinehart

I had only read a mystery by Mary Roberts Rinehart and I enjoyed it so when I read in a blog (sadly I can’t remember which blog) about her book called Babs – A Sub Deb and realised it was available on Project Gutenburg I thought I would give it a go. You can download it here.

The book was written in 1916 and is completely different from the book which I had read of hers before- The Circular Staircase, which I enjoyed but Bab: A Sub-Deb is an absolute hoot.

Barbara Archibald is the youngest in her family, there’s all of 20 months between her and her sister who has ‘come out’ and is husband hunting, so lives in a whirl of social engagements. Much to Bab’s disgust she is still treated very much as a little girl, but she runs rings around her family as her parents become more and more alarmed at her crazy exploits, usually involving boys/men.

It’s all very innocent but it doesn’t look good and even she has to admit that she takes things too far. Bab herself writes about her shenanigans and spelling isn’t one of her strong points, which is a bit off putting until you get used to it.

Appropriately for this time of the year the First World War does feature in this book with some of the young men going off to war. I’m a wee bit puzzled though because the book was apparently published in 1916 but the Americans didn’t go to war with the Germans until April 1917. Unless – the war that they were involved in was that 1916 one involving the US and Mexico, which also featured German spies.

I’m even more confused because I read this book back to back with another old one The Head Girl at the Gables by Angela Brazil which coincidentally was first published in 1919 (I had no idea those books were so old) and also features WW1, German spies and even the loss of a leather dispatch case. It’s amazing how often things like that happen when I’m reading.

Anyway, a fun read.