Where do I go when things like the weather and never ending house stuff are getting me down? To Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire of course! Her books never fail to cheer me up.
Whilst I was reading Enter Sir Robert I couldn’t help thinking that nothing much was happening really, there were no deaths, marriages or even romances going on but that didn’t detract from the entertainment.
The whole book is more or less about the Graham family. Agnes, Lady Graham is becoming more like her deceased mother (Lady Emily Leslie) every day, her children are all adults now – or nearly adults as the youngest, Edith, has finished school but is at a bit of a loose end.
Sir Robert Graham is about to retire, as his wife keeps reminding people all through the book, she sounded very like me at times actually as I have Jack’s retiral at the forefront of my mind so often.
However Sir Robert is never there, he’s always working elsewhere, mainly in London I think, and he doesn’t actually ‘enter’ until the very end of the book.
Otherwise the Hallidays feature quite a lot as the local bank has been renting an old house from them for years, as a bank branch and home for the bank manager. Things are changing though as a new housing estate has been built and they are going to relocate the bank there, so what will become of the Old Manor House now.
Lots of people have tea and look around houses that they’ve wanted to inspect the attics of for yonks, and Mrs Morland, that successful novelist (surely Angela Thirkell herself) plays quite a large part in this book.
If you visit Thirkell’s Barsetshire frequently, as I do, then reading one of her books is just like sitting down for a cosy chat and laugh with an old friend. When she wanders off at a tangent and has a bit of a moan about life in general, it always seems to be something which I absolutely agree with her about. It’s one of the reasons her books have been so popular over all these years, her observations on life and people are just perfect. If she had been alive now she could have had a good career as an observational stand-up comedienne.
Thirkell didn’t have a high opinion of herself as a writer though and as Mrs Morland she mentions that her readers wanted her to write a book each year – and didn’t seem to mind at all that she was really just writing the same book each year. Well, I see what she means, especially as for the first time ever I’ve read two of them in the correct order and one straight after the other, but it’s the slight repetition which gives them their cosiness, you’re safe in Barsetshire, and sometimes that’s just what you need.