Enter Sir Robert by Angela Thirkell

Enter Sir Robert cover

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.

Miss Buncle Married by D.E. Stevenson

This is the sequel to Miss Buncle’s Book, which I really enjoyed reading so when I saw this at a library in the next town I snapped it off the shelf, even although it’s a large print book. I suspect that the powers that be in Fife libraries think that D.E. Stevenson’s books are only read by very elderly ladies in care homes, but I’m not quite of that generation.

Anyway, in this book Barbara Abbott nee Buncle is enjoying married life with her Arthur, she’s partial to large men you know, and he fits the bill perfectly. The only blot in their happiness is the fact that they have got into a social circle which means never ending dinner invitations and bridge parties. When they eventually realise that neither of them are keen on all the socialising, they plan their getaway.

So that they don’t upset their neighbours Barbara looks far afield for her dream home, and when she finds it it’s a wreck. She sets to work refurbishing the place and in time they make friends with all the neighbours, who are more to her liking, no bridge this time!

When I was about a third of the way through this book I thought to myself that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as Miss Buncle’s Book but by the time I got to the half way mark it had pepped up and I was happy eavesdropping on the inhabitants of the English village of Wandlebury. As you would expect from D.E.Stevenson, this is a cosy light read, which is sometimes just what I need.

D.E.Stevenson was Scottish and was related to R.L.Stevenson of Kidnapped/Treasure Island fame. You can read some more about her here.

Agatha Raisin As the Pig Turns

This book was just published in 2011 but unfortunately I didn’t bother to check the publication date before I borrowed it from the library. So I read it way out of sequence and it would seem that I’ve missed quite a lot of important events in the life of Agatha. For one thing she’s now divorced – and I missed the marriage!

The biggest change though is that she has now set up her own private detective agency and is employing several people of varied ages and backgrounds so that they can be deployed in situations where they are most likely to be of use.

Apart from those differences I also felt that this book was quite a bit darker than the previous ones which I’ve read, the original murder was nastier, but having said that I still did enjoy it as MC Beaton doesn’t go in for supplying you with the gory details, which I’d really rather avoid.

For me the plot of this one wasn’t as predictable either, which is another plus. Agatha Raisin is a very human character, completely aware of her own flaws but she also has a conscience and she’s particularly worried that her habit of meddling in other people’s private lives (for their own good as far as she is concerned) could have dire consequences – but will she mend her ways? I doubt it and I hope not – because then she wouldn’t be Agatha – would she?