The Headmistress by Angela Thirkell

The Headmistress was first published in 1944, in fact my copy is a first edition hardback, not that I’m bothered about such things but I do prefer hardbacks to the modern paperbacks.

This one mainly involves the Belton family, they’ve fallen on hard times and are unable to afford to live in their large home. Luckily the Hosiers’ Girls’ Foundation School has rented the property for the duration of the war, however long that may be, and the Beltons have taken up residence in a smaller house which is situated more conveniently in the village.

I did enjoy this one although it didn’t feature much in the way of food rationing information, it was mainly clothes coupons which seemed to be a worry. I really like all the social history side of these books but there’s plenty of humour too.

The character of Heather Adams starts off as ghastly annoying schoolgirl and by the end has begun to transform into an almost likeable young woman. But it’s Miss Sparling, the headmistress of the school who as a newcomer has caught the eye of more than one of the local gentlemen, there always has to be some romance after all.

Friendships are forged when people realise that they have a hatred for the same person, everything else is forgotten about when the Bishop or Miss Pettinger rear their ugly heads. Those characters manage to unite people against them. This seems so realistic to me, I’ve definitely experienced the most unusual combinations of people who have bonded over a mutual dislike.

This storyline must have spoken to so many of the original readers of the book as the younger members of the families are all being sent off overseas and are really not expecting to be coming home again. In reality that was exactly what was happening in every community in the UK and elsewhere of course.

I could be doing without the Mixo-Lydian/Slavo-Lydian nonsense but I suppose that was reflecting the animosity between some of the many Eastern European refugees who were finding there way to the UK during the war. I think that the Mixo-Lydians must have in reality been Romanians as they have ‘escu’ endings to their surnames.

This was another enjoyable visit to Barsetshire, mainly with the Belton family who are the descendants of the Beltons who featured in Anthony Trollope’s book The Belton Estate.