Review 1684: #ThirkellBar! High Rising

I have long been saying I will read Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels in order, but I just keep potting way at them as I encounter them. So finally, I decided to go back and read them all, in order, and I hope some others of you will join me at least part of the way. High Rising is the first one.

Mrs. Morland is a widow who has supported her three sons by writing what she calls “good bad books,” featuring skullduggery in the fashion industry. Her old friend, George Knox, is a widower and also an author, of serious historical works.

It is Laura Morland’s habit to work in London while her young son Tony is in school and come to High Rising when he is on holiday. When she and Tony arrive for the Christmas holidays, she learns there is a disturbing new resident at Low Rising. It is George’s new secretary, Una Grey, who is efficient and sweet to George but behaves officiously as if she were the mistress of the house even to George’s quiet adult daughter, Sybil. It is clear that Miss Grey is aiming at marriage with George, and she immediately treats Mrs. Morland as an enemy and rival.

The plot of High Rising is mostly concerned with this situation, but it also introduces more sympathetic characters. There is Miss Todd, who has been doing all the caretaking of her dying mother and works half-time as a secretary for Mrs. Morland. Dr. Ford is in love with her but thinks the difference in their ages makes him ineligible. Miss Todd herself believes she is the type of woman that men don’t marry.

Adrian Coates is Mrs. Morland’s editor. Although he is a good deal younger than she is, early in the novel he proposes. But Laura has no interest in marrying again and thinks he will make a much better match for Sybil Knox.

There are lots of characters, but one of the funniest is Tony, Laura’s single-minded young son. He is absolutely besotted with railways, and Thirkell does a great job of making him a believable motormouth of a boy.

Most of Thirkell’s books are notable for a subtle wit, but this one is a lot funnier than I remembered. I also felt really invested in the problems of these characters. This novel makes a nice start to the series.

So, who read High Rising along with me, and what did you think?

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18 thoughts on “Review 1684: #ThirkellBar! High Rising

  1. Liz Dexter June 29, 2021 / 10:53 am

    I really enjoyed this one – I have sort of been reading them in order though went a bit wrong when they started missing some out and have had to re-read some wartime ones. Here’s my review from when I read this. I’m glad you’re Team Tony – I know a few people who can’t stand him but I’m very fond of him myself!

    • whatmeread June 29, 2021 / 11:18 am

      Thanks for participating! I loved Tony in this one, although I think he is a bit more obnoxious in The Demon in the House. He’s still funny, but he seems really young for his age, which by then is 14.

  2. Christine June 29, 2021 / 6:27 pm

    I’m not Team Tony, although I didn’t find him unbearable. I really did like Laura Morland, though, and aren’t those new Virago covers just gorgeous? I’ve picked up around 15 of the kindle editions over time. As always, my eyes are bigger than my schedule allows! I think I’ve only read a couple of them: this one, and Wild Strawberries, which I also found quite charming.

    • whatmeread June 29, 2021 / 11:47 pm

      Oh, yes, I love them. I have been collecting them in paperback. Unfortunately, they have some for Kindle that aren’t yet available in paperback. I hope you’ll participate in the Wild Strawberries read, too.

      • Christine June 30, 2021 / 9:36 am

        I may wait until you get to the next book – I reread Wild Strawberries fairly recently and it’s the only Thirkell I’ve read twice. For some reason Virago hasn’t reissued The Demon in the House, and I’ve never gotten my hands on a copy of it, so I’ll have to forgo that one as well. However, I’m definitely up for August Folly!

      • whatmeread June 30, 2021 / 10:08 am

        OK, that’s great! The Demon in the House is third, so we’ll be doing August Folly in September.

      • Christine June 30, 2021 / 10:22 am

        I checked AbeBooks, my go to for used paperbacks, and unfortunately there aren’t any cheap copies of The Demon in the House – the lowest price would cost me almost $20.00 and I am so used to spending a few dollars for older fiction that the price makes my stomach clench, lol! I wonder if it’s considered a “lesser” Thirkell or if there are rights issues. It seems odd that Virago hasn’t reissued it with the rest of the Barsetshire novels.

      • whatmeread June 30, 2021 / 3:49 pm

        I know. It’s a shame. I bought a copy somewhere a few months ago. Can’t remember what I spent, but since I decided to do this project, I feel like I should round up the books. Maybe people should just do the ones where they can get hold of the book without spending more than they’re comfortable. I wish Virago would reissue all of them. Maybe they will but we’re just ahead of them.

  3. historicalfictionisfiction June 30, 2021 / 9:46 am

    I enjoyed both the print and Audible versions of this one. Even though I enjoyed Tony–typically little boy–, I enjoyed Laura’s “see-sawing” reactions to him even better. The love-exasperation relationship with a very much younger, unexpected child was SO realistic: we had such a relationship in our own family. Her inner thoughts are just hilarious.

    Like Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Caddell, and Agatha Christie, so many of Thirkell’s secondary characters steal the show. George is SO long-winded and oblivious–and listening to his meanderings in the Audible version raises EXACTLY the emotions his audience in the book experiences. And the scene with Una is just over the top. That was the only time in the novel that I got really peeved with Laura. Really, her wishi-washiness with that “melodrama queen” irritated me no end.

    Like Christine above, I’ve picked up as many of the Kindle editions/Audible versions as I can. Good stuff!

    • whatmeread June 30, 2021 / 10:10 am

      Yes, Laura’s reaction to Tony is great. That’s a great point about the secondary characters.

  4. Penelope Gough June 30, 2021 / 4:06 pm

    I thought this book, the first Thirkell I have read, was absolutely delightful. Funny, laughed out loud several times, quirky and became thoroughly invested in all the characters. Yes Tony was a great character and the reactions to him very entertaining. Looking forward to starting Wild Strawberries.

  5. Yvonne June 30, 2021 / 8:37 pm

    When I first started reading High Rising, I wasn’t sure if this book was for me. But after a few more chapters, I was completely hooked. Loved all the characters, especially Tony – and Laura’s interaction with him. I laughed when Laura suddenly changed her mind about getting rid of Una Grey. Just as well her friends stepped in. I really enjoyed my first ever Thirkell novel and am looking forward to the next!

  6. Helen July 2, 2021 / 1:27 pm

    I was hoping to read this in June but didn’t have time. I have just started reading it today and will let you know what I think when I’ve finished!

    • whatmeread August 24, 2021 / 11:48 pm

      Thanks for joining in , Brona!

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