Review 1745: #ThirkellBar! Summer Half

It’s time for Summer Half, the fifth book in Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire series. Readers may or may not be excited to learn that this is another book with Tony Morland, now about 14 years old, as a character.

Colin Keith’s father wants him to read law, and Colin likes it, but he feels guilty not earning his own keep at the ripe age of 22. So, he meets with Mr. Birkett, the headmaster of Southbridge school, and arranges to take a job with him. Then he learns that his father has arranged a place for him in the chambers of Noel Merton. The timing is fine, though, for Colin to work the summer half at Southbridge and start in chambers in the fall.

(As a side note, I saw that Colin’s older brother is a young lawyer named Robert who makes a few brief appearances. Is he going to turn into the mysterious figure Sir Robert who is mentioned but does not appear in several novels later on and finally turns up in Enter Sir Robert? I guess only time will tell. My curiosity is piqued.)

Colin’s immediate coworkers are Everard Carter, the master of his house, and Philip Winter, who unfortunately is engaged to Rose Birkett, a beautiful but selfish nitwit. At the last minute, Colin is given a class that Philip wanted to teach, so Philip isn’t disposed to welcome him. Also, he is jealous, and Rose flirts with any man who comes near her.

It is the volatile relationship between Philip and Rose that occupies much of this novel, as well as the hijinks of the boys. However, Carter is also smitten, by Colin’s sister Kate, but he thinks she prefers Noel Merton. Making an appearance for the first time is Colin’s other sister, Lydia, a loud, bouncing 16-year-old, who I believe is a major character in Cheerfulness Breaks In, one of my favorites in this series.

Although some of the school talk went over my head, this is another delightful entrant in the series. It gives us in Rose someone we can heartily dislike only to feel a little more nuanced toward her at the end. Meanwhile, all the other characters are eminently likable.

Who read Summer Half? What did you think?

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13 thoughts on “Review 1745: #ThirkellBar! Summer Half

  1. Penelope Gough October 29, 2021 / 3:58 pm

    Another good one and I have decided what I like the best of all is the continuity. Tony being older and such fun being a prime example. Look forward to more of this excellent story telling from a marvellous writer.
    Another group I belong to has chosen Before Lunch for November. It will mean two Thirkell’s this month. I do not want to read them out of order!! If only all my problems and dilemmas involved such delightful outcomes.

    • whatmeread October 29, 2021 / 6:03 pm

      Well, since Pomfret Towers is next and then The Brandons, if you read both of those, you coudl read Before Lunch and not have them out of order. That’s a lot of Thirkell for one month, though.

  2. historicalfictionisfiction October 31, 2021 / 7:39 am

    I enjoyed “Summer Half” MUCH more than “August Folly”: the Tebbens drove me wild. I didn’t care for one member of that family.

    In this outing, however, the only one I didn’t care for was–of course– Rose Birkett. I agree with All the Vintage Ladies poster: she was SO empty-headed and annoying–which just goes to prove how good Thirkell was at characterization.

    Kate was one of the “excellent women” that Barbara Pym writes about so well, and she deserved her happy ending.

    My favorite, though, was Lydia–a “modern” girl, and a good role model for the young women of her time.

    I just finished reading “ninth Street Women,” an excellent picture of the New York artistic scene in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, It was exhilarating and exhausting, so I’m ready to get back to Thirkell.

    • whatmeread October 31, 2021 / 3:42 pm

      Great! I’m glad you liked it better. Hope you’ll be on board for Pomfret Towers. So far, the Tebbens family has not resurfaced.

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