Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #21 Happy Returns + #20 The Duke’s Daughter Wrap-Up

Cover for Happy Returns

Since I know that at least one person who had been reading along was no longer able to find reasonably priced copies of the books, I got a lot more comments on the last book than I expected. I hope that happy situation continues. Anyway, my thanks to the following people who participated in discussing The Duke’s Daughter:

  • No one so far

The next book is Happy Returns, which I read all the way back in 2015 and don’t remember at all (except that someone is running for parliament). It’ll be interesting to me to see whether I view that book differently now that I am more familiar with the characters. I will be reviewing that book on Tuesday, February 28! Hope you will join me.

And here’s our little emblem.

Review 2111: #ThirkellBar! The Duke’s Daughter

This entry in the Barsetshire series opens with characters’ realization that Lucy Adams is carrying a child, but then it jumps forward. Around about the same time, Tom Grantly meets the dreadful Geoffrey Harvey and begins to have doubts about his farm work. He has been happy working on Martin Leslie’s farm with Emmy Graham, but he doesn’t think there’s a career in it. So, he takes a job working for Harvey in the Red Tape and Sealing Wax Department. However, Harvey is known for making his underlings’ lives miserable, and within a year, Tom is ready to quit but doesn’t know how to explain to his father that he wants to change his career yet again.

Commander Cecil Waring has returned to the Priory to take up residence in his part of the house after taking in some shrapnel that the Navy doctors couldn’t find. It is floating around in his body and will either emerge or kill him. In the other part of the house, Philip White and his wife Leslie, Cecil’s sister, are having such success with their prep school that they are looking around for a bigger building.

Cecil meets Lady Cora Palliser, the Duke of Omnium’s daughter, and is much struck by her. However, he thinks she’s paying too much attention to Tom.

The new Lord Lufton makes everyone’s acquaintance. He is young, shy, and overwhelmed by his new responsibilities. He is also very kind and is at first attracted by Clarissa Graham until he sees her behaving rudely to Charles Belton.

Fans of the series may be pleased to find that this novel features the reappearance of almost every character who has ever appeared, with the added attraction of no less than four betrothals. Mrs. Morland, the author of a popular series of novels, always says they are all alike. Perhaps the Barsetshire novels are, too, but their charm is in finding out what happens to characters we know and in meeting new ones.

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Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #20 The Duke’s Daughter + #19 County Chronical Wrap-Up

Again, I had fun revisiting old friends and meeting new ones in County Chronicle. I thank anyone who has had time to send in a comment. They are

The next book is The Duke’s Daughter, which I will be reviewing on Tuesday, January 31. If you get a chance to read the book or have read it or just have something to say, pop in and make a comment. And here’s our little badge.

Review 2093: #ThirkellBar! County Chronicle

In introducing County Chronicle, I find it impossible to avoid spoilers for those who have not read the previous book, The Old Bank House. So, beware.

The novel begins where the previous one left off, if not slightly before that, with Lucy Marling wondering how her parents are going to take her engagement to Sam Adams, the wealthy older ironmonger who is not from her class. They take it comparatively well. It is her beloved brother Oliver who tries to flatten her excitement with his disapproval, so that Lucy realizes for the first time how selfish he is.

Speaking of selfish men, Francis Brandon is now happily married, but he’s been taking his mother for granted and is even rude to her. His mild-mannered wife Peggy is distressed by it but doesn’t have the courage to say anything. Others are beginning to notice, and Mrs. Brandon realizes it was a mistake for them all to live together.

Isabel Dale, a cousin of Robin Dale, takes a job with Mrs. Marling to help her with Lucy’s wedding and stays on to help her with her correspondence. She also sometimes helps Oliver with his book.

Although the Barsetshire set have tended to stay away from the Omnium Castle crowd, Francis and Peggy Brandon have been spending time there doing amateur theatrics with Lady Cora and Lord Silverbridge, the Duke’s heir. We find the ducal family impoverished but very nice. Eventually, Isabel and Oliver are introduced to the family by Roddy Wickham.

Although I didn’t like this one quite so much as The Old Bank House, it was still good. Several characters’ problems are resolved in a satisfying way, and the two romances are as sweet as they are understated.

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Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #19 County Chronicle + #18 The Old Bank House Wrap-Up

I think I have lost all my other readers from one reason or another, but I persist. If you happened to read any of the books coming up, don’t hesitate to make comments. I hope to have some steadfast commenters. I am still enjoying these books—in fact, The Old Bank House was one of my favorites—and don’t quite understand yet why her post-war ones aren’t considered as good (although I have recollections of one coming up about an election that wasn’t as interesting). As of now, there are only 11 more books in the series.

Thanks to the people who continue to participate:

  • Liz Dexter
  • Historical Fiction Is Fiction
  • Yvonne of A Darn Good Read

Our next book is County Chronicle. I will be reviewing it Friday, December 30, so if you have read it, or want to read along, please join me.

And here’s our little badge.

Review 2074: #ThirkellBar! The Old Bank House

Although I keep hearing that Thirkell’s post-war Barsetshire novels are not considered her best, I am still enjoying them and look forward to seeing what happens to the characters. In particular, The Old Bank House brought me to tears over one event, although I won’t say what it was.

The novel begins with wealthy industrialist Sam Adams’ purchase of the Old Bank House, but it deals mostly with the Grantlys, a family referred to in the series (and, of course, a major family in Trollope’s Barsetshire series) but not before met. The Grantlys are Adams’ new neighbors at the rectory. The oldest son, Tom, has just come down from Oxford where he has been studying Greats but feeling out-of-place because his war years make him older than the others (although that must have been common, as it was here in the States). In any case, he has decided he wants to work on the land, but he doesn’t want to return to college, even agricultural college, to do so. (Ironically, in his chafing, Tom seems younger than he is, not older.) The youngest son, Henry, has applied for the army and goes down to the post office at least once a day to see if his orders have arrived.

The novel is more concerned with the daughter, Eleanor, who has taken Susan Belton’s job at the Red Cross library. She yearns to live in London and has attracted the attention of Colin Keith, now a successful barrister. However, on a visit to Pomfret Towers, she gets a romantic crush on tired Lord Pomfret.

After Tom Grantly applies at a few places, he is taken on by Lucy Marling as an ordinary laborer in the market garden she runs for Sam Adams, but Martin and Emmy Leslie are also evaluating his capabilities for Rushwater. Lucy Marling is making the garden a success and has seriously impressed Mr. Adams.

Again, I found this novel deeply touching at times. It also serves as a record for the difficult living conditions that still prevailed in England four years after the end of the war and for everyday life at that time. Unfortunately for me, I got this book mixed up with the next one and read enough of the succeeding one that I knew from the start how a few of the surprises would work out, but I still enjoyed this one. In fact, it’s one of my favorites.

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Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #18 The Old Bank House + #17 Love Among the Ruins Wrap-up

Thanks to my stalwarts who participated by commenting, even though one was unable to get a copy of Love Among the Ruins this month. They are

  • Liz Dexter
  • Penelope Gough

Our next book is The Old Bank House. Yes, I’m going to the bitter end, even if no one can follow. So far, it has not been painful. I am posting my review on Wednesday, November 30. I hope a few of you will pop in and join me in reading it or some of the others coming up.

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Review 2055: #ThirkellBar! Love Among the Ruins

We meet many of the characters we’ve come to love in Love Among the Ruins, but principally the Marlings, the Beltons, the Deans, and the Leslies.

With a short stop-off to the Warings, where Mr. and Mrs. Waring have given over most of their mansion to their son-in-law, Philip Winter, for a boys’ school, the novel begins with the Leslie/Marling family, who are planning a birthday party for their beloved Lady Emily. Lady Emily tires easily and is sometimes confused, but still presents her overwhelming and charming personality. She is being capably cared for by her daughter, Agnes Graham, and Miss Merriman.

Lucy Marling has been manfully trying to keep her father’s estate running as neither of her brothers seem interested. They have no money, but she thinks if she can convince her father to sell some land, she can keep the rest going. But he is unwilling. Desperate to cultivate some wasteland, she looks to Mr. Adams for advice.

Oliver Marling is worried about Lucy, as she doesn’t seem to be marrying anyone and is depressed about her struggles with the estate. But Lucy is in love with Captain Freddie Belton and knows he doesn’t return her feelings. Oliver himself is spending a lot of time with Jessica Dean, the actress.

Jessica’s older sister Sue, a Red Cross librarian, has earned everyone’s respect with her quiet capability, and she has earned more than that from Freddie Belton. But a misunderstanding is keeping them apart. In the meantime, young Clarissa Graham is determined to land Freddie. And lest we forget Charles Belton, he has fallen, as do many younger men, for Agnes Graham.

This novel dwells a good deal on the difficult situation the British were in after the war, with limits on food, clothing, and gas, while apparently, I didn’t quite understand it, trying to prevent farmers from raising pigs. There are lots of snarky comments about the government, referred to as They, but I’m happy to say, far less snobbishness than in some of the previous novels. There is in some characters, though, an awareness of who is county and who is not, and it looks like the Deans may shortly be accepted as county.

The activities of this novel are centered around the fates of several characters, the Conservative Party Convention, and the Barsetshire Pig Show, so there’s a lot going on. I know Thirkell’s post-war novels were not considered her best, but I enjoyed this one about the same as the others, so so far, for me at least, they are not decreasing in enjoyment.

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Reading Thirkell’s Barsetshire Series in Order: #17 Love Among the Ruins + #16 Private Enterprise Wrap-Up

I know I’m losing participants, but thanks to those who are keeping up or made comments about Private Enterprise, the first post-war book in the series. Those who participated were

Our book for October is Love Among the Ruins. I will be posting my review on Monday, October 31. I hope that one or two people will read along with me, as I am getting into completely uncharted waters.

And here’s our little emblem.

Review 2037: #ThirkellBar! Private Enterprise

Private Enterprise is Thirkell’s first wholly post-war Barsetshire novel. It reflects the confusion and discomfort caused by government measures that make things seem more difficult even than during the war.

The novel begins with Noel and Lydia Merton. Noel is back at his law firm, and they are now parents of two small children. To them for part of the summer holidays comes Colin Keith, Lydia’s brother, whom we first met in Summer Half. It is immediately apparent that he has fallen in love, with Mrs. Arbuthnot, a young widow. He is trying to find a house for her and her sister-in-law, Miss Arbuthnot, near Barsetshire.

Colin makes a fool of himself over Mrs. Arbuthnot but manages to find the two women a house. They move in and are quickly welcomed into the community. Again, we meet or hear about quite a few of the characters from previous books, including Mrs. Brandon and Francis Brandon, her son. Mrs. Brandon has gotten older, but we remember how young men used to fall in love with her and Noel Merton enjoyed flirting with her. We’re told several times that Mrs. Arbuthnot resembles her.

Unfortunately, Colin is not the only person who makes a fool of himself over Mrs. Arbuthnot. In the meantime, Miss Arbuthnot, older and less expectant, has her own quiet romance.

I noticed Thirkell’s snobbishness more in this novel than the previous ones, maybe because the others were more fun. It is clear that things are changing for the entitled classes and they don’t like it. Still, this novel seems an accurate record of life for these families (and to some extent of those of the less privileged) in post-World War II England, and I am still enjoying hearing about my favorite characters.

A comment about my edition. In the series up to this book, I have been reading the Virago editions, but Virago chose not to issue the post-war books, so I will have to finish the series reading Moyer Bell editions. As always with Moyer Bell, I am spotting lots of typos that seem to result from machine-reading a word wrong and substituting one that doesn’t make sense. Those are trivial, though, compared to the odd selection of the cover design and pictures at the beginning of each chapter. They are all by John Everett Millais, a Pre-Raphaelite artist. I have nothing against the Pre-Raphaelites, but they were a Victorian movement, and Millais was dead by the beginning of the 20th century. The women depicted in his paintings are dressed completely wrong for post-World War II England, of course, which makes me wonder why these paintings were selected for this novel. It’s a very odd choice. Perhaps the editors thought the novel took place after the Boer War?

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