Monday, March 7, 2011



Angela Thirkell is best known for her Barsetshire comedy of manners novels, but these two books are diversions from that form.  THREE HOUSES, published in 1931, precedes her other books, and is not a novel but a memoir of her childhood. As such it is charming, and especially interesting as her grandfather was the artist Edward Burne-Jones, her cousin Rudyard Kipling. Her family spent Sunday afternoons at her Burne-Jones grandparents' home in Fulham, London (now West Kensington) and extended visits in the summer and holidays at their home in Rottingdean, opposite which Rudyard Kipling lived with his three young children, one of them Angela's playmate. Her stories of the family and the times (she was born in 1890) create an era already disappeared by the time of her writing in the 1930. There is much humor, both eccentricities of character (she describes one of the family, a Mrs. Ridsdale as: "A person of immense character. Was it not she who invented and carried out the questionnaire for Kipling-hunters? 'Can you tell me where Rudyard Kipling lives?' the tourist would ask. Mrs. Ridsdale would stop and fix him, or her, with her shrewd eye, saying 'Have you read anything of his?' Very often the answer was No, when Mrs. Ridsdale would remark, 'Then I won't tell you.'} and of machines (the Kiplings had a motor car which "didn't like starting and when it had started it didn't want to stop, except halfway up a hill, and it perpetually ran dry on the tops of lovely downs miles away from even a dew-pond.")

CORONATION SUMMER written in 1937 is a comedy of manners novel in Jane Austen mode set at the time of Queen Victoria's coronation, complete with lithographs from the era. It is a short novel, 169 pages, but creates a lively picture of the times. Two romances come to happy fruition despite the follies of parents. As the young lady narrator expresses it: "...parents are created to distress us..." Truly light reading, but with some education on British history thrown in.

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