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High Rising (1933)

by Angela Thirkell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Barsetshire Books (1)

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6403831,977 (3.86)214
Successful lady novelist Laura Morland and her boisterous young son Tony set off to spend Christmas at her country home in the sleepy surrounds of High Rising. But Laura's wealthy friend and neighbour George Knox has taken on a scheming secretary whose designs on marriage to her employer threaten the delicate social fabric of the village. Can clever, practical Laura rescue George from Miss Grey's clutches and, what's more, help his daughter Miss Sibyl Knox to secure her longed-for engagement? Utterly charming and very funny, High Rising is irresistible comic entertainment.… (more)
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» See also 214 mentions

English (37)  French (1)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Jane Austen famously said that in writing Emma, she'd set out to create "a heroine whom no one but myself will much like." Reading High Rising was like reading a photo negative version of Emma: Angela Thirkell clearly thought she was writing a lovable, heart-of-gold scatterbrain main character in Laura Morland, but I found her absolutely insufferable. No matter how much the other characters insisted that Mrs Morland was lovely and just so kind, her thoughts and actions showed her to be a petty, mean-spirited, and insular snob—and the mouthpiece for some pretty appalling bigotry.

And before someone jumps at me for saying "But it was the 1930s! Standards for what was acceptable were different then!": that is true to an extent, but I can also honestly say that I've read lots of other fiction first published in the Twenties and Thirties that didn't have main characters regularly spout antisemitic, anti-Irish, and anti-Black sentiments with every sign of narrative approval. One of the comic relief/male romantic partners also at one point just randomly comes out with "The marriage customs [...] of the Arunta tribe, a revolting set of Australian aboriginals, are alone enough to justify their extirpation by rum, missionaries, or any other destroying element." Wow! Holy shit! Love a bit of cheerleading for genocide in what's supposed to be a light romantic comedy!

Not that the romance is much to write home about: dull and unconvincing and rote. Thirkell is not an author I care to read any further. ( )
  siriaeve | Dec 16, 2022 |
I would never have given this book another glance had it not been for the fabulous cover on this re-release edition (also, it was on sale). I'd never heard of Angela Thirkell and didn't know at first if it was someone currently writing historical fiction, or if it was the work of the era in which it took place. After doing a bit of googling I discovered that Ms. Thirkell was a contemporary of Agatha Christie, Nancy Mitford, et. al. but that she focussed mainly on humorous, satiric fiction that it seems she wasn't really proud of, although it paid the bills.

High Rising is the first of her books that take place in Trollope's fictional Barsetshire. Laura Morland is a happily widowed author of very successful "good bad books" and the story starts during the Christmas season as she picks her son up from school to spend the holidays at their cottage at High Rising. Here Laura finds herself involved in the lives of her friends, most specifically a fellow author at Low Risings who has found himself with a secretary ("The Incubus") determined to marry him.

I liked this book; it didn't rock my world, and I suspect some of the satire went completely over my head, but I found myself deeply involved with the characters themselves and interested in what happened and how it all worked out. It was a cozy read - that is truly what best describes this book (and I suspect future Barsetshire novels); there's no gripping tension or thrilling climax. There were a couple of instances of racism that were indicative of the times the book was written, but were seemingly meant with affection (I'm not saying it is acceptable, just that it wasn't malicious).

I have two other works by Ms. Thirkell: Christmas at High Rising and Pomfret Towers. I'm looking forward to starting Christmas at High Rising later today and I'm going to be on the look-out for more of her Barsetshire novels. I'm not a fan yet, but I'm definitely an admirer. ( )
  murderbydeath | Jan 22, 2022 |
Light, frivolous and decidedly British. Apparently there's a series but I wasn't intrigued enough to continue. Almost nothing happened for the first 100 pages so I got a little frustrated. But it picked up in the end. I've read some Trollope but (Maybe the wrong ones?) didn't see the references in this book. ( )
  OutOfTheBestBooks | Sep 24, 2021 |
The first of Thirkell’s Barsetshire series, this novel concerns successful popular fiction writer, Laura Moreland, her precocious young son, Tony, and their country neighbors all during Laura’s holiday visit to High Rising.

When Laura discovers that her wealthy neighbor and friend, George Knox had hired a new (and scheming) secretary, she sets off to make sure that this little gold digger does not get her way.

Charming and funny, this short novel of manners is the perfect summer read. ( )
  etxgardener | Aug 24, 2021 |
If you’re in need of some cosy period escapism at the moment (and who isn’t?), you could do a lot worse than delve into Angela Thirkell’s High Rising, first published in 1933. It isn’t life-changing literature but, like the self-proclaimed ‘second-rate’ novels penned by its heroine Laura, it has a distinct charm of its own. We meet Laura Morland as she is taking her young son Tony home from school for the Christmas holidays, to their cottage in the country village of High Rising. What follows is a mixture of social drama – of the gentlest and most genteel kind, as a series of potential romantic attachments ebb and flow among the middle-class villagers – and mild mystery. Why has such trouble been caused by the arrival of Miss Una Grey, the new secretary hired by Laura’s friend and fellow writer George Knox? Does she really have ambitions to marry him? And, if so, how can Laura protect his shy daughter Sibyl from the claws of this Incubus (as Miss Grey is christened)? Charming and mild, this feels like a Sunday-evening BBC period drama in prose and, although you never have any doubts that everything’s going to end up neatly resolved, there’s some fun to be had seeing how it develops along the way...

For the full review, please see my blog:
https://theidlewoman.net/2020/03/27/high-rising-angela-thirkell/ ( )
  TheIdleWoman | Apr 5, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Thirkell, Angelaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bond, JillyReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Colmer, RoyCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Smith, Alexander McCallIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stegers, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilson, MayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my father and mother
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The headmaster's wife twisted herself round in her chair to talk to Mrs Morland, who was sitting in the row just behind her.
Angela Thirkell is today relatively unknown, by no means as familiar as Benson or Trollope, or even Nancy Mitford, writers with whom she is sometimes compared. (Introduction)
Quotations
‘It’s not highbrow. I’ve just got to work. You see, my husband was nothing but an expense to me while he was alive, and naturally he is no help to me now he’s dead, so I thought if I could write some rather good bad books, it would help with the boys’ education’.
`With our immense resources [said the publisher] we can give you double the advertisement you are at present having. If you have something new and delightful in preparation, and are not yet committed to Coates, may we have the pleasure of having a first sight of your manuscript?’

`Well, you see,’ said Laura, `what I say about advertising is, if you spend all that money on advertisements, it’s got to come off my royalties, hasn’t it?’
Oh the exhaustingness of the healthy young!   Laura had once offered to edit a book called Why I Hate my Children, but though Adrian Coates had offered her every encouragement, and every mother of her acquaintance had offered to contribute, it had never taken shape.   (Chap. II: “High Rising”)
“And I know I'm a fool, and anyway I can't understand poetry except the bits in anthologies, but I couldn't understand yours at all.”  (Chap. IV: “Christmas Eve”)
Indeed she had never known intimately that pale and shadowy lady, who enjoyed ill health until she went too far and let herself die.   (Chap. VII: “An Author at Home”)
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Successful lady novelist Laura Morland and her boisterous young son Tony set off to spend Christmas at her country home in the sleepy surrounds of High Rising. But Laura's wealthy friend and neighbour George Knox has taken on a scheming secretary whose designs on marriage to her employer threaten the delicate social fabric of the village. Can clever, practical Laura rescue George from Miss Grey's clutches and, what's more, help his daughter Miss Sibyl Knox to secure her longed-for engagement? Utterly charming and very funny, High Rising is irresistible comic entertainment.

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VIRAGO EDITION: Successful novelist Laura Morland and her boisterous son, Tony set off to spend Christmas at her country home in the sleepy surrounds of High Rising. But Laura's wealthy friend and neighbour George Knox has taken on a scheming secretary whose designs on marriage to her employer threaten the delicate social fabric of the village. Can clever, practical Laura rescue George from Miss Grey's clutches and, what 's more, help his daughter Miss Sibyl Knox to secure her longed-for engagement?

Irresistibly entertaining and witty, High Rising, originally published in 1933, was the first of Angela Thirkell's celebrated classic comedies.
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