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High Rising by Angela Thirkell

High Rising (1933)

by Angela Thirkell

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Barsetshire Books (1)

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Set mostly in the village of High Rising during school holidays, widowed author Laura copes with her (extremely entertaining son Tony), tries to prevent her friend and fellow author George from being trapped into an unwise marriage, and marries off her publisher to George's daughter.

I enjoyed this story, although it is very much of its time - there are references to Jews and a general acceptance of the class system and social hierarchies which place it firmly in the 1930s. I was sad for Dr Todd and not entirely convinced by Sibyl and Adrian, but it was worth reading for Tony alone. ( )
1 vote pgchuis | Nov 20, 2017 |
A funny book. Very much of it's time so some of the language might offend. ( )
  readinglife11 | Sep 11, 2017 |
On a whim, I read this, having never heard of the author, but knowing that I often like novels from this era. What a treat! At first it was merely a pleasant and amusing comedy of manners, but by the end I was almost in stitches. I do have to say that it is laced with casual anti-Semitism, which was quite common then, so the reader will have to decide if they are willing to accept that as part of its time, even if they wince at it, as when Laura jokingly tells her publisher, who is actually quite generous, that he is a Jew and a shark battening on her widowed self. Maybe it's joke between them and no hard feelings, but it's not the only example. This is particularly painful in a book written in 1933, when those reading it now know what is coming.

The story centers around the very forthright, happily widowed Laura Morland, who has supported her four sons by her gift for writing what she knows to be second-rate novels. She would actually prefer not to, but through her popular novels she has educated three sons and launched them into successful adulthood, and now has only her train-obsessed, beloved if exasperating, ten-year-old at boarding school. She has a flat in London and a country home in the rural village of High Rising, located in Trollope's imaginary county of Barsetshire. Her friend, George Knox, a successful biographer who lives in Lower Rising, says of her: “You raise mediocrity to genius […] You have carved for yourself a niche in the Temple of Fame […] of pleasing form and honest workmanship.”

I am not much on Serious Contemporary Fiction, which usually says nothing to me, so I thoroughly enjoy it when he mocks the “outstanding successes of modern fiction,” which he divides into two categories: obscene and Awfully Dull Novels, which combine sex in a banal plot with touches of philosophy, which one can read up on “thanks to the appalling increase of cheap little books about philosophy edited by men with famous names who do not scruple to pander to this modern craze for education, which is, in sum, only a plan for helping people not to think for themselves.” A little harsh, perhaps, but I do spend a lot of time telling people that I don't care if someone famous said that, I don't agree. Although I do like Shakespeare, he is so revered as the Bard, that it is refreshing to read a story so lacking in knee-jerk respect.

One thing that is salutory about reading older novels is that it makes very clear that Serious Literature falls into its own sorts of genres and literary and social fads. Older novels are very refreshing for the ways that they differ in their assumptions, and early 20th century novels are particularly good for this; we tend to have more of an idea of how Victorian novels differ from today, but these are a surprise. This book also bears out Betty Friedan's claim that women were more often pictured as independent in the 1930s than they were after World War II. Although a couple of weddings are in the offing by the end of the book, many of the woman, most especially Laura Morland, are perfectly happy, or even prefer to be, unmarried and self-supporting, and enjoy being by themselves. Laura Morland is also not afraid to admit to ambivalence towards her children, At one point she considered editing a book called Why I Hate my Children, to which every mother she knew offered to contribute.

The story concerns the lives and interactions of Laura's numerous friends: a head-master's wife, a single woman with her ailing mother, the above mentioned George Knox and his sweet if silly daughter, her publisher, and the other villagers. They fall in love, not always requited, help each other and drive each other crazy. The subplots are intricate enough to keep my interest, but the real draw here is how the language and the sharp observations on human foibles. ( )
2 vote juglicerr | May 15, 2017 |
This 1933 novel turned up in my LibraryThing recommendations, I think on the grounds that it was similar to D.E. Stevenson’s Miss Buncle’s Book.

It is about Laura Moreland, a widow who earns a living by writing self-professed second-rate novels, her train-obsessed school-aged son Tony and her friends living. It’s amusingly written and charming in a very light-hearted, very English way (but with the odd moment of outdated attitudes). It also didn’t resolve quite how I expected it all to, particularly in regards to who ends up with whom.

I plan on reading more by Thirkell - the local library has half a dozen or so titles, and some sound like they could definitely be my sort of thing. ( )
  Herenya | Jan 18, 2017 |
High Rising by Angela Thirkell

This story is a hoot!~! The first of many in the Barsetshire series, I loved it. The characters this author has thought up....oh how I do hope they appear in the next & the next & the next books of the series.

The main character, Laura, reads the most bizarre combination of books. We find her reading Death in the Potting Shed, Bleak House, The Bucket of Blood, The Butcher's Revenge, Omnibus Book of Blood, Torture and Disease, The Noseless Horror, & Who'll Sew His Shroud?. And she is a writer of books, no less. There is also a mention of a writer, Miss Hocking, who is in need of a secretary or typist for her manuscripts.

I am not going to bother writing a review on this one for if you go to the book page there is a wonderful review written by Cariola that lends me to think no others are necessary. Suffice it to say I cannot wait to get along to the second in this series, Wild Strawberries. ( )
3 vote rainpebble | Oct 1, 2016 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Angela Thirkellprimary authorall editionscalculated
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
First words
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)
‘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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Book description
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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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0881844632, Paperback)

The unmarried Anne Todd, a wonderful secretary as well as a devoted bedside nurse to her decrepit mother, is an archetypal Thirkell heroine: plucky, determined, resourceful, but acutely aware that being safely married would be a better alternative. The current resurgence of interest of Thirkell, several of whose 40-odd novels of life in imaginary "Barsetshire" before World War II are being reissued, has awakened a nostalgia for the sharp glittering surfaces of her work. High Rising is Thirkell at her warm, easygoing best.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

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)

» see all 5 descriptions

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