High Rising by Angela Thirkell

High Rising is the first book in the Barsetshire series and it centers on Laura Morland, a widowed author who writes “good bad books” in order to support her family. After her husband’s death, the mother of four boys decided to become a very successful author of second-rate books and in the course of time, she has managed to attract a large reading public with her entertaining books about the fashion industry in 1930s England. Thus, she leads a happy life with her youngest son and her hilarious housekeeper Stoker in High Rising where she often visits her quirky friends and neighbors. But her friends and neighbours are not the only ones who are comical. Laura’s eight-year-old son Tony has a passion for trains and his love for trains often results in endless discourses about his objects of desire. Tony’s speeches are often very exhausting and Laura is glad to meet with her friends in order to relax and talk about other matters. With her neighbor and friend George Knox, she can discuss her books since George is a fellow writer (although a very eccentric one). Nonetheless, Laura really enjoys his company and she also enjoys being surrounded by her other friends, including her secretary Anne Todd and her publisher Adrian Coates. Overall, Laura is really content with her life in High Rising and she loves its close-knit community, but everything changes when her friend George hires a new secretary. Miss Grey, or the “Incubus”, is a very devoted secretary, but something just seems odd about her. When High Rising’s residents begin to suspect that Miss Grey secretly intends to marry George, Laura tries to prevent this unthinkable thing from happening. Aided by her friends, Laura is eager to reveal Miss Grey’s real intentions and to restore happiness in High Rising. But the “Incubus” doesn’t seem to be Laura’s only problem. She needs to take care of other things as well, including an anonymous letter, a drunken proposal and her attempt at matchmaking!

Set in pre-war Britain, High Rising gives the reader a glimpse into the entertaining world of English country society. Angela Thirkell manages to depict village life in such a witty and original way, making the reader smile and long for more. Her amusing characters will draw you in and you will begin to care deeply about each of them, as they are alluring with their little intrigues and problems. My favorite character was Laura’s curious son Tony, since I found him hilarious with his obsession for trains and with his annoying questions. I also found his poems very entertaining and I had to smile whenever I read passages about Tony.

What I really like about High Rising is the fact that it concentrates more on dialogue and characterization, thus the plot takes a back seat. The book is full of wit and charm and I really enjoyed reading about these little funny stories concerning High Rising’s residents. Angela Thirkell’s novel captures a way of life that no longer exists and the reader will delight in exploring this ingenious world of rural England with its lovely and memorable characters.

I look forward to reading more novels by this great author and I recommend this book to everyone who wants to read a funny book with a feel-good vibe!

Note: I would like to thank Erin C. Smith from Beaufort Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review such a great novel!

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