High Rising appeared in 1933 and I consider it a tour de force, springing like Athena fully armed from the forehead of Zeus. While Angela Thirkell had written many articles, short stories, and one previous novel—all written because she needed the money as her principal character and avatar Laura Morland does—this is the first of what would be a long series of inter-connected works. The tone is assured and confident, witty and observant. She does not yet name her imaginary county or connect any characters to Trollope’s; it is just a slice of idealized, upper-middle class English life.
If this is your first Angela Thirkell novel and if you are not into romanticized English county life, you might be tempted to say OK, it’s funny, it’s “nice,” but what’s the big deal? If you are that kind of reader the big deal comes a few novels hence, when we move into the War years, with each novel being written in the time it is set in. Here’s where we get the splendid, page-long sentences, the social commentary, and the details of life in War and the more dreadful Peace. If you are not that kind of reader, and are enjoying High Rising for the comic-romance that it is, then you will enjoy the rest of the series. As one anonymous reviewer on Amazon commented, “if you like this kind of book, this is the kind of book you will like,” a pungent summation indeed! [Read more…]