August Folly is a book that I enjoy when I read it, but I don’t read it as often as others as I dislike some of the characters or are embarrassed by them or for them. (Terrible way to begin an essay, I know!) Even though it is still funny and light, in many ways I feel that this is Angela Thirkell’s cruelest book in part because of the stresses within the Tebben family, which might mirror stresses that Thirkell was feeling toward her two elder sons, who were growing increasingly estranged from her.
However, while this is not my favorite of Thirkell’s works, perhaps because I feel so sorry for Mrs. Tebben, it is one of the best-plotted ones. We have the story of Richard Tebben’s poor degree at Oxford and his parents’ concern over what will become of him, Richard’s infatuation with the beautiful Mrs. Dean, the gentle Margaret Tebben’s hopeless future and her potential romance with Laurence Dean, the machinations of Mrs. Palmer and the play, Hippolytus, that she is putting on in the barn, and the crusty Oxford don Mr. Fanshawe’s growing interest in Helen Dean, who is a rather confused young woman who has an intense adoration of her brother Laurence and a consequent hatred of anyone who might come between the two of them. [Read more…]