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High Rising (Barsetshire, #1)
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Group Reads Archive > December 2015- High Rising by Angela Thirkell

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message 1: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Welcome to December's group read of High Rising by Angela Thirkell.

Enjoy!


message 2: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 16, 2015 04:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb I'll be starting this, the first of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire novels which, apparently, takes place in part over Christmas, in about a week by which time the Christmas vibe should be well and truly underway...



High Rising (1933) by Angela Thirkell

A smart new edition . . . A terrific holiday story (The Lady)

A delightfully entertaining comedy of manners. Full of period charm and witty authorial comment (Good Book Guide)

To be so witty and charming yet also so brilliantly brusque and practical as Laura Morland is my new year's resolution (Pippa Wright, author of The Foster Husband)

Charming, very funny indeed. Angela Thirkell is perhaps the most Pym-like of any twentieth-century author, after Pym herself. (Alexander McCall Smith)

Appealing. (Glasgow Sunday Herald)

A smart new edition . . . A terrific holiday story. (The Lady)

*
It's the first of Angela Thirkell's brilliantly satirical English comedies set in the fictional county of Barsetshire.

I know how you like to read a series in order Susan.

*

Now available as a Virago Modern Classic.

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.

Biographical Notes

Angela Thirkell (1890-1961) wrote many works of fiction and non-fiction, including twenty-nine 'Barsetshire' novels, which won her great popularity and acclaim.

The first of these, High Rising, was published in 1933. Her relatives included Edward Burne-Jones, Rudyard Kipling and Stanley Baldwin, and her godfather was JM Barrie. She was twice married and had four children.

*

Here's to another enjoyable group read here at BYT


Barbara I enjoyed this book and will probably read more of this series. The characters were delightful--especially Tony and Laura. There were a lot of amusing literary allusions and word play that kept me entertained. It reminded me a lot of Queen Lucia, although Laura was a much nicer person than Lucia.

While I enjoyed the story, there were some anti-Semitic remarks that were offensive and were completely unnecessary to the storyline. I realize the book was written in the 30s and such attitudes were common, but they were still unpleasant to encounter in an otherwise funny and lighthearted book.

In the edition I read (published by Moyer Bell), there were errors on almost every page--mostly periods in the middle of sentences, as well as other typos. I actually checked to see if I was reading an advance copy because it didn't seem possible that a publisher would allow so many errors to pass unnoticed.


Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments It's a shame there is so much anti-Semitism in books from this period - even from authors you'd expect to know better. As you say, Barbara, it brings you up short in a lighthearted book.

Sorry to hear about all those typos - sadly this seems to happen in a lot of books now.

I had a look at the start of this book at Amazon and to be honest didn't think it looked like my kind of thing, as I didn't find the humour very funny - but I know my local library has it, so I will hope to pick it up and see if I warm to it over a few more pages.


Nigeyb Thanks Barbara

Barbara wrote: "I enjoyed this book and will probably read more of this series."

That sounds very encouraging - and makes me even keener to read it

Barbara wrote: "It reminded me a lot of Queen Lucia, although Laura was a much nicer person than Lucia."

Even better still - I like what I've read of the Mapp and Lucia books and look forward to continuing with the series.

Barbara wrote: "...there were some anti-Semitic remarks that were offensive and were completely unnecessary to the storyline. I realize the book was written in the 30s and such attitudes were common, but they were still unpleasant to encounter in an otherwise funny and lighthearted book."

As Judy says above, it was so clearly unremarkable in our era and so commonplace - very depressing

Barbara wrote: "In the edition I read (published by Moyer Bell), there were errors on almost every page--mostly periods in the middle of sentences, as well as other typos. I actually checked to see if I was reading an advance copy because it didn't seem possible that a publisher would allow so many errors to pass unnoticed."

I can only echo Judy again - annoyingly frequent in digital editions. I have a paperback from the library from Virago so I hope to have a properly proof read edition on my hands.

Anyway, thanks so much for your comments. I enjoyed them, as always, and it makes me feel even more enthused about reading this book - which is next in the pile


message 6: by Lynaia (last edited Dec 02, 2015 02:07PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lynaia | 153 comments I just started this last night and am thoroughly enjoying it! This is a reread for me but it's been a couple of years since I last read it. I love the portrayal of the relationship between Laura and Tony. Having raised 2 kids myself, I can definitely relate. I can remember being very thankful to send the kids back to school at the end of Christmas break and that was only 2 weeks long, not 4-5 weeks like in the story. The best thing was if you got a big snowfall over the holiday break so that the kids wanted to go out and play in it. Thirkell captures the feelings perfectly here

"Laura shut the door and reeled downstairs. Four weeks of this to come. Nearer five than four. Thank heaven it was the country, where he would be out all day, and would certainly amuse himself. 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. Perhaps, she thought, as she stood by Tony's bed an hour later, they wouldn't be so nice if they weren't so hateful."

This paragraph along with others nails how you love your kids to death but also find them so terribly exhausting. You also see clearly throughout how Laura is ready to just smack Tony one minute and then is totally proud of him the next and wants to give him a hug. Spot on!


Barbara Edition I read was actually a paperback. I don't think I've ever read a book with so many typos! They were literally on almost every page. Grr.

I don't want to discourage you, Nigey, but you might not be so enthused. High Rising was enjoyable, but not fantastic. Some funny parts (though I guess not Judy's idea of humor) and worth reading in my opinion, but very light. What I think of as airplane or waiting room reading. Will be interested to hear what you think--and to see if Judy decides to read it.


Barbara Lynaia wrote: "I just started this last night and am thoroughly enjoying it! This is a reread for me but it's been a couple of years since I last read it. I love the portrayal of the relationship between Laura an..."

Very realistic! You love them, even as they drive you crazy.


Connie G (connie_g) | 162 comments I liked how Laura described her novels as "good bad books" because they were not literature for intellectuals. Laura seems to be based on the author herself who was divorced with sons to support.

I also read the Moyer Bell edition, and have to agree with Barbara about the number of typos. There were so many that it became distracting.

The book was light and humorous once I got into it a bit, but I was not ready to go out and read the next in the series right away.


Nigeyb I'm getting a good-but-not-great vibe so far. I'll be starting this in about a week and my expectations are suitably reduced now.

Perhaps (A Christmas Carol aside) all Xmas themed books suffer from this?


message 11: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I've picked this one up from the library now and will give it a try. The edition I've got is Virago, so hoping to avoid the typo problems!


Lynaia | 153 comments I would agree that this is a light read. I think Nigeyb may be right that some of that has to do with it being a Christmas story. But I personally like a light read for Christmas. I read a couple more of Angela Thirkell's novels after this one and they were all rather light but I thought this one was the most fun. Not a "great" novel but enjoyable.


Nigeyb I have just read the introduction to the Virago edition by Alexander McCall Smith. He suggests that the book's charm is twofold, the insights it offers the modern reader into the English middle class life of the 1930s, and the rich vein of humour.

I am also pleased to report that there were no typos.

It has whetted my appetite for this book which I should start in a few days time.


message 14: by Judy (last edited Dec 12, 2015 11:36AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I'm about 2/3 of the way through this now, and have found it an easy, fast read - some parts are quite funny, especially the relationship between Laura and Tony. The tone reminds me at times of Bridget Jones.

The way Tony constantly drones on about both toy and real trains is hilarious - I've read some of his comments out to my husband, who is a train buff, and he thinks it all sounds accurate, so presumably Angela Thirkell either did research or had a real-life version of Tony knocking around somewhere!


message 15: by Judy (last edited Dec 12, 2015 11:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments On the minus side, there's no getting away from the fact that the book is very snobbish. Laura is constantly horrified at the housekeeper/secretary Miss Grey having the nerve to forget her place and behaving as if she is the lady of the house where she works, for instance, by daring to invite people in for a cup of tea!

Related to this, Miss Grey is Irish, which is something she apparently has to hide. Barbara mentioned the anti-Semitic remarks, and I've also noticed a lot of anti-Irish ones - again, something which would have been common at the time but does jar.


Nigeyb Thanks Judy. Your comments increase my levels of anticipation.


Nigeyb I'm on page 36 (13% through according to GoodReads) and so far I'm underwhelmed. For a comedy it's surprisingly unfunny, though I have smiled once and can see comedic potential in the offing (particularly between Laura and her idiosyncratic housekeeper), overall though I am having to force myself to read on rather than deriving any great enjoyment from the experience. I am hoping this will pick up soon.


Nigeyb There's been a slight upturn with the arrival of Miss Knox to the story. Still not much comedic value, but perhaps the story will become more compelling?


message 19: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 14, 2015 09:30AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb I'm on P77 (77%) now.


The plot is getting a bit more interesting but I cannot escape the feeling of intense relief that I have never had to live in such a small, closed and - to my mind - claustrophobic, judgemental and intolerant community. I am struggling to understand how anyone can describe this book as "charming" or "very funny indeed" as Alexander McCall Smith does in the introduction. However, it does offer some insights into the era and social milieu.

It's quite similar to Diary of a Provincial Lady - though I enjoyed that far more than this so far.

There are also some similarities with the world of E.F. Benson's Mapp & Lucia novels. I have to say, based on the first two Mapp & Lucia novels, I much prefer them to this. There's been nothing yet to match E.F. Benson's comedy of manners. Though plenty of time to arrive at a different conclusion with about two thirds of the book still to read.


message 20: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments I thought the beginning at the school was by far the weakest part of the book and almost gave up in disgust at that point, but it gets more enjoyable after that. The story isn't particularly interesting, but there are some comic characters who amused me, especially the train-mad Tony and the incredibly talkative author, George! Wondering if they might amuse you too, Nigeyb?

I also thought there were similarities with Diary of a Provincial Lady, but I didn't really enjoy that one at all - I found this much funnier.


message 21: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments P.S., I also felt the snobbishness became a bit less obvious as the book goes on - perhaps because the characters become quirkier and I started to think of them more as individuals rather than types? Not sure.


message 22: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val I can't get this one from the library and was undecided about buying it, so I will be looking out for everyone's final verdict.


Lynaia | 153 comments Judy wrote: "On the minus side, there's no getting away from the fact that the book is very snobbish. Laura is constantly horrified at the housekeeper/secretary Miss Grey having the nerve to forget her place an..."

I guess I took this a bit different. I got more of the impression that Laura was upset that Miss Grey was acting like she was the lady of the house when she was only an employee and a relatively new one at that. She also seemed to be trying to show she had more of a claim on George than old friends who had known him for years.


Lynaia | 153 comments Nigeyb wrote: "I'm on P77 (77%) now.


The plot is getting a bit more interesting but I cannot escape the feeling of intense relief that I have never had to live in such a small, closed and - to my mind - claust..."


I guess it depends on your interpretation of why everyone dislikes Miss Grey so much. I got the impression that it was more than the fact that she was just a secretary but that she was just an employee who was trying to act like the lady of the house and also that she was trying to come between old friendships and give the impression that she knew what George needed etc more than his family and his old friends did. She was pushing everyone else out. I found this much less petty than a lot of what went on in Queen Lucia. That reminded me so much of high school and the pettiness between girls at that age and not in a good way.


Nigeyb Judy wrote: "The story isn't particularly interesting, but there are some comic characters who amused me, especially the train-mad Tony and the incredibly talkative author, George! Wondering if they might amuse you too, Nigeyb?"

I'll let you know Judy. It's definitely picking up as it goes along. And I do like George. Tony is a nice kid and I'm not sure why his Mum is so down on him all the time. Poor guy gets very little quality time with Laura.

Judy wrote: "I also felt the snobbishness became a bit less obvious as the book goes on - perhaps because the characters become quirkier and I started to think of them more as individuals rather than types? Not sure. "

That's encouraging Judy.

Lynaia wrote: "I guess it depends on your interpretation of why everyone dislikes Miss Grey so much. I got the impression that it was more than the fact that she was just a secretary but that she was just an employee who was trying to act like the lady of the house and also that she was trying to come between old friendships and give the impression that she knew what George needed etc more than his family and his old friends did."

I think that's right Lynaia - and she's clearly a very unsympathetic character, whilst Laura is far more attractive. My comments were also informed by the way everyone seems to be making judgements about each other, and getting stuck into gossiping. And then, which I know was par for the course back then, and as already mentioned, there's the odd bit of casual racism too.

My other complaints are that the book is simply not funny. It's gentle and playful but to call it a comedy is - based on what I've read - very wide of the mark. Wodehouse this ain't.

I'm also pretty confident about how the story is going to conclude based on what I've read already. If I'm right that will be a shocking level of predictability so early in the book.

So far, in a word, pleasant, but nothing more. I'm hoping it will continue to pick up though. It is, as I say, getting better. Watch this space.


Lynaia | 153 comments I agree that this is no Wodehouse but very few are. I find it light and pleasant but if I wanted to read more of a similar type of story I would probably go for E.M. Delafield or Frances Hodgson Burnett.


message 27: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments Library has a copy but it is currently out. Might reserve it, so will keep reading posts. Might buy...unsure...


Nigeyb The New Years Eve dinner party is amusing me. A definite ongoing improvement.


message 29: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments Improvement, good to hear.


message 30: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 15, 2015 03:57AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb ^ And it continues...


At the end of an eventful New Years Eve gathering I am feeling far more warmly towards some of the characters in this book.

That chapter was also the most enjoyable so far, provoking a fair few chuckles, and the story became more compelling too.

I'm hoping this is how the book will continue from here on in.


message 31: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments I'm a quarter of the way in. Not massively grabbed b it so far, so hopefully that will change. Don't want to abandon another book.


message 32: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 15, 2015 04:11AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb ^ That mirrors my own reaction Roisin so you can take some encouragement from my latest report. I am now looking forward to the next time I can pick up High Rising and continue with the story.


message 33: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments Sorry wrong book! Finally awake! This one looking at the sample is much more promising than the one for Reading The Detectives group, The Santa Klaus Murder.

Might buy this one, first few pages are quite funny.


message 34: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments : )


message 35: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 15, 2015 04:12AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb Ah! Yes indeed. Different book AND a different GoodReads group.


Easy mistake to make (ahem)

;-)


message 36: by Roisin (new) - added it

Roisin | 729 comments Bah! All the same! ; ))


message 37: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 15, 2015 06:56AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb Amy Birkett staying with Laura and Tony is keeping the plot moving along.

Whilst I think the conclusion is pretty clearly signposted, I suspect the pleasure and interest will be in how we get there.

Judy wrote: "..there are some comic characters who amused me, especially the train-mad Tony and the incredibly talkative author, George! Wondering if they might amuse you too, Nigeyb?"

I must confess Judy, that, increasingly, they are causing smiles, chuckles and even the occasional guffaw.

I am continuing to enjoy this at around the halfway point - and the characters are becoming more and more endearing too.


Nigeyb @ 60% now


A disturbing but amusing encounter as Laura is invited to tea with George's mother, old Mrs Knox, and Miss Grey whilst in London.

Really looking forward to this book's conclusion now


message 39: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 16, 2015 05:00AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb I continue to really enjoy this book. I should finish it in the next couple of days. The characters have really grown on me, and I am interested to see how things resolve themselves.

I'd say it's a very apt BYT December fiction read - light and enjoyable, and a great insight into the life of English middle class households during the early 1930s.

Barbara wrote: "In the edition I read (published by Moyer Bell), there were errors on almost every page--mostly periods in the middle of sentences, as well as other typos. I actually checked to see if I was reading an advance copy because it didn't seem possible that a publisher would allow so many errors to pass unnoticed. "

I'm reading the Virago Modern Classic edition and I've not noticed any errors or typos yet. So, if you have the opportunity to get the Virago Modern Classic edition, then go for that.


message 40: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 17, 2015 06:22AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb Ah, the first of the loose ends has been tied up most pleasingly. I write as an unashamed sentimentalist - if you've read the book already you may well know what I am referring to. There are still a few more plot strands that need resolution. I am really enjoying this now and look forward to picking it up again. Hopefully this evening.


Nigeyb Loving the conclusion of this book as I enter the final 20 or so pages


Lynaia | 153 comments Finished this last night. I'll miss the characters. I think that's why I was disappointed when I read the next couple in the series. I missed these characters too much. I wanted them to be more ongoing in the series.


Lynaia | 153 comments Finished this last night. I'll miss the characters. I think that's why I was disappointed when I read the next couple in the series. I missed these characters too much. I wanted them to be more ongoing in the series.


message 44: by Judy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Judy (wwwgoodreadscomprofilejudyg) | 931 comments Nigeyb, I get the feeling you had roughly the same reaction as me...
The beginning is awful, shall I read on, oh wait, it's getting better, actually this bit is quite funny, and this part even more so... oh dear, I don't want it to end!

Lynaia, I'm disappointed to hear these characters aren't ongoing in the series - I'd like to meet them again, especially George and Tony.


Nigeyb Judy wrote: "Nigeyb, I get the feeling you had roughly the same reaction as me...


The beginning is awful, shall I read on, oh wait, it's getting better, actually this bit is quite funny, and this part even more so... oh dear, I don't want it to end!"


^ Absolutely spot on Judy. I may just cut and paste that into my review.

I've only got a few pages to go and I'm very sorry to be finishing the book. And yes, George and Tony are, in many ways, the stars - though all the characters are well drawn. Stoker also emerges as a great character, and I think every reader finishes the book a little bit in love with Laura!


message 46: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 18, 2015 03:04AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb Lynaia wrote: "Finished this last night. I'll miss the characters. I think that's why I was disappointed when I read the next couple in the series. I missed these characters too much. I wanted them to be more ongoing in the series. "

So Lynaia, which characters continue and which disappear? I'm amazed that most of them don't simply continue on into the books that follow.


message 47: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 18, 2015 03:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nigeyb ^ This gives some hints to my question to Lynaia above....



http://www.angelathirkell.org/atbooks...

And this link suggests that very few of the High Rising characters feature again except Tony....

http://www.angelathirkell.org/compan/...


Nigeyb Finished!


Click here to read my review

As you can see from my comments above, I was bored and unamused by the opening chapters and thought the characters snobbish and judgemental. My negativity was not helped by the odd bit of casual racism (which features in many books from this era and reflects the prevailing social attitudes of the era). I am very glad I stuck with the book as it became steadily more enjoyable and entertaining. By the time I approached the end of the book I was completely entranced. I was charmed by the quirky and idiosyncratic characters and did not want the book to end. I am disappointed to learn that very few of these characters feature in the other books in the series.

In summary, High Rising is a light, amusing and enjoyable book which provides some great insights into the life of English middle class households during the early 1930s and gets progressively better with each passing chapter. I look forward to reading more books by Angela Thirkell.


message 49: by Val (new) - rated it 2 stars

Val This may not be my type of book as I didn't find either Lucia or the Provincial Lady all that funny, but I have gone ahead and ordered a copy anyway. Now let's see how long the Christmas post takes...


Nigeyb ^ Great news Val. It's certainly not laugh out loud funny (well perhaps once or twice) but it does provide plenty of gentle comedic moments.

I hope you enjoy it.


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