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4.3 out of 5 stars29
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 6 February 2014
The cover mentions Barbara Pym, a comparison which surprised me as High Rising was published in 1933 and I associate Pym with a post-war England of bombed-out churches, rationing and eating half a tin of baked beans for tea. There aren't any vicars in High Rising and not many children or servants in Barbara Pym. They do, I suppose, both portray excellent women.
Laura Morland is a joy. She struggles to keep her family afloat; just her and her youngest son now that her elder boys have left home and her good-looking but useless husband has died. I knew from the first sentence, 'The headmaster's wife twisted herself round in her chair to talk to Mrs Morland, who was sitting in the row just behind her' that this was going to be good. She reminds me of Stella Gibbons or Elizabeth von Arnim and, with her many novels, she has certainly earned her place in the canon of English comedy.
In High Rising, the heroine struggles to free her neighbour George Knox from the clutches of his demented secretary. Her village friends, train-obsessed son and char woman (Stoker, surely a relation of Mrs Pringle in Miss Read's Fairacre chronicles) all make welcome appearances. As another review says, Thirkell's way with words is magnificent. I particularly enjoyed the young couple Sibyl and Adrian 'oozing' out of the French windows into the garden.
High Rising isn't perfect. At times, it seems too much like a comic version of Thirkell's own life. We are told virtually nothing about Mr Morland - why everyone has such a low opinion of him or why Laura married him in the first place. However, the prose is light and as clear as crystal and I look forward to reading more (or all!) of these Barsetshire masterpieces in their new, handsome Virago editions.
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on 3 January 2014
I've just read this over the Christmas holidays and it was perfect (though it ends in late spring), a real fluffy-robe-and-slippers of a book and I'll happily read more Angela Thirkell when in the mood for light comedy.

Laura Morland, widow and writer, divides her life between a flat in London and a house in High Rising. Returning to the country with her train-mad youngest son one Christmas, she hears of a newcomer to the locale, a Miss Grey, who may just have upset everyone's plans....

It isn't profound or experimental fiction, but it's fun and witty. It's also of its time, so there are some things that even kind Laura says which strike the modern reader as snobbery and racism a la Agatha Christie. Alexander McCall Smith, who writes the introduction to this edition, puts some of Miss Grey's plight into context, but while her situation may be pitiable, her conduct is not, and would be condemned regardless of her position.

Finally, I've read lots of complaints about the amount of mistakes and lack of proof-reading, but my edition of the paperback with the pretty cover was fine.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 August 2014
This is a wonderful 1930s book set mainly in a small village which is full of larger than life characters. This is very much a book of its time with public schools, houses in town and the country, servants and so on.
Laura Morland is a widowed author with four boys, the youngest of which features most volubly in this story. She is the lynch pin of the book with all of the action taking place to the characters around her. We have her part time secretary Miss Todd who cares for her ailing mother and is loved by the local GP Dr Ford. There is George Knox the local historical author with a strange secretary, Miss Grey, and a rather dim but very loveable daughter Sybil. Throw into the mix Stoker, Laura's housekeeper who loves nothing more than a good gossip, her publisher and her old friend Amy Birkett. We could not forget Laura's son, Tony, who expounds on railways continuously regardless of who is listening.
This odd assortment of characters makes for a wonderful series of most unlikely and highly amusing events. The book just carries you along on a tide which I couldn't bear to put down. The vision of Stoker doing folk dancing in her coat and hat (just in case anyone thought she might be staying) was wonderful.
This is a book with wonderful descriptions of the people and events. Yes, I know it is all most unlikely and set in an artificial bubble but it is fun and I enjoyed it very much.
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on 16 September 2013
A joy to read - easy going period piece but surprising captivating! An undemanding yet interesting read - like a nice hug!
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It is good to see Angela Thirkell's light novels once more receiving attention. "High Rising" is one of her first novels, dating from 1933. There were many English novelists in the 1930s who mined the traditionally English vein of gentle parody, graceful writing, mild absurdity, and class distinction. Much handsomer than most of them, and exhibiting the influence of Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope, Angela Thirkell peopled her novels with descendants of characters found in the latter's Barsetshire novels.
If that gives an idea of the flavour and style that might be enjoyed in her books, I can add that this one chronicles the dizzy doings of Laura Morland, a novelists, who juggles the demands of four sons, her publisher, her secretary, her formidable maid Stoker, and a friend George Knox whom most think should be more than a friend to her. The custom of "coming to tea" sets them all interacting. Watch for the number of verbs Angela Thirkell can employ - from plunge, to insinuate - to describe how characters can enter a room.
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on 14 January 2014
I am so pleased to have found this glorious book. How refreshing it is to stumble across a gentle, witty novel like this one. Some may say it is dated (and it is obviously set in a bygone age), but I would say it has stood the test of time. The characters are all beautifully drawn. The soupy young couple, desperately in love (Coates and Sybil) are perfect. George Knox, the important author whose oral sentences (though not, we gather, those he writes) are so extraordinarily convoluted. Mrs Morland, the highly successful second-rate author who has somehow to cope with all her weird neighbours. Stoker, Mrs Morland's outspoken servant. But, for me, the top character has to be Tony Morland, the enormously loquacious prep-school son of Mrs Morland.

Not a great deal happens, but it is all so splendidly readable. I am longing to read more of her novels.

Charles
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on 30 June 2014
I discovered Angela Thirkell through an interest in her Grandfather, Burne-Jones. What a pleasure to read her work, she paints a picture in words as well as Burne-Jones did with his brushes. Starting with her autobiography "Three Houses", then this, the first of the Barsetshire novels. A gentle, skillful picture of England between the wars, a time that can never return. Pure escapism, into the world of wealthy aristocratic families, very like her own childhood, no violence, no harsh colours, a total joy. I have all the editions as yet available on Kindle, and can't wait for more to be released. This is what light novel writing is about, this is the level that is so often not achieved . A journey into Barsetshire is a journey into pure reading pleasure.
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on 25 July 2009
Whatever Angela Thirkell wrote, she always showed a deft touch, an awareness of the waywardness of human behaviour and at its best, the charity of it, too. You read with a warm sense of meeting a friend and relaxing, sometimes sitting bolt upright to shout with laughter and startle your companions out of their postprandial somnolence.
These reprints are welcome, but I do wish someone would proof read them properly. There are serious setting errors, as though the publishers/printers didn't read English.
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on 18 January 2014
Witty, entertaining and far cleverer than it pretends - a joyous read.

Perfect for reading on a rotten wintery afternoon, or on the way to work - although you might chuckle out loud on the train.

Lovely to see Virago reprinting many of Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire novels. I'm not sure how they are choosing which ones to reprint, but it's all good news. Cheerfulness Breaks In and Before Lunch would be great too please if any of the Virago team read this!
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Someone recommended Angela Thirkell's writing to me, after a discussion of how much I enjoy Nancy Mitford's writing. I rushed out to buy High Rising, and finished it last night. I did enjoy it very much, and it is indeed in the same vein as Mitford, but for me it doesn't have that slightly surreal, acerbic edge that makes Mitford's writing such a joy.

Having said that High Rising was delightful, fluffy and mannered in a way that I did enjoy. It is entirely of its time and utterly undemanding of the reader. It really is light relief. I loved the character of Laura, brisk and no nonsense, and completely contented with her lot. I thought she was the most rounded and fully developed character in the book, where others were merely caricatures. Having realise that this is one of many books in the series, I suspect that these peripheral characters might well feature more largely and come into their own in future volumes. I suspect that this will be a series I will grow to love as each volume builds on the other.

I shall definitely read more of her stuff. It's perfect when I want an enjoyable romp of a read and really don't want to think about anything much at all.
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