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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 May 2017
This is a charming story of life in a country village with the focus on a fete. The beautiful Mrs Brandon - a widow with two grown up children - captivates all men who come within her orbit though she is completely oblivious of the effect she has on other people. Her late husband's Aunt Sissie seems likely to die before long. She is an irascible old lady and Mrs Brandon feels sorry for her much tried companion - Miss Morris - and vows to have Miss Morris to stay once Aunt Sissie dies.

A chicken pox epidemic among the poor and a vicar who is excellent at parish work but who regards Mrs Brandon as a goddess; Mrs Grant who is obsessed with Italy and who lards her conversation with Italian phrases; servants who are domestic tyrants and the usual collection of angst ridden young people make up this entertaining froth of a book.

If you want a book to lose yourself in and where the descriptions and dialogue will at least make you smile then this book is ideal. It is light hearted and amusing and ideal if you want to remind yourself that such villages did exist in the 1930s. If you have read Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels and Ivy Compton Burnett then the society depicted in Angela Thirkell's novels will be familiar to you.
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on 19 May 2014
At last Angela Thirkell's Barsetshire series has come to Kindle. On the surface a light, frivolous story of the 'gentry' of the big houses and the working classes surrounding them underneath is a well-observed social history of a world almost vanished forever. Through the series stretching from the mid-thirties to the end of the 1950's we see how it happened.

This book introduces the Brandon family, Mr. Miller the vicar, Miss Morris and several others who will all be major players in the later books.

Using Trollope' Barsetshire chronicles as the foundation of her work Ms Thirkell creates a world as funny and observant as Nancy Mitford's, though less satirical and sharp. The round of daily life in a home counties village just before world war two is examined through the happenings of The Brandon family and their associates. A rich aunt, a possible legacy, subtle romance these are the main ingredients of the plot but it meanders along so happily that you are content to go with the flow without worrying too much about outcomes.

A book for all lovers of English Family Sagas and a must for students of English social history.
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on 29 July 2015
I've read a few Angela Thirkells now - looking for very light summer reading and this seemed to fit the bill. But some are not much good - this one, however, is very funny. The portrait of the household staff - nannies and ladies' maids - and their rivalry and relationship with the family is very amusing and although the plot is pretty corny, it's a fun quick read. Nothing like as thoughtful as Barbara Pym, with whom she's compared, these are more comfortable/unquestioning and upper middle class which can be irritating (did children in their twenties really live indefinitely at home and refer to their mother as 'darling'?). But having said that, the portrait of the times is interesting for anyone who didn't live through it. Definitely a girls' book and very forgettable, but entertaining for all that.
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on 21 August 2017
This is an early Thirkell novel (1939), and introduces several characters to the Barsetshire Chronicles. It also reflects a balmy pre war time of peaceful pursuits, gentle romances and ladies with companions, mourning clothes and investments. The Brandon family, headed by a widow whose effortless conquest of all the males around her is a favourite of Thirkell’s; but here it is managed that no hearts are broken and others are grateful, even if unconsciously, for her matchmaking efforts. There is a Will, cameos of such favourite characters as the Morlands, and overall such a delightful late summer atmosphere of late summer calm and sunshine that it is a worthy addition to the series, but would work as a stand alone novel.
Lavinia Brandon has long come to terms with being a widow, with two grown up children, Francis and Delia, and a small but devoted domestic staff. Her comfortable income is watched over by the devoted but bombastic Sir Edmund, and she is on excellent terms with her neighbours including Mr Miller, the local Vicar. Her gentle idyll is disturbed by a summons to her late husband’s aunt, Miss Brandon, and meets the efficient but frustrated companion, Miss Morris. She and her offspring meet Hilary Grant, a young man who is instantly smitten by the older woman’s charms. His mother is an intruding character who spends her life in Italy, and is a never ending source of embarrassment to him. As it becomes obvious that Miss Brandon is dying, subtle guesses are made as to who is to benefit from her will, and to their credit no one wants to inherit her large decaying house. Much confusion and cross purposes emerge as everyone grows a little older and perhaps wiser as to their feelings and potential relationships.
The plot of this novel is slight, yet effective, and its chief delight is the characters. My favourite is Delia, constantly pursued by Nurse for clothes fittings, fascinated by injury and illness as an observer, still young enough to be innocent in her friendship emerging over stolen fruit from the garden. Francis is an amusing young man, devoted to his mother and completely aware of her little tricks of attraction for the love struck men who surround her. Aunt Sissie is a formidable character who actually understands more than she is credited with, and deals with unwanted visitors easily. I particularly enjoyed the account of the Village fete, with Lavinia’s vagueness being familiar to fans of the other novels, and the efficiency of Miss Morris contrasting with the Vicar’s confusion. There are also scenes where some books are nearly read aloud, but are continually diverted.
This book is of its time, an entertaining novel of family and friends unaware of impending war and shortages, diverting the reader’s interest down comforting paths of middle class concerns without peril. There is a certain element of snobbishness about the descriptions of the servants and their feuds, but no one is ever despised or insulted. The description of a poor family is a little patronising, but good is always is always intended. As with all Thirkell’s novels, there are weaker moments, but overall it is a splendidly comfortable, sunny read from a lost or even imagined era.
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on 31 May 2014
I would recommend this book if you want a gentle read. - I enjoyed reading this book, of a time gone by, if it ever existed at all. I escaped to another world, of servants, kindness and pleasant surroundings. Angela Thirkell recreates characters who you want to read more and more of. I enjoy her gentle humour and bringing the obnoxious Tony Morland and his mother from High Risings was fun. Why are her heroines nearly always widows?
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on 11 July 2016
Whilst an aged aunt spends her last days being curmudgeonly, the staff bicker amongst themselves and old and young bachelors worship at her feet, attractive widow Lavinia spends her days trying to keep everyone happy with the least trouble to herself - yet somehow manages to sort everyone out with a sense of mischief only a couple of people recognise. This is a delightful vision of a world that probably never existed - but how we wish it did!
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on 7 April 2015
Have thoroughly enjoyed The Brandons. This is the first I have read by Angela Thirkell and I am about to set about some of her others. It is such a light, happy and funny book, and so well written that by the end you feel that you know all the characters so well. It makes such a change from some of the books these days. A lovely book to curl up with on a wet afternoon, you cannot fail to enjoy it.
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on 26 October 2016
The most wearisome book I have ever tried to read!! Endless dialogue, lacking any purpose other than to fill the page. I tried to finish it but couldn't bear to read another word!
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on 23 May 2015
Another totally wonderful Angela Thirkell! Back to the ordered,existence of the middle classes of the 1930s. Total escapism and pure enjoyment! Bliss!
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on 1 October 2016
A most enjoyable read. One of her best. The characterisation is well handled and her low-key comedy delights. Definitely a 'keeper'.
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