Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Reading Assignment: Ankle Deep

I stumbled on Angela Thirkell by accident while looking for something else at the Alderman Library.  I could tell just by how they looked on the shelf that these were books I was likely to enjoy.  I selected a book at random and saw something in the blurb about how Thirkell's books are a continuation of the Barsetshire chronicles and that she is the new Anthony Trollope and I realized I had stumbled onto something wonderful.  I selected Wild Strawberries, which you can read about here, and added all of Thirkell's novels to my book list.

I read August Folly while I was in Cape Town, but didn't feel inspired to write a post about it.  Ankle Deep is Thirkell's first novel (published in 1933) and it's probably fair to say it's an immature example of her work.

Fanny Turner is one of those annoying people who thinks her misbehavior is cute.  Impulsive, exacting, childish, demanding; one of her favorite activities is finding girlfriends for an old friend, Valentine Esnor.  Fanny herself is comfortably married with several sons, conveniently away at boarding school. Fanny hosts a weekend house party and among the guests is Aurea, an old flame of Fanny's husband.  Aurea is married and lives in Canada but is visiting her parents in England.  Fanny, whose motive is her own amusement and to cause as much irritation as possible, encourages Valentine to spend time with Aurea, while simultaneously throwing Aurea in front of her husband.

Aurea's marriage is unhappy; she is, as  her father states, one of those unfortunate women who has outgrown her husband.  Her husband is described as a basically inoffensive though unimpressive guy, but Aurea clearly loathes him, and so is ripe to fall in love with Valentine, which she does.  Valentine obligingly returns her feelings and what follows is a tortured description of a relationship between two people who love eachother but won't touch eachother.  To be honest, it got a bit tedious.

I didn't really like any of the characters in this book.  Fanny needs a good smackdown.  Her husband Arthur doesn't come into the story much except to roll his eyes at Fanny and pointlessly fall in love with Aurea too. Aurea is a wishy-washy damp washcloth,  has no sense of humor, and is obviously no fun to be around.  I don't know what Valentine sees in her.  Valentine himself is pretty one-dimensional.  Some of the writing is really irritating.  There's one excruciating scene that goes on for pages and pages in which they won't stop talking about how they're going to be late for dinner, and must still dress for dinner.  THEN GO UPSTAIRS AND DRESS FOR DINNER.  That said, Thirkell does a good job of describing (through dark hints) the murky waters of long standing marriages gone wrong.  It was also nice to read a romance about people my own age.  I'm committed to reading all of Thirkell's works, and as I progress, it will be interesting to see how her writing matured.


  1. I find it fascinating to see how writers work matures.

  2. I think a lot of writers do come along in their craft. I have definitely seen that with a few of my favorites.

  3. It sounds like a lot of potential bogged down in the details. Great review, as usual. :-)

  4. I wrote down this author's name, she sounds of interest. Have you read Barbara Pym? You probably have, she is delightful.

    1. I love Barbara Pym! She is one of my favorite authors.