Another lovely Angela Thirkell novel! High Rising (1933) is her second novel, and the first in her famed Barsetshire series. I enjoyed it much more than I did Ankle Deep. Most of the action centers around two small English villages, High Rising and Low Rising. The main character, Laura Morland, is a widow, who has gained financial independence by writing fluff novels. She serves as the central point around which the drama of her friends in the village revolves. There's the squire: widowed, but still marriageable, who hires a grasping secretary, who is clearly out to marry him. There's the squire's hapless daughter; the spinster who is caring for her tiresome mother who won't die, and the doctor.
It's a great example of the comforting novels I love so much. The dramas are on a small scale and many problems can be alleviated with a cup of tea. There are also the fun cultural gaps between the 1930's and today, such as their cavalier attitude to drunk driving. "Oh, you flipped our car because you were driving drunk? Never mind, let's walk home and have a nice cup of tea." There is, however, a certain snobbishness about Angela Thirkell. I noticed it first in Wild Strawberries, and it's here in High Rising as well, mainly with the snide descriptions of the secretary, who is clearly mentally unstable, but Thirkell implies that part of what's wrong with her is that she's Irish, which raised my hackles. That said, there's still a certain deliciousness in the scenes with the secretary. What crazy, inappropriate thing will she do this time? Thirkell at least has enough compassion to give the secretary a slightly better ending than she might have deserved, while the other characters end up comfortably paired off. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of Thirkell's novels.