I have almost finished reading this lovely pink purchase from Robie Books: Wild Strawberries (1934) by Angela Thirkell. This is the hardcover copy that I had in my hand when I visited the used bookstore on a day-trip to Berea recently but then failed to purchase. My loss haunted me and I had Avena the owner mail it to me and I am so glad I did.
Quite frankly, the book is hysterically funny.
The delicious Leslie family is introduced all in a swoop within the first couple of pages. I found that I had to make a little family tree so that I could keep the names straight. There are Lady Emily and husband, Henry; two sons, John, a widower, is about 33, and David is 26. Martin, who is 16, is the son of the eldest Leslie (unnamed) who died in The War. There is daughter Agnes and her brood of three children. There are servants: a butler, a housekeeper, ladies maid, footman, cook, nanny and nurse. Then along comes Mary, a niece of Agnes's husband Robert who is away in Argentina. Then the Boulles arrive, a French family who has let the vicarage for the month of August.
Put them all together at Rushwater House, the Leslie country estate, with a few other characters thrown in for good measure, and you have a treat to be sure.
Lady Emily is really the dearest character. She is a little like Pig Pen of the Peanuts comic strip only she doesn't move in a cloud of dirt. Her cloud consists of shawls, spectacles, footstools, baskets of letters - both answered and unanswered - fans, yarn, embroidery thread, and anything else that happens to be in her vicinity. Her family is always trailing behind her picking up her fallen detritus.
Ms. Thirkell has a knack for creating this kind of unforgettable character. I will never forget writer Laura Morland, introduced in High Rising. She couldn't keep her hair pins in her hair. A very charming quirk.
Wild Strawberries is just the tale to be reading now that we are in strawberry season. And I do hope that niece Mary ends up with the fellow I have picked for her!