Monday, May 20, 2013

Our Rose from Thirkell's Summer Half

Here is a quote from Summer Half, the second book in my Angela Thirkell Read-A-Thon. It is a wonderful example of how Ms. Thirkell breathlessly paints the portrait of a character. 

The characters:
Mr. Birkett is the headmaster of Southbridge preparatory school; Rose is his 17-year-old daughter; and, Philip Winter is an assistant master at Southbridge.

Why the excellent and intelligent Birketts had produced an elder daughter who was a perfect sparrow-wit was a question freely discussed by the school, but no one had found an answer. Mrs. Birkett felt a little rebellious against Fate. She had thought of a pretty and useful daughter who would help her to entertain parents and visitors, perhaps play the cello, or write a book, collect materials for Mr. Birkett's projected History of Southbridge School, and marry at about twenty-five a successful professional man in London. 

Fate had not gone wholeheartedly into the matter. 

Rose was as pretty as she could be, but there Fate had broken down. Rose was frankly bored by parents and visitors, and always managed to escape when they arrived. She did play an instrument, but far from being the cello it was a piano-accordian, which she handled with a great deal of confidence, but poor technique. As for writing, she was always dashing off letters in a large illegible calligraphy to bosom friends, but her vocabulary was small and her spelling shaky. She was very lazy and was perfectly happy for hours doing her nails, or altering a dress. 

When she came back from Munich Philip Winter had fallen so suddenly and hopelessly in love that he had to propose to her almost before her trunks were unpacked. Rose had accepted his proposal gracefully, said it would be perfectly marvellous, and wrote to tell her bosom friends about it, spelling her affianced's Christian name with two l's.


  1. I'm anxious to read some of Thirkell's books. She wrote so many they will keep me going awhile when I get to them. The quotes you give from the books are intriguing.

    Joyce F in KS

    1. Joyce, I don't know why it took me so long to discover Angela Thirkell. As a lover of all things British and a great fan of P.G. Wodehouse, her comic novels are just my cup of tea. Here is a link to a site that lists her books in order. For the time being I am skipping the non-Barsetshire ones written between 'Wild Strawberries' and 'August Folly':

  2. I'm always pleased to have a listing of an author's books in the order they were written. Don't always read them that way as sometimes later books are better. Sometimes earlier books are and the later ones just seem the same with names and towns changed!

    Joyce F

    1. Joyce, I know exactly what you are saying!