Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Pomfret Towers by Angela Thirkell

My Angela Thirkell Read-A-Thon, begun last weekend, is at an end with my completion of Pomfret Towers

This book has a different tone than the breathlessness of August Folly and Summer Half. The story takes place at a weekend house party hosted by Lord and Lady Pomfret and attended by three sets of brothers and sisters, the heir to the Pomfret estate, an author and her publisher, and other guests thrown in for good measure.

Ms. Thirkell slowly rolls out the story and has a high old time poking fun at the posturings of authors, publishers, and artists. 

Here is an example:

Mr. Bungay is the present representative of the house in Paternoster Row founded some hundred years ago by his great-grandfather. In the middle of last century their most serious rival was the house of Bacon, who made a great hit with three-volume novels by people of fashion, but in 1887 an amalgamation took place, Messrs. Bungay taking over all the assets and liabilities of Messrs. Bacon, together with their copyright in the works of Arthur Pendennis Esq. and other well-known novelists of the day, works for which there is now no sale, and which from lying on twopenny stalls have almost risen to be collector's rarities. The present Mr. Bungay exploits freely every shade of passing political and religious opinion that may help his sales and is said to have the largest turnover in London. He admits freely that he publishes a great deal of rubbish, but he adds that he believes in giving the public what it wants.

The author paints a hilarious portrait of the domineering Mrs. Rivers who writes best-selling books that always feature an older woman married to a cold man who has a romance (not consummated) with some fellow in a foreign setting which Mrs. Rivers describes in such detail that her publishers refer to her (behind her back, of course) as the Baedeker Bitch.

I think it is really best to read Ms. Thirkell's books in order because she name-drops characters from her previous books. Mrs. Morland and her publisher (High Rising) are mentioned in Pomfret Towers as is Lady Emily Leslie (Wild Strawberries) who turns out to be Lord Pomfret's sister. I always feel like I am being let in on an inside joke when I recognize a name from another tale. 

Of course, as usual, all the romances in Pomfret Towers end well and the couples are perfectly matched. But the reader never knows until the end just how all that is going to come together.


  1. I have read most of the Thirkell books, and although I do not remember what takes place in each of them, two stand out to me: Wild Strawberries (as my favorite) and Pomfret Towers as being different from the others. I still enjoyed it, but maybe not quite as much. Now, the ones that take place during the war are many people's favorites (you haven't gotten to them yet) but I do not care for them. One, I think, I did not even finish. I love the pre-WWII ones-my favorite time period, between the wars.

    1. Hi Laura. Thanks for your comments. I couldn't quite put my finger on what made Pomfret Towers so different. At first I was not too enamored with it, but as the story rolled on I liked it more and more. Especially her jabs at authors and artists. And I love the idea of a weekend house party! I will give Ms. Thirkell a break now to prepare myself for WWII.