I read this at the beginning of October, as part of WhatMeRead’s Thirkell project. This is the first time that I’ve actually managed to read the right book in the right month, so yay me!
This one was new to me and I really liked it – the characters were interesting, and often funny, but they weren’t over-the-top. As the plot summary indicates, this ostensibly centers around Colin, who is the youngest son of the Keith family, who has graduated from university, but who isn’t quite sure that he wants to go along with the family plan for him, which is to become a solicitor like his elder brother.
Feeling guilty about the fact that he will be spending several more years without an income of his own, relying on the family wealth, he decides to nobly turn down his allowance and take a job as an instructor at a boy’s school. He is rather sweet about it, actually, and a nice change from the young men who typically appear in this period fiction, who seem to take their allowances as a mere matter of what they are due.
However, he isn’t my favorite character in this both. His sisters, both his elder sister, Kate, and his younger sister, Lydia, far outshine him in my mind. Kate is a serious minded young woman who embraces all things domestic. She reminded me of Meg, from Little Women, who has always been a favorite of mine.
And then we have Lydia. The note I made in my kindle was attached to this quote: Lydia, who despised dancing, had retired to her room. And my note was “Lydia is a hoyden.” And she is, indeed – unlike her sister she has zero interest in mending and other care taking. She’s hilarious – getting her hands, knees and as much of the rest of her as she can, dirty with the boys. I loved her. Tony Morland shows up in this one, and he has grown up enough that he is much less annoying here than he has been in the prior books.
The one character that really did just fall flat for me was Rose, the far-too-pretty-for-her-own-good daughter of the headmaster, who is engaged to one of Colin’s fellow instructors. She seems to be taking on the role of the (mild) villain of the book. However, she is so vapid that she was nails on chalkboard for me. She makes Paris Hilton look like a person of great depth and wisdom. She is quite literally, not metaphorically, empty-headed. A character that one-dimensional is hard to take seriously.
Overall, though, this trip to 1930’s Barsetshire was a delight. I leave you with a luncheon menu:
Lydia, Swan and Morland, after snatching a hasty lunch of salmon mayonnaise, roast beef, potatoes, peas, French beans, salad, chocolate soufflé, charlotte russe, cream cheese, Bath Oliver biscuits, raspberries and cream, begged to be excused coffee and returned to the scene of their labours, promising that the pond would be ready by tea-time. Hacker basely deserted them to spend his afternoon with Henry and Catherine pretending to fish for whales with bulrushes in the rainwater-tank in the kitchen garden, with the frog in his bowl to keep them company.
This is my preferred menu for all of my hastily snatched lunches. We should all eat so well while cleaning out the pond.